Stefan Kiessling – International outcast

stefan-kiessling ok

Bayer Leverkusen striker Stefan Kiessling is enjoying his best season since 2009/2010 when his 21 goals in 33 games earned him a recall to Germany’s squad for the World Cup finals in South Africa. He’s the Bundesliga’s topscorer with 16 goals in 24 games along with Robert Lewandowski. That total has already equalled his tally from 34 games last season.

But despite this it doesn’ t look as if World Cup lightning is going to strike twice for the tall striker who clearly doesn’t feature in the plans of coach Joachim Löw.

Germany play second from bottom Kazakhstan in back to back World Cup qualifiers at the end of March. In fairness the ‘Nationalmannschaft’ have been doing pretty well without Kiessling. They top their World Cup qualifying group with 10 points from four games, three points above Sweden who have a game in hand.

In Germany’s last game against France in Paris in February, coach Joachim Löw recalled Mario Gomez who had only started one game for Bayern Munich since recovering from ankle surgery in August. In total, Gomez had only played 170 minutes of Bundesliga football but that was still good enough for Löw rather than experiment with an in-form Kiessling.

“Mario Gomez is in good shape again after his long injury. Like Miroslav Klose, he has all the prerequisites to put our playing philosophy into practice. Löw said. I’m convinced that, thanks to his experience and qualities, he will assert himself at the highest international level.”

Reading between the lines, Löw doesn’t think that Kiessling suits Germany’s playing style.

It’s not about age. Kiessling is a spring chicken, five years younger than the 34 year old Miroslav Klose.

Public opinion is with the striker. In a poll in the respected sports newspaper ‘Kicker’ 75 per cent said Kiessling should be called up for the Kazakhstan games. The player seems resigned to his situation.

“I haven’t spoken with Joachim Löw since the last World Cup. There’s nothing left for me to say. I just don’t know what I have to do to get back in the international picture. There’s no point in talking about it any more. The only positive is that I get to spend more time with my family.”

A glimmer of hope is the case of Hamburg SV goalkeeper Rene Adler. In the friendly against France, Adler, who’s been in superb form this season, played his first game for Germany for two years. But there’s a big difference between the two players. A goalkeeper doesn’ t have to fit into a team’s tactical set up in the same way that a striker does. And that seems to be the sticking point.

As Löw stresses “I’m not going to call Kiessling up for just one game. I will call him up when I can show him a real perspective.”

At 29 years of age, Kiessling is in the prime of his career and oozing confidence which was clear to see last weekend in the home win over VfB Stuttgart. Trailing 1-0 to a dubious penalty, Leverkusen won a spot kick with just eight minutes to go. Time to play safe perhaps and blast the penalty home. Not Kiessling. Up against Sven Ullreich he decided to kick a ‘Panenka’ penalty. Fortune favours the brave, Ullreich dived to his right, and Leverkusen were level. Four minutes later Kiessling was again involved as Lars Bender snatched the winner for the home side.

The win leaves Leverkusen in third place just a point behind outgoing champions Borussia Dortmund. But that could all change this weekend when Dortmund travel to play arch-rivals FC Schalke 04 in the Ruhr Valley Derby, the biggest in the Bundesliga. If Leverkusen win in Mainz this Saturday afternoon, they could go back into second place.

In the last transfer window, there was talk of Kiessling making a 11 million euro move to West Ham United in the English Premier League but that broke down. The latest rumour is about a cut price deal to Chelsea at the end of the season. Cynics might offer two words of warning – Marko Marin, whose move to Chelsea has been a flop. However a transfer does make sense and it could well be the right time for both player and club.

Kiessling has put in a long shift at the ‘Factory Squad’- ‘Die Werkself’. He’s scored an impressive average of a goal every two games in his seven seasons since joining from Nuremberg in his native Bavaria in 2006 -he has just two years left on his current contract so Leverkusen could cash in while he might enjoy a new challenge and maybe his last big move.

At the start of the season Leverkusen’s joint coach Sami Hyppiä said a return to the Champions League would be nice. If Kiessling were to leave at the end of the season then helping them qualify for Europe’s elite competition would be the perfect farewell.

Nothing would top that unless of course he receives that call from Löw inviting him to Brazil next summer. Kiessling won’ t be holding his breath.

Tony Jeffers
Eurosport2 Commentator

Eurosport2 kicks off our weekend Bundesliga action on Friday with a Bavarian Derby, FC Augsburg v Nuremberg (20:30).

On Saturday we’ re live for the Big Derby, Schalke 04 v Borussia Dortmund (15:30). That’s followed by Borussia Moenchengladbach v Werder Bremen (18:30).

On Sunday, don’t miss Hanover 96 hosting out of form Eintracht Frankfurt (1530) and VfB Stuttgart v Hamburg SV (1730).

Only 9 points separate the 11 teams from 5th to 15th place, that’s the tightest the Bundesliga mid zone has been in 20 years.

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