The following table lists the players who have made seventy-five or more first team appearances for the Nationalmannschaft, 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, he was the oldest member of a creaking Kader that sunk without trace in the opening group phase at Euro 2000.
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 finished his international career with a total of 137 caps, thirteen behind the 1990 winning captain.
There are currently nine other centurions, many of whom have reached the mark in the last decade. The latest member of the hundred club is Thomas Müller, who reached his century at the end of 2018, in the UEFA Nations League match against the Netherlands in Gelsenkirchen. The FC Bayern München midfielder would take just 3183 days to reach the mark – a new record.
There has been a number of players who could have followed these ten players into the centurions club, but since the disastrous World Cup in Russia and the messy aftermath, what was a significant group has shrivelled considerably.
To the shock and surprise of many German fans, Müller’s 100th international cap would also be he last – so long as Jogi Löw remains in charge of the team. At the end of 2018 the Nationaltrainer effectively called time on Müller’s career in the Nationaltrikot at the age of 29, ending hopes of his climbing up the list and challenging Matthäus’s position at the top.
Along with Müller, Jérôme Boateng (with 76 caps, just managing to find a spot in this table) and Mats Hummels (70 caps, just short of making the list) saw their careers cut short by the coach. Ongoing injury and fitness issues means that Sami Khedira is unlikely to his 77 international appearances, while striker Mario Gómez hung up his boots having finished on 78.
As of 8th August 2020, only two of the current crop of players look set to join the 100 club. Midfielder Toni Kroos is currently four short of the milestone, with goalkeeper and captain Manuel Neuer a further four behind his former FC Bayern München team mate on 92. After that, the next highest are Mario Götze (63, but unlikely to add to this), Julian Draxler (51) and Joshua Kimmich, who at the age of 25 has already collected 48 caps.
|MATTHÄUS, Lothar||1961.03.21||1980.06.14||Netherlands (EC80 1R)||2000.06.20||Portugal (EC00 1R)||150||243||61.7||7312|
|KLOSE, Miroslav||1978.06.09||2001.03.24||Albania (WC02 Q)||2014.07.13||Argentina (WC14 F)||137||194||70.6||4860|
|PODOLSKI, Lukas||1985.06.04||2004.06.06||Hungary (F)||2017.03.22||England (F)||130||182||71.4||4673|
|SCHWEINSTEIGER, Bastian||1984.08.01||2004.06.06||Hungary (F)||2016.08.31||Finland (F)||121||176||68.7||4470|
|LAHM, Philipp||1983.11.11||2004.02.18||Croatia||2014.07.13||Argentina (WC14 F)||113||153||73.9||3799|
|KLINSMANN, Jürgen||1964.07.30||1987.12.12||Brazil (F)||1998.07.04||Croatia (WC98 QF)||108||130||83.1||3858|
|KOHLER, Jürgen||1965.10.06||1986.09.24||Denmark (F)||1998.07.04||Croatia (WC98 QF)||105||140||75.0||4302|
|MERTESACKER, Per||1984.09.29||2004.10.09||Iran (F)||2014.07.13||Argentina (WC14 F)||104||144||72.2||3565|
|BECKENBAUER, Franz||1945.09.11||1965.09.26||Sweden (WC66 Q)||1977.02.23||France (F)||103||113||91.1||4169|
|HÄßLER, Thomas||1966.05.30||1988.08.31||Finland (WC90 Q)||2000.06.20||Portugal (EC00 1R)||101||146||69.2||4312|
|MÜLLER, Thomas||1989.09.13||2010.03.03||Argentina (F)||2018.11.19||Netherlands (ULN19)||100||127||78.7||3183|
