When Germany won the World Cup in 2014, Shkodran Mustafi's individual story of success was one of several that helped complete a fairytale narrative.
The Valencia defender played in three of Germany's games after being called to replace Mats Hummels, who fell ill during the tournament. So impressive was he in games against Portugal and Ghana that he kept his place for the Round of 16 tie against Algeria.
A torn thigh muscle would bring an end to his World Cup campaign in the 70th minute of that match but Germany fans were sure they had found a new centre-back they could trust in. Valencia were certainly impressed, paying £5m to sign him from Sampdoria before he, of course, signed for Arsenal two years later in a £35m deal.
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Having been released by Everton in 2012, the turnaround is a sign of Mustafi's determination but it is fair to say the 24-year-old has had a fair wedge of luck along the way. For starters, he was never meant to be in Joachim Low's World Cup squad in the first place.
Mustafi had made the preliminary 27-man squad but was one of four players cut ahead of the tournament. However, a heartbreaking injury suffered by Marco Reus opened an unlikely door. Reus' devastating loss was Mustafi's gain.
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But the then 22-year-old, who is cutting out a reputation as one of the most level-headed footballers in the Premier league, knew not to get carried away or to forget the sacrifice one man took to give him a platform to impress.
That is exactly why Mustafi appeared on the Maracana pitch with a Reus shirt following the 1-0 victory over Argentina. Speaking to Arsenal Player, Mustafi reveals exactly why he decided to hold up that shirt along with the World Cup trophy.
“I played a game just before the World Cup,” Mustafi said. “I was in the last 27 but I didn’t make the last 23. But then Marco got injured and I got a call to join the team again, so I went to Brazil.
“When you think that you didn’t make the 23 players the first time, you think, ‘OK, I go there now, but my chances of playing aren’t going to be that big’. But straight away in the first game, you have to go out on to the pitch and in the second game you play again. Then you play again and again, and end up winning the World Cup.
“When people said to me that Marco was injured and now it was my turn, it always sounded a bit like they had forgotten about Marco because I was in the final 23 players.
“What I didn’t want was to forget him. I think he deserved to be there as well. He’s a fantastic player and that’s why I didn’t want to forget him.”
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