Since he took his professional bow for FC Bayern München in 2009, little has gotten in the way of Thomas Müller's inexorable rise to the top of the world game. A World Cup winner with Germany and a treble-winner with the Bavarians, the 26-year-old is already one of the Bundesliga's biggest stars.
bundesliga.com presents ten things you may not have known about the UEFA Champions League's all-time leading German scorer...
Clinical touch at an early age
Born in Weilheim, Bavaria, Müller's first club was local outfit TSV Pähl and it was evident from an early age that he was destined for great things. Family friend Wolfgang Tuffentsamer recalls, "He stood out playing for Pähl very early on. I remember one season where we scored 165 goals, and Müller bagged 120 of them."
From Pähl to professional
In 2000, at the age of 11, he swapped small-town Pähl for the cosmopolitan Bavarian capital and the biggest club in Germany - FC Bayern München. Progressing steadily through the youth ranks, Müller was part of the side who finished runners-up in the U-19 Bundesliga in 2007. By the beginning of the 2009/08 season he was already on the fringes of the first team.
van Gaal the 'mentor'
Müller was given his senior debut by Jürgen Klinsmann in 2008, but it was under Klinsmann's successor Louis van Gaal (l.) that his career really moved into the fast track, the Dutchman picking him for every single league game in the 2009/10 season, as well as the UEFA Champions League final, which Bayern lost to Inter Milan. When van Gaal left the club, Müller said, "It's sad for me because he was my mentor. FC Bayern are losing a great coach."
Working the channels
The top-scoring German in UEFA Champions League history operates as the record champions' unpredictable Mr Versatile. Be it on the right-hand side, behind the striker or leading the line as a false nine, Müller always gives 100 per cent, but just in case you're wondering what exactly his role is, it's worth consulting the man himself. "I'm a Raumdeuter (space investigator)," he told Süddeutsche.de back in January 2011.
Müller’s international career did not make everyone sit up and take note straight away. After debuting in a 1-0 friendly defeat to Argentina, he appeared for a post-match press conference at which opposition coach Diego Maradona mistook him for a ballboy. Maradona refused to give his press conference until Müller departed, although the latter got the last laugh after Germany’s 4-0 demolition of Argentina at the 2010 World Cup. “He won’t think I’m a ballboy anymore,” quipped Müller, who was on target in the win.
Six goals shy of World Cup record
Such was Müller's overall impact at the 2010 FIFA World Cup that he was voted Best Young Player of the tournament. He also won the Golden Boot as top scorer in South Africa, and went on to bag another four at the 2014 tournament in Brazil, moving him above Maradona himself in the all-time World Cup goalscorers stakes.
Cool as a cucumber
Perhaps unsurprisingly for a German international, Müller has developed a particular knack for taking penalties. As well as having the optimal technique and focus, he also possesses a remarkably cool temperament. Rather than looking at the ball in the run-up, he keeps his eyes fixed on the goalkeeper, simply waiting for him to move before planting his finish into the opposite corner.
All for a good cause
Müller is an ambassador for the YoungWings charity, which provides a 24-hour helpline for children who have lost loved ones. Müller launched an advent calendar with all of the proceeds going to the charity. "I want to do alI I can to ensure the issue is taken seriously by society and that those affected get the attention and help that they need," he said.
Two peas in a pod
Thomas is married to Lisa, a competitive sportswoman herself in dressage and show jumping. The couple attend Munich's major equestrian events together as often as Müller's football commitments allow - although he freely admits to finding it "more nerve-racking than being out on the pitch" to watch Lisa competing in the saddle. The couple own a number of horses, with Müller buying his first, named Rimini, from legendary Bayern coach Herrmann Gerland: "I think I gave him a fair price!"
A lot to live up to
The name Müller is synoymous with goals at Bayern, and Thomas has proven to be a worthy successor to Gerd, the legendary Bomber der Nation. Müller is also the name of a famous dairy brand, and the Bundesliga record scorer teamed up with his contemporary namesake for a television ad. "The lad's fast, he's got a good technique - he's going to be a great player," Gerd told German tabloid Bild. High praise indeed from a striker who managed 365 goals in 427 top-flight outings.