On his own admission, the events of the year 2010 have taken Thomas Müller by surprise. At any rate, he has yet to invest in a trophy cabinet for his home, so the Golden Boot is simply sitting on a chest of drawers in the hallway for now. Müller’s staggering ascent to near-superstar status in his first full year as a professional footballer is possibly unique in the long history of the game, and is certainly a story of fairytale proportions. “Such a lot has happened, starting with the trophies we won at club level, and then what we achieved as a national team,” the 21-year-old reflected in a recent interview, “It's been an almost unbelievable first year as a pro.”
The highlights in Müller’s marvellous year include the Bundesliga title, a DFB Cup triumph, an appearance in the Champions League final, third place at the World Cup, and the awards for top scorer and Best Young Player at the global showdown in South Africa. “It's incredibly tough to pick out a single most memorable moment. It's hard to say whether it was better to play at the World Cup or in the Champions League final, or whether winning the double was the best of the lot. I just enjoyed all of the big moments,” the player said.
Scorer points aplenty
He himself provided a wealth of highlights for the fans to enjoy. Müller appeared in all 54 of Bayern’s competitive fixtures in 2010, starting 50 of them and ending with 33 scorer points (18 goals, 15 assists). “He’s very aware of his positioning and knows where to find his team-mates and the ball,” commented Louis van Gaal, who has deployed the versatile forward on the left and right of midfield, in the hole behind the front man, and at centre-forward. “It's unbelievable what he’s achieved as such a young player. It shows he has tremendous mental and physical strength,” the coach declared.
Müller’s manifest quality soon earned him recognition from Germany boss Joachim Löw. Thomas made his senior international debut against Argentina at the Allianz Arena in March, and had become a regular for his country by the time of the World Cup. “I basically got lucky, I hit form at just the right time,” the player commented, after finishing top scorer in South Africa with five goals and three assists.
Carefree and happy-go-lucky
Luck was involved, and ability was a key factor too. But the 21-year-old Thomas Müller boasts many other admirable attributes too. In stark contrast to many a pro, he manages to convey the impression that playing to a global audience in a packed mega-stadium is no more or less meaningful than a kick-about on the recreation ground behind his parents’ house. “I’m continually amazed by his sassy, relaxed approach,” Löw confessed.
“He was always lively, carefree and happy-go-lucky,” his mother Claudia recalled, “he’s always been a scallywag.” But he has strengths in depth too, as shown last November by the way he overcame an almost inevitable dip in form, which prompted Louis van Gaal to drop him to the bench for three games. “Not much is going my way at the moment. I’m trying lots of things and throwing myself into it, but I’m not having my moments,” Müller himself reasoned, “I need to stick at it and keep working hard. We’ll soon start winning again, and I’ll have my personal successes too.”
A hard year to match
No sooner said than done: by the end of November, Müller was back in the starting line-up, contributing three goals and six assists in the last eight matches of the year. He is now looking forward to the next 12 months. “The most challenging target is for us as a team to repeat last year’s success,” he noted. And as for 2010, shooting star Müller had this to say: “It’s been an incredible year, but football moves on so quickly, you have to adapt and re-orientate all the time.” Roll on 2011!