With more than 130 Bundesliga outings under his belt, a UEFA European Championship semi-final in the bag and a third UEFA Champions League final start on the horizon, it is easy to forget that FC Bayern München forward Thomas Müller is still just 23.
Müller is often the forgotten man at Bayern. Ask most casual observers to name the Bavarians' most stellar talents and it is the likes of Arjen Robben, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Franck Ribéry who roll off the tongue. Müller, however, is one of only four players to have begun both of Bayern's unsuccessful appearances in the final of Europe's premier club competition in the last four seasons. Jupp Heynckes's side have their fingers crossed it will be third time lucky against Borussia Dortmund at Wembley on Saturday.
"The other players don't quite have the weight of experience as I have after the last two finals," said Müller. "I don't feel quite as nervous as I did in the last two finals; it's a normal Champions League match. Of course I'll start getting goose bumps but you need that. We're aware of what we're playing for here."
The prize this time last year was perhaps even greater – Chelsea FC stood between Bayern and glory at their very own Fußball Arena München. Müller looked to have sealed victory for the Bundesliga team with his late header, but Didier Drogba responded in kind and Chelsea went on to prevail on penalties. Rather than dwell on the repercussions of potentially falling at the last hurdle once more, Müller is adamant his side are better placed than ever to add a fifth European Champion Clubs' Cup to the Bayern trophy cabinet.
Last year's final won't have a negative impact – only a positive one, because we're motivated," he told Friday's pre-match press conference. "Perhaps we'll be even more attentive in our work than usual, we certainly won't be giving things away – I think it'll only sharpen our senses. We played very well last year but we didn't get more than one goal and that came in the 83rd minute. We didn't make the most of our opportunities and that's what cost us the trophy."
Indeed, Bayern, under the venerable and ever-sage Heynckes, have shown admirable resolve to bounce back – and then some – from such heartache. Not only are they back in the European showpiece, but they have also wrested the German title from Dortmund's grasp – at a canter. "I don't have the feeling that we have any weaknesses," continued Müller. "Maybe you should ask Dortmund what they've decided they are. We've played a lot of games without conceding; we feel good about tomorrow."
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