The following table lists the players who have made seventy-five or more first team appearances for the German national side, an illustrious band of players currently headed by Lothar Matthäus who won a total of 150 caps in what was a twenty-year career. The beginning and end of Matthäus’ career provides a stark contrast: when he made his international debut against the Netherlands in 1980 he was the youngest player in a championship-winning squad at barely nineteen; when he made his final appearance two decades later at Euro 2000 however, he was the oldest member of a creaking Kader that sunk without trace in the opening group phase.
In second place sits Miroslav Klose, who unlike Matthäus would close off his international career at the highest point possible. Having claimed the record as the World Cup’s highest-ever goalscorer with his sixteenth strike in the semi-final against Brazil in Belo Horizonte, he bowed out right at the very top against Argentina in the final in the Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro. Having just passed his thirty-sixth birthday, Klose finish his international career with 137 caps, thirteen behind the 1990 winning captain.
There are currently eight other centurions, many of whom have reached the mark fairly recently. The latest member of the hundred club is Per Mertesacker, who reached his century at the World Cup against Ghana in Fortaleza.
As of 26th March 2017 and the World Cup Qualifier against Azerbaijan in Baku, there is a bit of a gap until the next potential centurion – but when that happens, it could very well precipitate a wave. Leading the pack are Thomas Müller on 85 caps and Mesut Özil on 84, while Toni Kroos joined the list in March 2017 following his 75th cap against England in Dortmund. Manuel Neuer is one short of the 75-cap mark, and others who are more than half way there are Mario Gómez (70), Sami Khedira (70), Jérôme Boateng (67), Mario Götze (62), André Schürrle (57) and Mats Hummels (57).
|MATTHÄUS, Lothar||1961.03.21||1980.06.14||Netherlands (EC80 1R)||2000.06.20||Portugal (EC00 1R)||150||243||61.7||7312 days|
|KLOSE, Miroslav||1978.06.09||2001.03.24||Albania (WC02 Q)||2014.07.13||Argentina (WC14 F)||137||194||70.6||4860 days|
|PODOLSKI, Lukas||1985.06.04||2004.06.06||Hungary (F)||2017.03.22||England (F)||130||182||71.4||4673 days|
|SCHWEINSTEIGER, Bastian||1984.08.01||2004.06.06||Hungary (F)||2016.08.31||Finland (F)||121||176||68.7||4470 days|
|LAHM, Philipp||1983.11.11||2004.02.18||Croatia||2014.07.13||Argentina (WC14 F)||113||153||73.9||3799 days|
|KLINSMANN, Jürgen||1964.07.30||1987.12.12||Brazil (F)||1998.07.04||Croatia (WC98 QF)||108||130||83.1||3858 days|
|KOHLER, Jürgen||1965.10.06||1986.09.24||Denmark (F)||1998.07.04||Croatia (WC98 QF)||105||140||75.0||4302 days|
|MERTESACKER, Per||1984.09.29||2004.10.09||Iran (F)||2014.07.13||Argentina (WC14 F)||104||144||72.2||3565 days|
|BECKENBAUER, Franz||1945.09.11||1965.09.26||Sweden (WC66 Q)||1977.02.23||France (F)||103||113||91.1||4169 days|
|HÄßLER, Thomas||1966.05.30||1988.08.31||Finland (WC90 Q)||2000.06.20||Portugal (EC00 1R)||101||146||69.2||4312 days|
|BALLACK, Michael||1976.09.26||1999.04.28||Scotland (F)||2010.03.03||Argentina (F)||98||169||57.9||3963 days|
|VOGTS, Hans-Hubert "Berti"||1945.12.30||1967.05.03||Yugoslavia (EC68 Q)||1978.06.21||Austria (WC78 2R)||96||113||84.9||4068 days|
|RUMMENIGGE, Karl-Heinz||1955.09.25||1976.10.06||Wales (F)||1986.06.29||Argentina (WC86 F)||95||116||81.8||3554 days|
|MAIER, Josef "Sepp"||1944.02.28||1966.05.04||Republic of Ireland (F)||1979.05.26||Iceland (F)||95||136||69.8||4771 days|
|VÖLLER, Rudolf "Rudi"||1960.04.13||1982.11.17||N. Ireland (EC84 Q)||1994.07.10||Bulgaria (WC94 QF)||90||131||68.7||4254 days|
|MÜLLER, Thomas*||1989.09.13||2010.03.03||Argentina (F)||2017.10.08||Azerbaijan (WC18 Q)||89||112||79.5||2779 days|
|ÖZIL, Mesut*||1988.10.15||2009.02.11||Norway (F)||2017.11.14||France (F)||88||127||69.2||3199 days|
|BREHME, Andreas||1960.11.09||1984.02.15||Bulgaria (F)||1994.07.10||Bulgaria (WC94 QF)||86||120||71.7||3799 days|
|KAHN, Oliver||1969.06.15||1995.06.23||Switzerland (F)||2006.07.08||Portugal (WC06 3P)||86||157||54.8||4034 days|
|MÖLLER, Andreas||1967.09.02||1988.09.21||Soviet Union (F)||1999.02.09||Colombia (F)||85||126||67.5||3794 days|
