His name is the only ordinary thing about Thomas Müller. Asked to describe himself in three words, the young FC Bayern München forward is unusually quiet for a few seconds. He then says: "Ready for action, unorthodox and efficient."
That may be six words but his assessment is hard to argue with. Few players in the game today have risen to the top as rapidly as the 23-year-old and been, to use his words, as ready for action when their moment came.
As recently as May 2009, Müller was a regular for Bayern's reserves – barely a year later he had won the league and cup double in Germany, the Golden Boot, the Best Young Player award at the FIFA World Cup, and played in a UEFA Champions League final. Just as you feared all this success would turn his head, he looked at a reporter during a televised post-match World Cup interview and said: "Can I send a message to someone?" Then he waved into the camera and said hello to his grandmothers and his grandfather.
Unusual behaviour, yes, but when Müller uses the word unorthodox, it refers to his style of play rather than his personality. As a forward, his greatest asset, for both club and country, is that he will often appear where you do not expect him to be.
How crucial this element of his game is became apparent last season when his struggle for form hurt Bayern and Germany. Both teams became too static and predictable. Müller, on the other hand, is usually very hard to defend against, as Chelsea FC found out in the 2012 UEFA Champions League final, when his header broke the deadlock.
"If you look at the images after we scored the goal, then the whole team and even the whole of Munich exploded, and you could see in everybody's faces how big the relief was after we took the lead," he said about the few ecstatic seconds after his goal that nearly won the final. "What happened then is pretty difficult to put into words. It seemed we had achieved something enormous, and suddenly it was gone. Then you find yourself in a deep hole."
That was Müller's – and Bayern's – second defeat in a UEFA Champions League decider in only three years. Many observers wondered how the players would react to the psychological blow. A few weeks into the new season, it is clear they have bounced back – none more so than Müller, who scored four goals and set up six in the first seven Bundesliga games.
"We live for the future," Müller said. "Everything that happened in the past can't be changed anyway. We played a great season except for that last step, and we were missing the bit of luck that you need in a Champions League final. I won't look back on the season with a smile, but you have to look ahead, focus on the next objectives."
Bayern have much to prove – losing two league titles in a row to Borussia Dortmund. There is unfinished business in the UEFA Champions League too, where Jupp Heynckes' side were not expected to lose to FC BATE Borisov on matchday two. "It was like a bad cup game," Müller added. "In a game like that, when the underdogs score early on the counterattack, you can have trouble breaking down a deep defence."
The upcoming double-header against LOSC Lille, therefore, is crucial. "Even if Lille have lost twice, they are not to be underestimated," Müller said. "When you have lost twice you have to give everything in the fight. They still have something to play for in this group."
The full Thomas Müller interview is available in the new edition of Champions Matchday, the official magazine of the UEFA Champions League.
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