Thomas Müller may be the most common name in Germany but there has never been one like the attacker who plays for Bayern Munich. A local boy who’s gone on to become one of the most successful – if not unconventional – footballers of all time, Müller has now reached 500 appearances for the club.
To celebrate the occasion, bundesliga.com runs you through some of the milestones of his remarkable career to date…
1) Bayern beginnings
Born and raised around the Bavarian lakes just south of Munich, Müller found himself in the state capital by the age of 11 when he joined the Bayern academy. The attacking all-rounder progressed through the youth teams and in 2007 scored in both the semi-final and final of the U19 Bundesliga championship, where Bayern came up short in extra-time against Bayer Leverkusen. He followed that season with 18 goals in 26 games before being called up to the reserves, but at the same time he was training with the first team under Jürgen Klinsmann.
Watch: Thomas Müller's roots
So impressed was the future USMNT coach that he handed 18-year-old Müller his senior debut in the opening game of the 2008/09 season. The teenager came off the bench in the 79th minute to replace Miroslav Klose as Bayern were held to a 2-2 draw at the Allianz Arena by Hamburg. He would return to the reserves after that as he gained experience in professional football in the new third division.
2) Our first real taste of Müller
Müller’s second Bayern appearance would also produce his first goal. With the record German champions already 5-0 up from the first leg of their UEFA Champions League round of 16 tie against Sporting Lisbon, Klinsmann included Müller in the squad for the return fixture in Munich. In the 72nd minute, he sent the 19-year-old on as a replacement for Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Bayern were already leading 4-1 on the night but inside just two minutes of European football Müller had laid on a goal as his cross from the right was headed down by Klose for captain Mark van Bommel to finish. And before the night was out, the world had its first taste of what would become typical Müller. Drifting into space at a corner, the Bayern No.25 simply tapped the ball over the line after Sporting failed to clear. Some may call it ugly, but a record of 187 club goals suggests it’s incredibly effective. It rounded off the biggest aggregate win in Champions League history.
Three more brief Bundesliga appearances would follow towards the end of that season before Louis van Gaal took over as coach for the 2009/10 campaign. The Dutchman made Müller one of the cornerstones of his team, and he featured in all but one of the club’s 53 competitive matches. After his first senior start in the DFB Cup first round at Neckarelz, Müller was named in the starting XI for the first time in the Bundesliga on Matchday 4 at home to Wolfsburg.
In the next game he was back on the bench again as Bayern went to Borussia Dortmund. Mats Hummels’ early opener for the hosts was cancelled out before the break by Mario Gomez, but Van Gaal was not happy and brought Müller on at half-time for Hamit Altintop. Come 90 minutes, Bayern had thrashed Jürgen Klopp’s side 5-1 at the Signal Iduna Park and Müller had the first two of his 110 career Bundesliga goals. He topped off his week with a first Champions League start and two more goals as the Munich club opened their group campaign with a 3-0 win at Maccabi Haifa.
4) Maiden Meisterschale
After losing the title to Wolfsburg the previous season, Müller’s first full campaign came close to being one of the most successful in Bayern’s history. Under Van Gaal they won the DFB Cup against Werder Bremen and reached the final of the Champions League against Inter Milan, but first of all they won back their Bundesliga crown.
Müller bagged 13 goals as well as providing 13 assists from his 34 league appearances. Three of his goals came in one game as he netted his first professional hat-trick in a 3-1 win at home to Bochum on Matchday 33. Combined with second-placed Schalke’s loss against Bremen, it made the title race a formality as the Royal Blues needed a 17-goal swing on the final day. Müller had his first Bundesliga title at the age of 20. A remarkable seven more have followed in the last seven years.
5) International recognition
Being the second-best goalscorer in a season for Bayern is surely enough to catch the eye. Perhaps the most important person Müller caught the attention of was Germany head coach Joachim Löw, who called up the forward for his first cap [of exactly 100] in a 1-0 friendly loss to Argentina in March 2010. One more friendly appearance in June against Bosnia-Herzegovina was all Müller got before making his competitive debut for the national team – at the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
It was there that the world sat up and took notice of this sometimes ungainly youngster. A goal and an assist in the opening 4-0 win over Australia set him on his way. He set up Mesut Özil for the only goal of the game against Ghana before taking apart England in the last 16 with an assist for Lukas Podolski and two second-half goals to wrap up the 4-1 win in Bloemfontein. So grounded was Müller at the time that he even stopped one of his post-match interviews to say hello to his grandmother back in Pähl.
Another strike apiece in the quarter-finals and third-place play-off against Argentina and Uruguay respectively took him to five goals in the tournament and won him the Golden Boot ahead of David Villa, Wesley Sneijder and Diego Forlan by virtue of his three assists. All of a sudden, the world knew about Thomas Müller, but what position did he actually play?
