It is almost a ritual requirement for new national players to tell the public about their first reaction to being invited to the DFB. It happens over and over again that the players scold the national team manager because they think the phone call is a scam; Mark Uth, then Schalke 04, stormed out of the hardware store a few years ago when Jogi Löw unexpectedly scared him; only a few hours later he realized that he had forgotten to get firewood; Mainz’s Anton Stach made two wrong turns last week after Hansi Flick sent him his international call-up.
Julian Weigl, 26, received his first international nomination in May 2016, but was still feeling like a young rookie when the call came from his homeland at a surprise party honoring teammate Soualhio Meite.
The screen showed him that a certain Hans-Dieter Flick had called, had apparently saved his number, but he still didn’t want to believe it. He found a quiet corner and called again, and what followed was a chain of phones: Weigl informed parents, wife, friends and sponsors. “Obviously we were extremely happy,” he says.
Julian Weigl says he became “more mature and adult” in Portugal
Weigl hasn’t been considered long enough to be considered a former national player, his most recent appearance was almost exactly five years ago: in the 1-0 win over England, at Lukas Podolski’s farewell gala, he had a home game in Dortmund. At the beginning of 2020 he left BVB, moved to Benfica Lisbon and was therefore a little further away from the national team.
If the signs are not deceiving, he will be able to show on his return to Germany whether he has fine-tuned his game in the meantime, as he said on Thursday: “He has become more mature and adult” in Portugal, his use of defensive midfield is more aggressive and his orientation more offensive.
He will probably be able to demonstrate all this on Saturday night in the friendly against Israel if Flick entrusts him with the midfield instead of Joshua Kimmich, who is absent due to parental duties. He would enter into the logic of the coaching staff’s planning.
In addition to Kimmich, his usual neighbor, Leon Goretzka, is also missing from the squad. In anticipation of two friendlies, that’s not too bad, but Flick wants to be prepared if a situation like this happens again. Weigl was a serious six back in the Dortmund days, and still describes himself as a player “who tries to organize and give stability”.
In this role and as a safety-conscious ball dealer, he was somewhat limited at the time, but now, he says, he “looks ahead more often.” He should show his influence in the big picture to make a good impression, there won’t be many more opportunities beyond the next test track, and there’s no lack of competition: Wolfsburg’s Max Arnold was allowed to introduce himself to Flick in November, the Mainzer Stach he is ready, and in Colonia Salih Özcan he waits for the magic call, which he would then have to communicate to posterity.