Six-time Bundesliga winner Thomas Müller lives and breathes boyhood club Bayern Munich. - © © imago / Newspix
Six-time Bundesliga winner Thomas Müller lives and breathes boyhood club Bayern Munich. - © © imago / Newspix

Magic Thomas Müller eyeing up Bayern Munich record


Having won his sixth Bundesliga title with Bayern Munich in 2016/17, star forward Thomas Müller has set his sights on breaking the club record of eight crowns held by Mehmet Scholl, Oliver Kahn, Bastian Schweinsteiger and outgoing captain Philipp Lahm.

There is no doubt that Thomas Müller lives and breathes Bayern Munich. Born in nearby Weilheim, he signed for the Bavarian giants several months before his 11th birthday, in the summer of 2000, and spent the next decade working his way through the ranks to become one of the club's most iconic and successful players.

Last month, he lifted the Bundesliga shield for the sixth time, adding to an eye-watering trophy haul that also includes four DFB Cups, the UEFA Champions League, the UEFA Super Cup, the FIFA Club World Cup, the FIFA World Cup and the World Cup Golden Boot. And he's still only 27.

Watch: Müller's delight at making his 250th Bundesliga appearance for Bayern:

Like most elite-level players, though, Müller has an insatiable hunger for silverware, and he has already set his sights on the Bayern record of eight Bundesliga titles shared by club legends Scholl, Kahn, Schweinsteiger and Lahm.

"I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to break the record," he admitted in a recent interview with Sport Bild. "My contract with Bayern runs until 2021. If I haven't reached eight Bundesliga titles by then, then clearly something has gone wrong. Our opponents don't exactly gift wrap the title for us, but we definitely want to win it every season."

Fighting talk from a player who has emerged as one of Bayern's leaders in recent years, and who was recently tipped by the retiring Lahm as one of the likeliest candidates to succeed him as club captain, along with goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.

"Normally, either Manuel Neuer or Thomas Müller will become captain," Lahm said, after hanging up his boots in May. "Their career paths have been similar to mine. They have Bayern Munich in their hearts and are leaders on and off the pitch."


Müller became a regular starter under Louis van Gaal in 2009/10, and – remarkably – has only missed 18 Bundesliga games over the last eight seasons. Much has already been written about the inimitable style of the self-styled Raumdeuter ("space investigator", "space interpreter" or the delightful "space invader" – take your pick), and it is true that his versatility and unpredictability have transformed him into one of Bayern's biggest weapons.

The Bavarians boast some of the world's most exciting attacking talent, but Müller's atypical profile means that he is a rare gem even among FCB's precious collection. He may not have the trickery of Kingsley Coman, the raw power of Douglas Costa or the dead-eyed accuracy of Arjen Robben, yet his understanding of the game is unrivalled, and his ability to squeeze pockets of space out of thin air has been confounding opposition managers and defenders for years. 

In terms of numbers, Bayern's 2016/17 campaign was his least successful to date, although for any normal player five goals and 12 assists would be considered an impressive return. Müller, though, is anything but normal. This is a player who has hit double figures in six of his eight Bundesliga seasons when it comes to goals, and seven when it comes to assists. Bayern have never lost a league game in which he has scored.

Watch: Müller vs. Forsberg: The Bundesliga assist kings:

Read: How might Serge Gnabry fit in at Bayern?

He also has a tendency to confound statisticians – something approaching heresy in the modern game – because of his ability to influence matches without really seeming to. Müller rarely tops the charts for passes, attempts, challenges or runs, yet he remains a poison for defenders, exerting an intangible but very real authority thanks to the exact science of his off-the-ball movement. It should come as no surprise that fellow frontman Robert Lewandowski has just hit the 30-goal mark for the second season running. 

"I understand that many find it hard to get me as a player," he once told The Observer. "They say: 'Impossible, how did he do that?' But, at some point, they maybe started thinking: 'Oh, he's quite good after all.'"

With Lahm and Xabi Alonso both retiring this summer, Bayern have already set about strengthening their squad for another assault on German and European football next season. Sebastian Rudy and Niklas Süle have been brought in from Hoffenheim, Coman's loan deal from Juventus has been made permanent, Serge Gnabry has joined from Werder Bremen and Corentin Tolisso has arrived from Lyon. Still, it is highly unlikely that any of the new arrivals will threaten the unique position held by Müller.

"He's atypical because he's a great forward with an unorthodox skill set," Bayern coach Carlo Ancelotti told ESPN earlier this year. "We expect great forwards to be outstanding in terms of athleticism, technique or creativity. Instead, his strength is tactical, in that ability to read the game, to fill the right space at the right time."

"You don't associate that kind of intelligence and tactical awareness with attacking players," the Italian added. "Certainly not at his level, which is simply exceptional."

Ancelotti looks set to keep faith with Müller, then, who is currently recovering from minor thumb surgery at the start of June. Like a number of senior Germany players, he will play no part in the upcoming Confederations Cup in Russia, and thus has several weeks to recharge his batteries and get back to full fitness before Bayern resume training on 1 July.

It is nevertheless safe to assume that the 27-year-old will be one of the first names on Joachim Löw's teamsheet when Die Mannschaft set about defending their World Cup crown next summer – and a quick glance at their qualifying group shows they are well on course to reach the tournament, with six wins from six.

"Müller is a natural talent," Löw said earlier this season, when Müller finally ended a 999-minute goal drought against Wolfsburg. "He has played brilliantly since 2010, and has never had a serious injury. He has both feet on the ground and can deal with praise or criticism, success or failure, better than almost anyone. I've never doubted him, and of course he has a nose for goals."

Löw is certainly well-placed to talk about Müller's scoring prowess, given that he has netted 10 times for Germany at the World Cup, and looks the likeliest player to surpass Miroslav Klose's all-time finals record of 16 goals. The tournament is still a year away, though, and for now Müller is focusing on making 2017/18 a more successful season for Bayern.

"We have very high ambitions," he said. "But even if we failed to meet our objectives in the DFB Cup and Champions League, it doesn't mean it was a bad season. Obviously if Darmstadt won the title it would be considered a sensational achievement, whereas for us it's normal. But no team has ever managed to win five Bundesliga titles in a row before." 

Lauded by his coaches and adored by the Bayern fans, Müller will no doubt have a key role to play as the Bavarians look to re-establish their domestic supremacy next term, and land their first Champions League crown since 2013. And don't be surprised if he jets off to Russia next summer with a seventh Bundesliga winners' medal on the mantelpiece back home. One closer to the record.

Andy Smith

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