6) The Raumdeuter
After the World Cup in South Africa, Müller was in the spotlight and the analysts were trying to figure him out. How was this guy with spindly legs, described as “stork’s legs” by scout Jan Pienta, and sometimes questionable technique making it in professional football?
“People are always making jokes about my legs but don’t worry, my mother found out quickly that not much breaks,” Müller told Süddeutsche Zeitung back in 2011. “It was never a problem for me and actually helped, especially at youth level. When you don’t just have your body to stand up to people, you also have to engage your brain so you know the runs to make so you avoid challenges.”
Watch: Why Müller is the best player without the ball
When asked who he would compare himself with, the forward replied in customary Müller fashion: “Perhaps I’m unique. There are dribblers and strikers who are kind of similar, but what am I? A Raumdeuter? Yes, I’m a Raumdeuter – and that’s your headline.”
And so a new style of play was born. Müller’s Raumdeuter – literally meaning ‘space interpreter’ – has since become a feature of modern football terminology. A player who sees space and exploits it before others can react. Shooting and technique can be improved through practice, but how do you teach someone to see the runs to make? The World Cup and his inimitable style of play had made Müller an icon.
7) The treble
The forward signed a new long-term contract with Bayern ahead of the 2010/11 season but had to endure two years of relative frustration as the record champions failed to win a trophy. In 2012 alone they finished as runners-up to Dortmund in the league and the cup before a Champions League final defeat at home to Chelsea at the Allianz Arena. The campaign did contain a small milestone for Müller as he made his 100th Bundesliga appearance in March. He completed the season by playing in all 34 league matches for the third year in a row – 102 games in succession.
Bayern bounced back in emphatic style in 2012/13, though. With 13 Bundesliga goals, Müller helped Jupp Heynckes’ side to wrap up the title in record time on Matchday 28. In Europe he struck eight times to finish as Bayern’s top scorer. He played a telling part in reaching the final by scoring three and setting up another as the already crowned champions thrashed Barcelona 7-0 on aggregate in the semi-finals to set up that famous Klassiker at Wembley. All that before he opened the scoring and assisted the third in the 3-2 win over VfB Stuttgart to win the DFB Cup and secure that historic treble just 12 months after their triple second-place agony.
8) The guarantor
Again the eternal question of what Thomas Müller does. Well he guarantees Bayern points, that’s what he does. His 110 Bundesliga goals have been scored in 87 matches, and remarkably none of those games have ever ended in defeat. In fact, just five of them have even seen Bayern drop points and draw.
Watch: The first 100 of Müller’s Bundesliga goals
When Müller scores Bayern average 2.89 points per game, and 36 of those goals count as winners in that they provided the record German champions an unassailable lead over the opponent. His goal in the 4-1 win at Hamburg on Matchday 33 of 2013/14 meant he overtook former Bayern and Dynamo Dresden striker Alexander Zickler as the player to score in the most Bundesliga matches without ever losing – doing so for the 47th time. All told, the Bavarians have lost just twice in 90 minutes of competitive action when Müller has scored, plus the 2012 Champions League final defeat on penalties.
9) Serial winner
The Raumdeuter marked another landmark moment with another trademark performance in November 2015. A goal and two assists in a 4-0 win over Stuttgart brought up 150 Bundesliga victories for Müller just a month after his 27th birthday. It made him the second-youngest player in history to reach the milestone after Georg Schwarzenbeck, but no one before had done it in as quickly as Müller (209 games).
That is a win rate of 71.8 per cent, which he in fact increased as he then became the quickest player to 200 Bundesliga wins in February 2018 against Schalke, coming in just 275 games. He has now won all three points 235 times in his 327 Bundesliga appearances. In all competitions that rate stands at 72.5 per cent, while he has had a direct hand in almost every third Bayern goals since making his senior debut.
10) Müller surpasses Müller
Not many players can say they have outscored the great Gerd Müller on a football pitch. However, his younger namesake – no relation, they have both confirmed – can make that claim. Admittedly Thomas has not been as prolific in terms of the speed at which he has scored, but he is still the top German goalscorer in the history of continental club football, across both the Champions League and European Cup.
The current Bayern No.25 matched his childhood hero for European goals in the 2-2 draw at Juventus in the 2015/16 Champions League round of 16 first leg. Three weeks later he surpassed Müller Sr. with his 91st-minute equaliser in the return fixture, taking the tie to extra-time before Bayern progressed.
As he does on the pitch, the Raumdeuter has crept his way into the 500 club almost unnoticed. His appearance against Eintracht Frankfurt on Matchday 10 saw him match his great friend and long-time teammate Schweinsteiger for Bayern appearances.
A week later, his feat was recognised by the club ahead of Der Klassiker, with Müller receiving a bouquet of flowers prior to kick-off.
Still head of him on Bayern's all-time appearance list are some truly illustrious names, including Philipp Lahm, Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Müller, Oliver Kahn and leader Sepp Maier with 633 games.
Not bad for a kid with spindly legs and no technique…
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