Thomas Müller, the homegrown Bayern Munich star who continues to shine
Thomas Müller is a rare star who, despite more than two decades at Bayern, remains a driving force behind the club’s success
Before the UEFA Champions League final on 24 August, there was an interesting stat doing the rounds on social media. It broke down the individual prices of the players in the Bayern Munich starting XI that steamrolled Barcelona in the semi-final earlier in the week. That combined XI cost just $109.5 million. PSG, who lost to Bayern in the final on Sunday night, paid more than that just for their Brazilian metronome Neymar — $222 million.
But the one player who stood out in that Bayern Munich semi-final line-up, not just because of his prize ($0), was 30-year-old Thomas Müller. Sunday’s triumph was Müller’s second Champions League title win with Bayern. His 9 German Bundesliga titles and 6 German Cup wins so far make Müller one of the most successful players in the club’s history — a superstar of the highest order. Yet, he never comes across as one.
Writing for the Eight by Eight football magazine in 2016, German writer and journalist Uli Hesse recalled how Germany first “fell in love” with Müller, “the modest assassin”, in June 2010. After dismantling England in a World Cup round-of-16 match, in which Müller scored twice, the player was on German television for an interview. Towards the end, he asked the interviewer if he could say hi to someone on camera. “Trying to locate the camera, Müller said, ‘I just wanted to send greetings to my two grandmas and my grandpa. That’s long overdue.’ Then he waved into the camera like an overjoyed schoolboy who’s just won a spelling contest and knows his grandparents will be proud of him,” Hesse writes.
In a glamorous generation of football players who are louder off the pitch than they are on it, Müller is a rare gem. Here’s a look at why even after two decades with the club, he remains a driving force for its success.
5 goals in the 2010 World Cup, which earned him the Golden Boot: Müller made his debut in the German senior team in 2010. In the World Cup that year, he burst onto the world stage with 5 goals, which won him the Golden Boot (three other players had the same number of goals but Müller had more assists). He was also adjudged the tournament’s Best Young Player. In the next World Cup, in 2014, which Germany won, he again scored 5 goals, receiving the Silver Boot as the tournament's second highest goalscorer.
20 years, one club: Not many elite players in world football can claim this badge, a phenomenal feat: staying at one club for almost the entirety of their career. Müller joined the club in July 2000 and made his professional debut in 2008. Since then, he’s been part of a dominating Bayern era in the Bundesliga, which has seen them win 9 league titles. There were blips along the way, but Müller has been the one constant. If he decides to finish his career at Bayern, he could very well be counted amongst the few greats in club football.
21 assists last season: Nobody provided more assists in the Bundesliga in the 2019-20 season than Müller — a record. Like the ‘false nine’, ‘libero’ or the ‘regista’, Müller personifies the ‘Raumdeuter’, which roughly translates to ‘interpreter of space’. It is, in fact, a term that he used himself to describe his role on the football pitch. Müller might not be the best dribbler of a football, but he’s one of the best when it comes to reading the game and finding space between defenders. His positional awareness not only allows him to score, but also add to his tally of assists.
100 international caps: Müller has an exact century of appearances for Germany. This puts him 11th on the all-time list, within striking distance of numbers 10 (Thomas Häßler, 101 caps) through 5 (Phillip Lahm, 113 caps). However, he’s been out of the national team ever since coach Joachim Löw decided, in 2019, he and teammates Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels didn’t fit in his plans anymore. Müller’s stellar performance for Bayern this season, though, has meant that the clamour for Löw to reconsider has increased, so a recall isn’t out of the question.
535 appearances, 199 goals: Both his total appearances and goals scored for Bayern Munich put Müller in illustrious company. With 535 appearances, he’s already ahead of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Lahm. He’s also now just one goal shy of 200 goals for the club in all competitions. Only the great Gerd Müller, current teammate Robert Lewandowski, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Rainer Ohlhauser are ahead of him. At just 30, you wouldn’t bet against him scoring plenty more in Bayern colours.
FIRST PUBLISHED25.08.2020 | 10:00 AM IST