Thomas Müller isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but it’s difficult to ignore the influence he has had on immensely successful Germany and Bayern Munich teams.
Aesthetically, he’s not the most technically gifted player of all time, but does that really matter when he’s got such a sublime sixth sense, arriving in the right places at the right times, time and time again? And now he’s a veteran of 400 appearances in the German top-flight; Manuel Neuer is the only other active player to have surpassed that number.
📡 Thomas Müller’s Bundesliga career thus far:
🏟 400 games
⚽️ 134 goals
🅰️ 147 assists
🏆 10 titles (joint-most with David Alaba)
🐐 If he wins an 11th German crown at the end of 2021-22 he’ll be the most decorated player in top-flight history, all on his own. pic.twitter.com/iaBhhUbyHr
— betPawa Uganda (@betPawaUG) December 18, 2021
Müller’s resúmé stands up to even the most severe scrutiny. Numbers don’t lie. With 400 Bundesliga appearances, 10 German titles, two Champions League wins and a World Cup winner’s medal, to go along with all of his individual accolades and goal/assist stats, there can be no debate that Müller is a modern great. All of this is true, even though at times it’s difficult to isolate or define exactly what makes him great. It’s the intangible qualities that one can’t quite put one’s finger on but one knows that he possesses in spades.
After all, this is the self-proclaimed “Raumdeuter”, a word that literally translates to “space interpreter” and it’s a quality that has defined Müller for over a decade. Thomas Müller always finds dangerous spaces on football pitches when they don’t seem to exist, and he usually gets there by unorthodox means. He’s not the quickest or most athletic footballer to have graced the game, but he’s scored a host of clutch goals and some beautiful ones too.
Simply put, he’s a teammate’s and manager’s dream.
World Cups 2010 & 2014
Müller was the top-scorer at South Africa in 2010 when he was still only 20 years old, with five strikes at the first World Cup hosted on African soil. Germany went on to make the semifinals, eventually losing out to eventual winners Spain but a 4-0 quarterfinal thrashing of Diego Maradona’s Argentina in Cape Town will live long in the memory.
Müller and Die Mannschaft went one better in 2014 when they won their fourth World Cup and first since 1990, defeating Lionel Messi’s Argentina at the iconic Maracanã. In the semifinals, Germany defeated host nation Brazil 7-1, a result that still leaves scars for the Seleção and a match where Müller ran riot while the watching world could scarcely believe its eyes.
Müller is now 32 years old and has amassed 110 caps and 42 goals for the German national team. There’s every reason to believe that he’ll be part of the 2022 World Cup group in Qatar and appear at his fourth consecutive World Cup finals. Longevity is another hallmark of the greats and Müller has been around for as long as most football fans can remember.
“Tha Raumdeuter” hasn’t only inflicted pain on Brazil, though. He has also become Barcelona’s tormentor-in-chief in the Champions League. Bayern thrashed the Catalans 8-2 in the 2019-20 quarterfinals, en route to the title, Müller’s second European Cup triumph. He bagged a brace that evening.
Barcelona will be truly sick of the sight of Thomas Müller by now. He scored in each of Bayern’s identical 3-0 wins in this season’s group stage, to follow up his double against them in THAT unforgettable 8-2 hammering.
Falling out of favour & coming back stronger
Müller was dropped by then-Germany boss Joachim Löw in March 2019, along with fellow seasoned veterans Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng, and told that his international career was over as Löw attempted to focus on developing the next generation of German talent. At the time, Müller wasn’t an automatic first-choice for Bayern either under Hansi Flick’s predecessor Niko Kovač, when the Croatian tactician was in charge for 14 months from early 2018.
However, Müller and Hummels were brought back into the fold for Euro 2020. Müller cited the fact that he was a “different player” after rediscovering his golden touch during a highly productive 18-month spell for Bayern under Hansi Flick who was appointed by the Bavarians in March 2019. Müller and Flick will hope to build on that chemistry for the German national team after Flick was appointed as Die Mannschaft’s manager in May this year.
Müller holds the all-time single-season assists record in the Bundesliga. He created 21 goals for teammates in the 2019-20 campaign, surpassing Kevin De Bruyne’s figure of 20 posted for Wolfsburg in 2014-15. Müller has created 10+ Bundesliga assists in nine separate seasons and he’s also posted doubles figures for both goals and assists in five separate Bundesliga campaigns. He’s an attacking machine with ridiculous outputs year on year.
Even during a spell when he was in and out of the side, Müller’s 2017-18 and 2018-19 Bundesliga assist stats still hold up to the acid-test; he created 23 goals in those two campaigns combined. This season, Müller has 13 assists from 17 Bundesliga appearances, four more than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues. His own single-season record of 21 looks to be in serious jeopardy especially with the likes of Robert Lewandowski and Serge Gnabry feasting on his service.
Müller is now the undisputed assist king for Bayern and Germany. It was a title that had belonged to Mesut Ozil while he was at Real Madrid and Arsenal and for Die Mannschaft too, but Müller has outlasted his more technically gifted compatriot.
When all is said and done, he will likely go down as one of the greatest one-club players of all time. Never say never in football, but it seems unlikely that we will see the inimitable talents of Thomas Müller in a club jersey other than Bayern’s. Loyalty and natural football intelligence go a long way in the modern game.
There will never ever be another Thomas Müller.