Müller, James and the ‘big picture’
The top goalscorers at the last two World Cups both play for FC Bayern. At the same time, James Rodríguez (2014) and Thomas Müller (2010) have proved that scoring goals is not the be all and end all in the first half of the season. James has received plaudits for successful tackles in defence. And Müller – for long periods up to the winter break, the stand-in captain for the injured Manuel Neuer – now sees himself "in a different role," where he has "more than the big picture" in sight and focuses less on himself.
"Of course, I hope to score lots of goals. But sometimes it's better to look for a team-mate," said the 28-year-old at the training camp in Doha, "I can shoot four times and one goes in – on the other hand, we might score three goals in four moves if I lay the ball off three times." Sometimes he prefers to defend a narrow lead rather than head for the opposition box.
James finds his rhythm
Four goals and six assists (in 20 games) was Műller's record in the first half of the season. James clocked up two goals and four assists (in 19 games). The fact he did not pose more threat in front of goal and instead was able to demonstrate his defensive qualities is, according to the Colombian, due to his position. "That's down to me playing more in midfield. If I play further forward then I also try to score more goals," he said.
The 26-year-old does not regret the move from Real Madrid to Munich in the summer. "I'm happy here," he declared. He received a great reception from his team-mates and has continued to improve on the pitch. "It helps me to get so many games. That's helped me find my rhythm." He believes there are more similarities than big differences between Real and Bayern: "They are both big clubs with a similar mentality. They always win titles and always want more."
‘Take the next step’
James is aiming high at Bayern. "I want to win everything. This team can win everything," he said looking forward to the second half of the season with Bayern still in three competitions. That view is shared by Müller: "We want to win every title that can be won," he said. However, that not only means remaining free of injuries ("If everybody stays fit that will definitely help us.") but also "taking the next step on the pitch."
FC Bayern have won 15 out of 16 games under Jupp Heynckes, "but it's not the case that we've just strolled through games." The team has "given everything for each other" but lacked "the free-flowing element.". Furthermore, "we're not yet at the stage where we can tear opponents apart. We want to get to the position where we not only clock up results but also dominate games a bit more."
That's what Bayern are working on in Doha. "We need a good passing game, movement off the ball, changes in pace, so that we're not too static. The desire to play is there," said Müller who has identified a good start to the training camp: "With training at an excellent level." Müller is convinced he'll help the team succeed in the coming months with a few goals. With a smile on his face, he declared: "Up to now, I've always performed well in World Cup years – that gives me masses of hope."