It has been quite a year for German football, with the Bundesliga as popular and enticing as ever and a historic World Cup win in Brazil over the summer.
Joachim Löw’s national side may well have lost seasoned campaigners such as Philip Lahm and Per Mertesacker to retirement after their exploits in Brazil, but the future continues to look bright for Die Mannschaft.
One of the rising stars that seems set to play a role in the German national team for years to come is promising defensive midfielder Christoph Kramer.
The 23-year-old was something of a surprise addition to Löw’s contingent in the summer, but the versatile midfielder ended up starting the final against Argentina.
Despite a downturn in form recently, Lucien Favre’s men started the 2014-15 campaign with an 18-match unbeaten run that has fired the Borussia-Park outfit into contention for Champions League qualification.
Kramer has undoubtedly been one of the stars of Mönchengladbach’s efforts, with his excellent performances not going unnoticed in Germany or further afield.
Questions marks over his future started; serious interest in England was reported on a near daily basis while Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti admitted that the midfielder was someone he “liked a lot.”
However, Kramer has recently put pen-to-paper on a new Leverkusen deal that will keep him with the BayArena club until 2019, spurning potential opportunities to move overseas.
For Leverkusen this is a stellar piece of business, with Roger Schmidt’s men set to possess one of the Bundesliga’s most-rounded midfields next term containing Kramer, Lars Bender, the mercurial Hakan Çalhanoğlu and fellow rising star Karim Bellarabi.
Although Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have been the dominant forces in recent times, there is certainly a feeling that Leverkusen, who are in third place at the time of writing, have something of a renaissance occurring under Schmidt’s stewardship.
For the Bundesliga Kramer’s decision is another example of the continued rise in quality of the German top flight and the pulling power that it has to keep top talent; the fact that four German sides, including Leverkusen, qualified for the knockout rounds of the Champions League this term is not a coincidence.
Given that he has not moved to Munich or Dortmund also is a bonus for the league, which must be viewed as one of the most competitive and exciting in Europe – Bayern’s current domestic dominance aside.
For German football on the whole, Kramer’s decision to stay in his homeland continues a recent trend.
In the 19-man squad selected by Löw to face Spain in their most-recent friendly in November, 15 of them play their club football in the Bundesliga.
Of the current crop of national players, only Mesut Özil, Lukas Podolski, Toni Kroos, Sami Khedira, Marc-André ter Stegen, André Schürrle and Shkodran Mustafi play outside of Germany, with the majority of younger players seemingly content in the Bundesliga.
For Kramer the future is clearly bright; he is a midfielder that looks set to play for one of Germany’s top clubs next season, featuring in Champions League football and on the national stage for years to come.
Perhaps more importantly, from a wider perspective his decision to remain in Germany plays its part in keeping the domestic league and national team as strong as ever.