Just 12 months ago, Thomas Müller’s future at Bayern Munich looked all but over.
The ‘raumdeuter’ was still achieving good numbers in terms of goals and assists, but Müller was part of a generation of players who were on their way out, looking set to follow the likes of Philipp Lahm, Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry.
Fast forward again to 2020 and Müller has proven he’s still a world-class player. Not just as far as Bayern Munich’s domestic dominance is concerned, but also as the Rekordmeister look for a return to Europe’s top table.
Müller was set to become a free agent in 2021. He’d be linked with moves here, there and everywhere, with the 30-year-old even being tipped for a cushty transfer to Major League Soccer to ease him into his retirement.
But Bayern Munich have ended any chance of letting their hometown hero leave by giving him a new deal which runs until 2023, in a move which is just as crucial for Müller’s impact off the pitch as it is on it.
Having grown up just 30 miles outside Munich, Müller knows better than most what it means to be Bavarian. It’s an important distinction too. If you’re born in the country’s southeastern corner, above anything else, you’re Bavarian first, German second.
That sense of community is less important on a first-team squad which already has nine nationalities in it, but for the fans and their connection with the club, Müller is so much more than one of their best players – his impact can best be described as that of Steven Gerrard at Liverpool, or Francesco Totti at Roma.
Müller’s childhood in Bavaria isn’t the only thing which benefits him off the pitch either, because he’s been part of Bayern Munich’s system for longer than this season’s breakout stars Alphonso Davies and Joshua Zirkzee have been alive.
Some will call it old fashioned, but having Müller inside the dressing room and around the training ground is invaluable for an increasingly multi-national squad, not to mention the next generation of hometown kids at Säbener Strasse who want to follow in his footsteps.
But his new contract isn’t just based on sentimentality. In fact, Müller hasn’t just been one of Bayern Munich’s best players this season, he’s been one of the stand-out attacking players across the continent.
Even when he had apparently ‘lost it’, Müller was still more than pulling his weight.
Since his first full year in Bayern Munich’s senior side during the 2009/10 campaign, Müller has been directly involved in 380 goals across all competitions, or an average on 34.5 per season.
Müller has never been involved in fewer than 25 goals or assists in a single campaign throughout his career, while as he’s currently on 29 for the 2019/20 season. It’s safe to assume he’ll get at least one more when the season returns, which would mean he will have registered fewer than 30 goals or assists just twice – 25 in 2018/19, and 26 in 2016/17.
So while this season hasn’t exactly been a renaissance in terms of Müller’s output, it probably has been in terms of his overall performances.
Some of the 30-year-old’s best performances have come when he’s been used on the right, often floating into the centre of the pitch which allows Benjamin Pavard to join in with the attacks down the wing.
That impact he’s made on the right has also given Müller much more confidence through the middle, in his much more natural and recognisable position playing just behind Robert Lewandowski.
Müller helped to run the first Klassiker of the season through the middle, but it was in the first leg of Bayern Munich’s Champions League last 16 match against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge which really made a statement to the world that he was still as influential as ever.
Loan moves for James Rodríguez and Philippe Coutinho haven’t exactly worked out in recent years as Bayern Munich still look for a long-term replacement for Müller.
But the raumdeuter has proven he’s still the best player for the job right now, and even if his reputation across Europe isn’t what it was, Müller will be just as important as anyone else at Bayern Munich in their pursuit of another Champions League trophy.
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