World Cup winners aware of the need to remain one step ahead

Rising to the top of your chosen profession is one thing, staying there is quite another.

In sporting circles, and in particular team games, to remain the best, you have to produce the best.

The piecing together of a successful side can be done with an injection of funding, good coaching and a touch of luck, but long-term benefits will only be seen if efforts outside of the senior/professional spotlight are made.

For football clubs and nations around the world, that means getting things right at grass-roots level.

Put the time and effort into producing the stars of tomorrow today and you can expect to be handsomely rewarded further down the line.

Manchester United embraced that philosophy under the iconic Sir Alex Ferguson, with the famous Class of ’92 that included Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and David Beckham held up as the blueprint for others to follow.

On the international stage, Spain got things right in spectacular fashion throughout the Noughties, with successful youth and U21 sides feeding into a senior set-up that would go on to claim two European Championship crowns and the 2010 World Cup.

That level of success has not been maintained, though, with Germany very much the toast of the footballing party at present.

Having tasted global glory in Brazil last summer, Die Mannschaft are right back on top of things, and threatening to nail that standing down for the foreseeable future.

Their domestic game may not be the strongest in the world, with Bundesliga betting markets and exchanges having become something of a one-horse race dominated by the all-conquering Bayern Munich, but smart management from the bottom up has made the country a breeding ground for world-class talent.

Taking that into account, here are three names to keep an eye on as Germany set about monopolising both European and world football.

Levin Oztunali – Not a household name just yet, but give him a chance. The 19-year-old midfielder is currently on loan at Werder Bremen, offering him important top-flight minutes, but remains tied to their Bundesliga rivals Bayer Leverkusen. A domineering, physical presence, Oztunali has already donned the colours of his country at several junior levels and is the grandson of German icon Uwe Seeler – no pressure there then!

Julian Brandt – It tells you all you need to know about Leverkusen starlet Brandt that during the January transfer window, his name was heavily linked with Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United. Clubs of that stature do not waste their time pursuing players who are capable of doing a job, they are only concerned about finding the very best. At 19, Brandt may not be at that level yet, but the promising playmaker has shown enough potential to suggest that big things lie ahead.

Max Meyer – Another of those to have generated plenty of transfer gossip in recent times, with Meyer reported to be a long-standing target for the Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea. Already capped at senior level and approaching the end of his third season as part of the first-team fold at Schalke, the teenage forward is a much-sought after commodity and one who should be expected to illuminate Champions League and World Cup stages for many years to come.

Top photo credits: “World Cup 2014 Winner” by Ulrich Peters. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

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