Jamal Musiala says "there's no one who can replace" Thomas Müller, and believes his Bayern Munich teammate and captain Manuel Neuer can both play "for a few years yet".
After being on the books of English Premier League side Chelsea, Musiala made the switch to Bayern in 2019, making his Bundesliga debut in June 2020 to become the youngest player to feature in the German top flight for the record champions at the age of 17 years and 115 days.
Since, he has established himself in the Bayern first team and earned senior international recognition with Germany, while his ability to both make goals and score them has drawn favourable comparisons with Müller.
Given the veteran Germany international is 32 — some 14 years Musiala's senior — the youngster has been billed as Müller's natural heir for both club and country. But Musiala himself told Sport Bild that no one will be able to fill the boots of his illustrious teammate when he finally hangs them up.
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"Thomas is a great guy and footballer, there's no one else like him. There is no one in professional football who can talk as much as Thomas. Just like Manu [Neuer], he'll play for a few years yet," said Musiala, who acknowledged he could not even try to ape Müller's unique style.
"In his way of playing and his role, there's no one who can replace him. If I were to play in that position, I would bring my own style to it."
While Musiala — now 18 — will certainly be a major part of Bayern's future, Müller and Neuer belong to the past and present, though their advancing years mean questions have inevitably been raised about their future involvement. Their youthful teammate believes Neuer will be accompanying Müller and him for some time to come.
"Manuel Neuer is 35 and soon 36. Despite that, you can't see him stepping back any time soon," he said. "I think he can keep goal for Bayern for another four or five years."
Since his record-setting debut, Musiala has made 45 top-flight appearances for Bayern, netting six goals last season to help the club win a ninth successive league title, and he has already scored three times in 19 Bundesliga matches in 2021/22.
Despite his youth and wiry build — another trait he shares with Müller — Musiala has adapted smoothly to the physical and technical demands of top-level football, relying on his natural-born determination and hours of street football growing up.
"As a kid, I always wanted to win. You learn best to take this to the highest level at FC Bayern," he explained. "As a kid, I always put cones out on the street. Not because I thought that I had to train to be a professional footballer, but simply because it was really fun to dribble round them."
"I'll never look like a Leon Goretzka, but that's also not my aim," added Musiala, who — like Zlatan Ibrahimovic — is profiting from the legacy of having practised martial arts in the past. "I'm mobile and agile."
Born in Stuttgart, Musiala grew up in England and could also have played for Nigeria given his family's roots. He actually featured for England at U21 level, but — aged 18 years and 27 days — threw his lot in with his birth country at senior level when he came off the bench in a 3-0 win over Iceland in 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying.
He has since made eight more appearances, starting once. Musiala played just nine minutes at UEFA EURO 2020 — including a barely 60 seconds in Germany's 2-0 defeat to England in the Round of 16 — but he harbours ambitions of having a more significant role at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
"I would like to play a big part in the World Cup. If not in the starting XI, then coming off the bench. I should get some more minutes than I did at the EURO. But I know that my time with the national team will come," said Musiala, who would be delighted to be the solution to Germany's quest for a centre-forward.
"It's cool playing up front. If I'm offered that role in the future, I wouldn't say no. I love scoring goals. But I don't think it's Hansi Flick's plan to play me as a number nine, even if I really like scoring goals."
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