Thomas Müller has signed a new contract until 2023
About a year ago, Thomas Müller’s future was probably more uncertain than ever. Having just been expelled from the national team together with Mats Hummels and Jérôme Boateng, criticism at FC Bayern seemed to grow as well. It was not only in the media that there was much discussion as to whether the then 29-year-old was still good enough for the club’s high standards. Even on social media, many supporters increasingly questioned whether his modest game time and often mediocre performances when he played combined with his noteworthy salary was still justifiable.
But now, some 13 months after his expulsion from the national team, Thomas Müller has renewed his contract with FC Bayern until 2023. And the sceptics and critics have become perceptibly quieter. Especially since the appointment of Hansi Flick, the “Raumdeuter” is once again interpreting the right spaces, his goal threat has returned, and he has been one of the decisive factors in the team’s upward trend of the last few months.
Müller is back. And he has proven that one should not write off a player too soon. Especially not at 29 or now 30. That he, of all people, is the first player to follow the example set by Flick can be a coincidence. But it can also be a sign.
Thomas Müller’s standing in the team in recent years has often been a good indicator of how well a coach fits in with FC Bayern. When his services were in low demand, not only he himself suffered, but often the team as a whole. Carlo Ancelotti, for example, tried a lot but could not find the a proper wavelength with him. Müller’s performances were also mixed under Niko Kovač.
Of course, a sound relationship between player and coach is not exclusively the coach’s responsibility, but their part in the situation with Müller was obvious. If only because Müller was on a better path in the short caretaker period under Jupp Heynckes in the interim between Ancelotti and Kovač.
Müller is as dependent on his coaches as perhaps few other players are. In the same way, he is dependent on his teammates, who have to free him from the work of circulating the ball. Müller is not a player useful for combinational play at a high technical level. He often finds the right spaces, has excellent positional play, and can play simple but very effective passes. For him to succeed with these qualities, he needs players like Joshua Kimmich or Thiago Alcántara around him.
But once Müller is properly involved, as the last few months have shown, he is able to give back to his teammates by making them just as much better in return. Robert Lewandowski is probably the best example of this at the moment. The striker’s incredible run has to in part be attributed to a reinvigorated Thomas Müller. 10 of his 19 assists this season led to goals by Lewandowski. In addition, Müller continuously opened up spaces for his teammates with his countless runs.
So Müller is Müller again: A reliable scorer with 29 direct goal involvements in 36 competitive matches and a tireless engine and driver in attack. With him a variability has returned in the attacking third that had not been seen for a long time.
But Müller is also a force in pressing. This he already was under Kovač. He organizes, chooses the right angles in closing down opponents and in doing so the support that Flick so urgently needs in the front positions in his formation. Now that Müller seems to be back to normal, his contract extension is only logical.
And yet, there is the question of how to move on from here. Of course, should Müller be able to maintain his current level of performance consistently, he will be a regular and a top performer again in the time after the coronavirus. But Müller is also one of the team’s top earners and main voices. The fact that Ancelotti and Kovac ultimately failed is not only an indication of their lack of chemistry or incompatibility with FC Bayern. It is also in part due to their inability to keep Müller involved.
This is an indication of how powerful Müller is in the changing room. Should he experience a prolonged dip in performance again at some point or fall out with the coach, this can quickly become a problem. Although he is incredibly important for the club as somebody for the fans to identity with and a marketing figure, if the on-pitch performance is missing, as it was last year, his special status becomes a stumbling block for any coach.
But if he manages to remain at his current level, this debate will arise no more. Because what was a year ago is water under the bridge for most people. The loud and critical voices have largely given way to those who even demand a return to the national team. But this chapter will probably remain closed once and for all. So it will be all the more exciting to see what Müller’s next chapter at Bayern will look like and how long this footballer, who is so unique in the club’s history, will continue to interpret the spaces as he has done for years.