By Oliver Trust
BERLIN, Jan. 26 (Xinhua) -- Both won the 2009 juniors European Championship and the 2014 World Cup in the German shirt. Both were vital performers of the national team, and both won several titles. For years Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels were not only regarded to be among the world's best but appeared to fans like inseparable twins.
Now the Bavarians old couple has turned into severe rivals battling it out over the last remaining central defense job next to Niklas Suele.
A recent report of the Munich based Sueddeutsche is speaking about a tight competition between the two. One of them is said having to leave at the end of the 2018/2019 season while Bayern has signed 2018 French world champion Benjamin Pavard for summer 2019 and is interested in Atletico Madrid's defender Lukas Hernandez.
It is apparent that things must have changed for both 30-year-old's significant since Bayern coach Niko Kovac a week ago announced 23-year-old Suele is his first choice when it comes to central defending. The 47-year-old made no secret out of what his decision means for Hummels and Boateng.
"They will have to fight for the job next to Niklas Suele," Kovac stressed.
But who will be the one surviving the changes that turned their so far well-balanced world upside down?
Bayern's curtain-raiser after the winter break against TSG Hoffenheim (3-1) gave evidence of a hard time lying ahead. Next to Suele Kovac appointed Hummels for the starting eleven while Boateng was on the bench. The 2013 treble winner left the Hoffenheim arena in a bad mood without speaking a word.
Kovac seems aware he will have to deal with several such situations until the end of the season. "Maybe I should have thrown the dices. No one could have assumed I favour one of them," Kovac complained.
When Bayern is facing the VfB Stuttgart in their first 2019 home game this Sunday, Kovac won't have to make a decision. Boateng is most likely sidelined due to a cold. But the case remains a challenge for the Munich coach.
To only be number three must have come for Boateng like an unpleasant surprise. When Kovac joined Bayern in 2018, he convinced Boateng to stay and abandon his plans to follow the call of Paris St Germain coach Thomas Tuchel. Boateng was Kovac's first new arrival as he was the only one in the club fighting for Boateng's remain.
Now Kovac has to keep both of his formerly undisputed stars in a good mood. An almost impossible task.
What makes things even more difficult is the fact that the team's former cornerstones couldn't be more different in their character. On one side the sober and pedantic Hummels, on the other vivid Boateng, following his passion for fashion and life in celebrities' circles.
After moving to the Bavarians in 2011, Boateng has developed into one of the world's best defenders, but the relationship between him and Bayern is said to have broken down.
During a three-month injury break in 2016, Boateng was accused by Bayern officials of neglecting his recovery to participate in too many celebrity events and follow individual marketing endeavors. The player said the accusations were a great disappointment, but he admitted to intensifying his rehabilitation.
From that point of view, Hummels and Boateng appear more like dissimilar twins.
Kovac has made his choice and goes for the solid but far from excellent Suele as number one. Meanwhile, he is insisting on being fond of Hummels and Boateng as both still provide quality. While Hummels seems better in opening the game can Boateng claim to be the fastest central defender.