After he made his 100th UEFA Champions League appearance on Wednesday, we hail Bayern forward Thomas Müller: a self-deprecating "clown among clones".
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A one-club man, Thomas Müller holds cult status among Bayern München fans as much for his legendary wisecracks as for his knack for the unorthodox; UEFA.com celebrates the latest entrant to the UEFA Champions League 100 club.
He is Mr Bayern
An academy graduate, Müller embodies Bayern's 'Mia san Mia' (We are who we are) ethos. Although unrelated to Gerd Müller, the only player ahead of him in Bayern's European goalscoring chart (62 to 42), sharing a surname with a man synonymous with the club's glory years helped Thomas on the path to cult status.
The forward made his debut as a late substitute under Jürgen Klinsmann back in 2009, scoring in a 7-1 UEFA Champions League win against Sporting CP, and became a permanent fixture under Louis van Gaal the following campaign. He now often deputises for Manuel Neuer as club captain, though the armband has not always been an easy wear; during one game Müller was pictured reattaching it with red tape, explaining afterwards (with a nod to his supposedly puny biceps): "There's not really a model [of armband] that fits my upper arm."
He is always worth listening to
Hermann Gerland, who has coached Müller since his teens, gave the striker the nickname 'Radio Müller' since his musings – on subjects ranging from the philosophical to the comic – rarely disappoint. "A footballer doesn't think any further ahead than from today to yesterday," he once said. "Will I be at Bayern my whole life? I can only give a serious answer to that when I'm dead."
Successive Bayern coaches have loved him, but Müller is no teacher's pet: "Those who know me know I follow my instincts more than the coach's instructions," he once said, broad grin on his face. That also explains why German newspaper Die Welt christened Müller "the clown among clones".
He has a unique skill-set
Since the early days of his career, Müller has described himself as a 'Raumdeuter' – 'space interpreter'. Not the most technically gifted Bayern player, he has extraordinary positional sense, regularly turning up in the right place at the right time inside the area. "If only the beautiful goals counted, I wouldn't have many to my name," he conceded.
No player has scored more UEFA competition penalties for Bayern than Müller's seven (with five apiece, Robert Lewandowski and Paul Breitner are joint-second), yet he can be unpredictable too. He once deliberately fell over before a free-kick to confuse the opposition.
He has the common touch
Müller's national popularity stems from his grounded persona. He doesn't care much for high fashion – going as far as wearing a pink dirndl (a Bavarian woman's dress) during preparations for Germany's 2014 FIFA World Cup final appearance – tattoos or fast cars. The one thing he does take seriously is charity work; Müller is the ambassador of a foundation that supports children in mourning after the loss of a loved one.
Müller's wife Lisa is a dressage rider, although – true to type – the Bayern forward has kept out of the saddle after having a brief try. "I didn't quite fall off, but I felt a bit sorry for the horse," he said of his efforts back in 2011. "The risks – for me and the horse – are too great."