Dortmund: There are renewed calls in Germany for national head coach Joachim Loew to recall Mats Hummels just months after telling the Dortmund defender that his time in the national team was over.
The calls for his return focus principally on the serious knee injury suffered by first-choice centre-back Niklas Suele playing for Bayern Munich at the weekend but they also come on the back of some impressive performances by Hummels in the Bundesliga and in the Champions League.
The 30-year-old has rebooted his career since leaving Bayern in the summer to return to Borussia Dortmund, the club he represented 225 times between 2009 and 2016 when he left for Munich.
Another eye-catching performance marshalling the back four at Inter Milan in Wednesday's Champions League match could prompt a rethink by Loew.
"If 'Jogi' Loew doesn't do it now and reinstate Hummels, I will be enormously disappointed," former Germany midfielder Steffen Freund told broadcaster Nitro on Tuesday.
Germany fans appear to agree. A survey published on Monday by Kicker magazine showed 77 percent of 96,000 people who responded want Hummels back in Germany's famous white shirt.
"Loew has so far ruled out a return of Hummels, arguing that it was necessary to leave room for Suele, but injury to this promising player will force him to review his strategy," said Kicker in an editorial.
Loew's decision in March to send Hummels and his Bayern teammates Thomas Mueller and Jerome Boateng into international retirement sent shockwaves through German football.
Hummels, who made 70 appearances for Germany, said at the time that he did not bear a grudge against Loew but admitted that he had been stunned.
"I took a blow to the head and didn't really know what was going on," he said.
Hummels has since rediscovered his best form back with Dortmund and produced a commanding display last month when Barcelona were held to a goalless draw at Signal Iduna Park in their opening Group F match.
And after Suele, Loew's defensive cornerstone, tore his cruciate knee against Augsburg on Saturday, ruling him out of action for at least six months, Hummels might just be the right man in the right place.
'If it comes, it comes'
While Loew described the news as "very bad", Bayern president Uli Hoeness was more direct.
"Apparently, the season is over for him (Suele)," he said on Monday. "He can forget about the Euros."
Suele's injury is, indeed, bad news all round although Bayern can adjust as 2018 World Cup winners Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard, as well as Boateng, can all fill in at centre-back.
However, Germany lack the same strength in depth and Freund was blunt about Germany's chances at the Euro 2020 finals, which start in June, if Hummels is not recalled.
"If we go to the European Championships with (Antonio) Ruediger and (Matthias) Ginter, we won't be European champions," said Freund.
He describes Suele's injury as a "catastrophe" for Germany, making Hummels' recall all the more urgent before next month's final two Euro 2020 qualifiers against Belarus and Northern Ireland.
The Germans are currently neck-and-neck with the Netherlands at the top of their group with the top two teams qualifying.
Dortmund coach Lucien Favre insisted last month, before Suele was even injured, that Hummels should "without question" be part of Loew's plans.
For his part, Hummels said in August that he is ready, willing and able.
"If I had the opportunity to wear the national team jersey again, I wouldn't refuse," he said, adding that he wouldn't be holding his breath.
"I try to think about it as little as possible. If it comes, it comes."
Hummels is right to be pessimistic as Loew is known for stubbornly sticking to decisions once his mind is made up.
However, another good performance by Hummels in Milan on Wednesday might help sway Germany's 2014 World Cup winning coach into a rethink.