Somehow, the transfer rumours keep coming back to Thomas Müller – but stop the presses, he’s staying at Bayern Munich, and here’s why.
A few years ago I wrote a piece on Thomas Müller, der Raumdeuter, and his importance to FC Bayern München. Among other things, I discussed his unique playing style, his infectious personality, and his deep relationship with the club. At the end of the article, I wrote that he was not going anywhere. A Bavarian through and through, Müller has become the jewel in the Bayern crown ever since making debut as a teenager in 2009 and profiting from the youth-driven policies of Louis van Gaal.
Transfer talk – most of which is little more than idle gossip and speculation to generate as many internet clicks as possible – is as popular as any serious discussion on the actual game of football these days, and there are those players whose names you see crop up on a regular basis.
Thomas Müller, one of the most sought-after players in the world today, is one of those names. At one point last year, I was convinced that there were more articles about Müller than any other player, even the likes of Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Müller to the Premier League?
Most of the Müller-related gossip has centred on a move to England, and the moneyed world of the Barclays Premier League madhouse. Probably every leading English club has been in some way associated with the FC Bayern star, and much was made of a statement made in October 2015 when Müller discussed the attractiveness of the high wages on offer in England.
Müller, being Müller, was simply musing – not that it didn’t provide the media with another shot in the arm to crank up the wild-eyed speculation. Sky Sports in the UK took Müller’s comments to say that he was “tempted” by the Premier League, while ESPN went even further to throw out the ultimate click-bait headline: Thomas Muller ready to join a Premier League club if the price is right.
If you were to trawl the internet using the search terms “Thomas Müller” and “Manchester United”, you will be presented with hundreds, even thousands, of links to stories about the Weilheim-born player heading to Old Trafford. There will be various reasons for this – his wanting to follow one-time Fussballgott Bastian Schweinsteiger, a desire to link up with old boss van Gaal, or even some curious dream of leaving pretty Munich behind for an exciting life in grim and grey Manchester.
Even after having signed an extension to his contract that will keep him in Munich until 2021, the articles continued to be churned out. “Müller to be part of Bayern exodus”. “Müller to follow Pep Guardiola to Man City”. “Müller has had enough of the Paulaner. He wants warm Boddington’s instead”. That sort of nonsense.
The fact is – for the time being at least – Müller is going nowhere. In a sarcastic dig at both the media gossip-mongers and the EPL towards the close of the January transfer window, he posted up an image on Instagram of him signing a ball. Accompanying the image were the words – in English, as if to make the point clear – “Last day of the transfer period. I have signed today only a ball”. Typisch Müller.
As the beating heart of the Bayern squad, Müller is already a club legend – and he knows it. Quick to lead the team in celebration or grab the megaphone to stir up the fanatical Südkurve, Thomas Müller is FC Bayern. With the departure of Schweinsteiger, one could argue that the twenty-six year old is the new and undisputed Fussballgott at the Allianz Arena.
Müller is a Bavarian at heart
So, what are the reasons for Müller wanting to stay in Munich? Well, let’s start drawing up the list.
First, there is the fact that he is Bayern through and through. Lots of images exist of the young Thomas as a child, many of them in a replica Bayern Trikot. In walking out in front of the 75,000 crowd at the Allianz, Müller has not only realised the dream of playing for the club he has supported since childhood, but has become the most loved player among the fans of the Bavarian club. Why would he want to leave?
At Bayern, Müller has as much a chance of winning major trophies as he would at any other leading side in Europe. He is a multiple league and cup winner, a Champions League winner, and a World Cup winner. By staying and possibly ending his career at Bayern, he could even pass the likes of Franz Beckenbauer and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge as a lifetime legend at the club. His position on the pantheon is assured; it is now a matter of how high he wants to climb.
Much of the talk about Müller going to Manchester United has been centred around Louis van Gaal, who at the moment is hanging onto his job by his fingernails. Why would anybody want to move to a club that has become little more than a basket case? In fact, Old Trafford runs the risk of turning into a bigger madhouse if recent rumours about José Mourinho taking over are proved to be correct.
Then there is talk about Müller making his way to the light blue half of Manchester, following outgoing Bayern coach Pep Guardiola. Again, why would he want to do this? Müller like many others has benefited from the Catalan’s three years in Munich, but at the same time there have been moments of frustration with the much-fêted coach’s tactics. Why would he head to the soulless Emptyhad for more of the same?
Then there are the fans. The people who turn up at the packed Allianz for every home match, and those who travel to all corners of the continent to follow Die Roten. Bayern have always had a deep and special relationship with their supporters, and there are some players who truly embody this spirit. In the current squad, Franck Ribéry is one, and Thomas Müller the other.
To get a real flavour of Müller’s relationship with the Bayern fans, you need to be there when there is any excuse for a celebration. If he is not out on the pitch leading the squad singalong – often conducting the rest of the team like a spindly and slightly awkward version of Wilhelm Furtwängler or Herbert von Karajan – he will be standing facing the Südkurve, engaging with the crowd.
There is little doubt that the Bayern number twenty-five is adored by the fans, and it is clear that the feeling is mutual. Why would anybody want to leave that?
Thomas Müller leads the Munich crowd with a rendition of the popular ditty Humba Täterä during the post-match celebrations at the end of the 2014/15 season. You cannot see him, but you sure can hear him!
Less mentioned in the media, but arguably more important to him personally, are Müller’s family connections with Bavaria. He and his wife Lisa have long been seen as the perfect partnership, a professional couple whose lives are very much anchored in Munich.
While Thomas is a hero at the local football club, his wife is also a well-established sportswoman, making her way in equestrian circles with the aim of making the German Olympic dressage team. The Müllers have a shared love of dogs and horses, and central to their life in Munich are the stables they own.
Rather than being seen driving fast cars, dropping out of nightclubs or having themselves splashed luridly across the pages of boulevard magazines, the Müllers have have eschewed the media spotlight by preferring to live a quiet life.
While the wives and girlfriends of many professional footballers can be found sunning themselves on exotic beaches or laden with bags outside designer stores, you are more likely to find Lisa Müller mucking out the stables. Thomas, meanwhile, has dubbed himself as the “managing director of carrots”. Unable to ride himself due to the risk of injury, he gets involved in every other way he can.
There is no easy and simple way of leaving all of this this behind, and, you have to ask yourself, why would they? Would would anybody in their right mind leave this idyll, a place where they can live a quiet life away from media intrusion, to live in some faceless suburb of Manchester in some tacky mansion?
Finally, there is the end of season celebratory Bierdusche, and Thomas’s role as the chief instigator and perpetrator. Where would we be, as Bayern fans, without this mischievous soul sneaking up on a team mate and dousing him with cold Weißbier, flashing that cheeky grin?
It is time for a new headline: Müller is staying in Munich.