|BALLACK, Michael||1976.09.26||1999.04.28||Scotland (F)||2010.03.03||Argentina (F)||98||169||57.9||3963|
|VOGTS, Hans-Hubert "Berti"||1945.12.30||1967.05.03||Yugoslavia (EC68 Q)||1978.06.21||Austria (WC78 2R)||96||113||84.9||4068|
|KROOS, Toni*||1990.01.04||2010.03.03||Argentina (F)||2019.11.17||Northern Ireland (EC20 Q)||96||137||70.1||3549|
|RUMMENIGGE, Karl-Heinz||1955.09.25||1976.10.06||Wales (F)||1986.06.29||Argentina (WC86 F)||95||116||81.8||3554|
|MAIER, Josef "Sepp"||1944.02.28||1966.05.04||Republic of Ireland (F)||1979.05.26||Iceland (F)||95||136||69.8||4771|
|ÖZIL, Mesut||1988.10.15||2009.02.11||Norway (F)||2018.06.27||South Korea (WC18 1R)||92||133||69.1||3024|
|NEUER, Manuel*||1986.03.27||2009.06.02||United Arab Emirates (F)||2019.11.16||Belarus (EC20 Q)||92||144||63.9||3820|
|VÖLLER, Rudolf "Rudi"||1960.04.13||1982.11.17||N. Ireland (EC84 Q)||1994.07.10||Bulgaria (WC94 QF)||90||131||68.7||4254|
|BREHME, Andreas||1960.11.09||1984.02.15||Bulgaria (F)||1994.07.10||Bulgaria (WC94 QF)||86||120||71.7||3799|
|KAHN, Oliver||1969.06.15||1995.06.23||Switzerland (F)||2006.07.08||Portugal (WC06 3P)||86||157||54.8||4034|
|MÖLLER, Andreas||1967.09.02||1988.09.21||Soviet Union (F)||1999.02.09||Colombia (F)||85||126||67.5||3794|
|FRIEDRICH, Arne||1979.05.29||2002.08.21||Bulgaria (F)||2011.06.03||Austria (EC12 Q)||82||126||65.1||3209|
|FÖRSTER, Karl-Heinz||1958.07.25||1978.04.05||Brazil (F)||1986.06.29||Argentina (WC86 F)||81||101||80.2||3008|
|OVERATH, Wolfgang||1943.09.29||1963.09.28||Turkey (F)||1974.07.07||Netherlands (WC74 F)||81||108||75.0||3936|
|SCHNEIDER, Bernd||1973.11.17||1999.07.28||New Zealand (CC 1R)||2008.02.06||Austria (F)||81||120||67.5||3116|
|FRINGS, Torsten||1976.11.22||2001.02.27||France (F)||2009.02.11||Norway (F)||79||118||66.9||2907|
|GÓMEZ, Mario||1985.07.10||2007.02.07||Switzerland (F)||2018.06.27||South Korea (WC18 1R)||78||162||47.5||4159|
|KHEDIRA, Sami||1987.03.03||2009.09.05||South Africa (F)||2018.06.27||South Korea (WC18 1R)||77||128||60.2||3218|
|SCHUMACHER, Harald "Toni"||1954.03.06||1979.05.26||Iceland (F)||1986.10.15||Spain (F)||76||88||86.4||2700|
|BUCHWALD, Guido||1961.01.24||1984.05.22||Italy (F)||1994.07.10||Bulgaria (WC94 QF)||76||116||65.5||3702|
|BOATENG, Jérôme||1988.09.03||2009.10.10||Russia (WC10 Q)||2018.10.13||Netherlands (UNL19)||76||127||59.8||3294|
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 – at least until the tail end of his career. Ballack was instead 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.
This list only includes those who have played for the senior DFB representative team, and applies the line of continuity between the pre-Wende (West) German team and the current one. It does not include representatives of the former East German football association, the DFV. However, rather curiously, the DFB’s own records have been amended to include these players.
There are six former East German internationals with 75 or more DFV caps: Hans-Jürgen “Dixie” Dörner (105 caps, 1969-1985), Joachim Streich (105, 1969-1984), Jürgen Croy (102, 1967-1981), Konrad Weise (94, 1970-1981), Eberhard Vogel (76, 1962-1976), Bernd Bransch (76 caps, 1967-1976).
Ulf Kirsten, who won 49 caps for the DFB, also won 51 for the DFV. As a result, he is listed as having a total of 100 international caps (DFV 1985-1990, DFB 1990-2000).
* Currently active. The figures for all current players are based on the assumption that they have not officially retired from the national side.