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22 Jun 2018

Germany: Has Bayern forward Muller lost his magic touch?

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Goal scoring decline

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An attacking all-rounder

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World Cup man

Reuters/CHRISTIAN HARTMANN

Few players in the modern era have achieved quite as much as Thomas Muller. 

He has won 19 honours in his career including seven Bundesliga titles, a Champions League crown and the World Cup. 

As a professional, he has amassed over 200 goals for club and country, despite not being an out-and-out striker.

Goal scoring decline

In Muller’s first six full seasons with Bayern, he netted 12 Bundesliga goals or more in five of those campaigns. 

In his seventh, 2015-16, he netted 32 goals in all competitions including 20 in the league. However, in the last two years combined he has scored a mere 15 league goals.

Reuters/KAI PFAFFENBACH

These numbers are replicated at international level. Between 2013 and 2016, Muller found the net 26 times in just 45 appearances. In the past 18 months, he has scored just twice more for his nation. 

He is the highest active scorer in a World Cup, with a total of ten goals amassed across the past two competitions. However, whilst this stage offers him a true shot at redemption, he failed to find the net at the European Championships in 2016.

An attacking all-rounder

Muller’s early goal-scoring statistics were hailed as particularly impressive due to the variety in his skillset. 

Described as an attacking all-rounder, he has the capability of leading the line but is most comfortable on the right-hand side of a three-pronged attack, or in an advanced midfield position.

As he came through the Bayern youth system, he was seen primarily as a midfielder but his attacking capabilities were recognised when he broke through into the first-team ranks. 

Reuters/AXEL SCHMIDT

The 28-year-old’s main qualities are seen as a combination of pace, technique, positioning tactical awareness and intelligence. The latter two were instrumental in his progression into a more forward-thinking player and explain his adaptability on the pitch.

Muller has also been hailed as possessing ice-cold composure, with Germany manager Joachim Löw once saying he is "impervious to pressure" while Louis van Gaal, a former boss at Bayern, hailed his mental strength.

His playing style is unorthodox and he can often appear to be awkward due to his running style and lack of explosiveness, which makes his decline in both goals and former even odder.

World Cup man

By the age of 24, Muller had already brought his World Cup scoring stats into double figures. However, he did not produce so much as a shot at goal in Die Mannschaft’s opening defeat to Mexico this time around.

Indeed, he was priced at 33/1 to be the tournament’s top goalscorer before a ball was kicked – not even making the top 20 list, despite his previous records.

Reuters/KAI PFAFFENBACH

In 2014, Müller was ranked the fifth-best footballer in the world by The Guardian but you would be hard pushed to find any outlets who would rank him now in the top 50, if not substantially lower.

It was once thought this was the man who would break scoring records at Bayern and Germany with a playing style that suggested excellence in longevity. The next few weeks in Russia could go some way to making or breaking that theory.

Listen to the RealSport football writers discuss all the action from Day 8 of the World Cup in Kremlins in the Basement: RealSport’s daily World Cup podcast.