|FRIEDRICH, Arne||1979.05.29||2002.08.21||Bulgaria (F)||2011.06.03||Austria (EC12 Q)||82||126||65.1||3209 days|
|FÖRSTER, Karl-Heinz||1958.07.25||1978.04.05||Brazil (F)||1986.06.29||Argentina (WC86 F)||81||101||80.2||3008 days|
|OVERATH, Wolfgang||1943.09.29||1963.09.28||Turkey (F)||1974.07.07||Netherlands (WC74 F)||81||108||75.0||3936 days|
|SCHNEIDER, Bernd||1973.11.17||1999.07.28||New Zealand (CC 1R)||2008.02.06||Austria (F)||81||120||67.5||3116 days|
|KROOS, Toni*||1990.01.04||2010.03.03||Argentina (F)||2017.11.14||France (F)||80||114||70.1||2814 days|
|FRINGS, Torsten||1976.11.22||2001.02.27||France (F)||2009.02.11||Norway (F)||79||118||66.9||2907 days|
|SCHUMACHER, Harald "Toni"||1954.03.06||1979.05.26||Iceland (F)||1986.10.15||Spain (F)||76||88||86.4||2700 days|
|BUCHWALD, Guido||1961.01.24||1984.05.22||Italy (F)||1994.07.10||Bulgaria (WC94 QF)||76||116||65.5||3702 days|
As well as details of the total caps won by each player and the length of his career, the data also supplies both the maximum number of internationals that player could theoretically have been selected for during their career span – and the percentage of matches they actually played. With this wider battery of statistics the figures produced are far more meaningful than simply a list based on the number of caps won, particularly given that far more games are played in the course of an average calendar year today than in the 1960s and 1970s.
The figures make for some very interesting reading – for example over the course of his twenty-year international career, Lothar Matthäus featured in only 61.7% of all matches played in the period from his first cap to his last. This low figure was attributed not only to injury problems, but also the fact that he had found himself excluded from the national side for much of the Berti Vogts era before making a late comeback in the late 1990s under Erich Ribbeck. Had Matthäus been able to achieve a ratio similar to the likes of Jürgen Klinsmann or Karl-Heinz Rummenigge – both of whom were also afflicted by injury – he would have racked up close to 200 caps.
Another low figure that stands out is the 59.7% of Michael Ballack, who unlike Matthäus had no such issues with the coaching staff. Ballack was instead almost continually plagued by injury, and could consider himself extremely unlucky not to have won more than his career total of ninety-eight caps. Ballack’s injury in the weeks leading up to 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa would effectively bring an end to his international career: although he continued to play at club level until his retirement in the autumn of 2012, he would never get to wear the Nationaltrikot again.
The lowest percentage is that of goalkeeper Oliver Kahn, but unlike an outfield player a ‘keeper is vying for the one fixed position and is more likely to remain a permanent number two or three for a longer span of time. Although Kahn had been part of the national set up from 1994 – he was included in the World Cup squad despite having made no prior international appearances – he remained a clear understudy first to Bodo Illgner and then Andreas Köpke, only assuming the mantle of Germany’s number one when Köpke finally retired from international duty in 1998. Kahn’s figures are also not helped by the fact that during the latter part of his career he had found himself competing for the jersey with Jens Lehmann, which saw him miss out on being first choice for the 2006 World Cup finals.
Probably the most amazing figures in this list however are those that were achieved by Franz Beckenbauer, who missed only ten internationals out of 113 in a career spanning just over ten years. After being rested for the World Cup third place play-off against Uruguay in June 1970, Der Kaiser put together an unbroken string of sixty internationals over some seven years until his sudden retirement from international football in February 1977.
The last forty-seven of these sixty appearances were as captain, the longest unbroken spell by any Spielführer in the history of the Nationalmannschaft. With key players more likely to be rested for friendly matches in the modern game, this record is unlikely to be broken.
* Currently active. The figures for all current players are based on the assumption that they have not officially retired from the national side.