When your name is Müller and you play up front for FC Bayern München, you have to get used to comparisons with the legendary Gerd Müller, especially when at the age of 20 you score twice in a 5-1 win against BV Borussia Dortmund then four days later hit two more to mark your first UEFA Champions League start.
After coming up through the Bayern youth system, Thomas Müller was hardly noticed when he broke into the Bayern side as a substitute towards the end of last season. With Miroslav Klose, Mario Gómez, Luca Toni and Ivica Olić ahead of him in the pecking order, he was not expected to make much of a splash this term either. Then came a pre-season friendly against AC Milan and suddenly heads were turning. He scored twice and set up a third against the Rossoneri, quickly alerting coach Louis van Gaal to his potential.
As Bayern stuttered at the beginning of the season, Van Gaal increasingly put his faith in the youngster, and after making his first Bundesliga start in the 3-0 win against VfL Wolsburg on 29 August, Müller marked his arrival with two goals against Dortmund. Two more followed in the 3-0 UEFA Champions League win at Maccabi Haifa FC last Tuesday, and Bayern president Franz Beckenbauer could hardly contain his enthusiasm afterwards. "The boy is a sensation," he said. "He can play up front and now he has shown his intelligence in midfield as well."
Müller did his best to shut out the hype. "It's a great feeling to know the coach is counting on me and I'm trying to justify that," he said. Then came the comparisons to his namesake Gerd. In fact, the two are very different players. Gerd Müller was a classic poacher, with an incredible instinct for goal; Thomas Müller is not an out-and-out striker. He has been used on the wings by Van Gaal and as an attacking midfielder as well as up front. Whereas Gerd never ventured further from the oppositon goal than he had to, Thomas covers plenty of ground, happy to attack from deep.
His first against Dortmund was a typical Gerd Müller strike, as he reacted quickest to a loose ball in the box to fire in his first Bundesliga goal. The fifth against Dortmund and his first against Haifa were both shots from distance, most unlike his namesake, as was his second in Israel which came from a powerful run into the box. The common ground then, seems to end with the shared surname, and the flood of goals, Müller having added another 30 seconds after coming on as a substitute in Tuesday's German Cup victory against SC Rot-Weiss Oberhausen. The great man himself, though, does see one further similarity. "The good thing about him is even when he plays badly, he still scores," Der Bomber, now 63, said.
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