Thomas Müller clocks up 400 appearances
As he waited on the touchline for his first senior appearance on a cool summer's evening in August 2008, no one could have guessed that an international career was about to start. He was just 18 years old, a homegrown player who was brought on to make an impact in the dying stages of the Bundesliga opener against Hamburger SV. Today, nine years and 23 days later, Thomas Müller made his 400th competitive appearance for FC Bayern in the match away to 1899 Hoffenheim.
Bundesliga winner, DFB Cup winner, Champions League winner, World Cup winner, World Cup Golden Boot winner, FC Bayern icon. "No one could've predicted the career he's had," said Hermann Gerland, who tutored and promoted Müller over many years. "But he had the right club and the right coach at the right time. And then he took his chance and put in very good performances," he told fcbayern.com.
A special voicemail message
Müller found out about his first call-up for the senior squad via voicemail. The boy from Upper Bavaria was celebrating his Abitur exams when the phone rang. "I didn't pick up at first. But later when I listened to my voicemail, it was from Jürgen Klinsmann," revealed Müller, recalling his promotion from the reserve team which Gerland, the coach of the reserves at the time, had suggested to the then Bayern head coach.
What was it that excited Gerland, who is now in charge of the sporting side of Bayern's new academy? "Thomas scored goals, in training and in games. He wasn't yet ready to play consistently well over 90 minutes, but he provided goals! And that's the most important thing in football," recalls the Tiger, looking back on the start of a career of a player who has always been a bit of a rascal. "He was a very strong runner and could easily keep up with anyone. He had to do that with me when we lost the ball. Sometimes he tried to slip away but of course I spotted it," laughs Gerland.
"We played a game in Emden and it was foggy, and Thomas thought I couldn't see him. But I noticed he wasn't in his own half. My wife's cousin was there and asked me if anyone else other than Thomas Müller was playing, because his was the only name I was calling out. I had to ask him to track back but he'd figured it out." Müller was already capable of "playing in lots of position, he was very dangerous in front of goal. But you couldn't have foreseen such a career."
Closing in on Rummenigge
Müller left his mark on the third tier in his first season as a professional, scoring 15 goals in 32 games, but it was in the following season that he really made his breakthrough. Müller played in all 34 Bundesliga games of the 2009/10 campaign, was the second-highest scorer after Arjen Robben and was called up to the Germany squad for the World Cup in South Africa, where he proceeded to win the Golden Boot with five goals. Since then he has barely been out of the Bayern line-up, and the squad joker has played a major role in the success of the record champions -- not least the treble in 2013 -- as well as Germany's 2014 World Cup triumph.
He has made the most appearances for Bayern out of the current squad -- and is still only 27! This season he could climb up to 11th in the list of all-time appearances for Bayern and overtake club legends Lothar Matthäus (410 appearances), CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge (422) and Franz Roth (428). In the all-time goalscorer list, Müller's already sitting in third place with 161 goals, behind only Rummenigge (217 goals in 422 games) and Gerd Müller (506 in 560).
Despite all his success, Müller always wants more and does not rest on his past glories. "As a footballer, you always want to do well. Thomas always wants to win and I think he'll always score goals. I hope he keeps up his level of performance," said Gerland, who wishes his former protégé all the best. "I wish him lots of goals, a few children and a happy life. And good health!"