Ex­clu­sive: Meet Euro 2016’s Space In­vader

Ger­many striker Thomas Muller is so good he has in­vented his own unique po­si­tion

7 Days in Dubai - - FRONT PAGE - By Adrian Back @aidy­back adrian@7days.ae

I t was six years ago that Thomas Muller an­nounced him­self to the world on the grand­est stage of all. At just 20 years of age he earned the Golden Boot at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa af­ter fir­ing five goals to help Ger­many reach the semi-fi­nals.

Yet it was dif­fi­cult to pin­point ex­actly what made Muller so dan­ger­ous. He was cer­tainly not blessed with sear­ing pace, and de­spite be­ing more than six feet tall he was far from phys­i­cally im­pos­ing.

In fact it was even dif­fi­cult to de­fine his po­si­tion. He wasn’t an out and out for­ward or tra­di­tional play­maker. He cer­tainly couldn’t be de­scribed as a winger. Thank­fully Muller was able to ex­plain it when he re­ferred to him­self as a Raumdeuter - which is Ger­man for “space in­vader”.

It is a unique role, one that Muller has per­fected and is even used just for him on the pop­u­lar Foot­ball Man­ager game. He is al­ways mov­ing, seek­ing room to work even in the most fran­tic of games.

READY TO COM­PLETE THE SET

This abil­ity has paid div­i­dends for both Bay­ern Mu­nich and Ger­many. Muller has won ev­ery tro­phy avail­able to him ex­cept the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onships. Now he hopes to com­plete the set.

“With Ger­many there is al­ways a lot of pres­sure on the team at ma­jor tour­na­ments be­cause we have such a rich his­tory,” Muller told 7DAYS.

“I don’t think the fact we are world cham­pi­ons makes any dif­fer­ence - the pres­sure and ex­pec­ta­tion is al­ways there.

“But the aim af­ter the World Cup win was to go on and try and dom­i­nate foot­ball for the com­ing years. And that is still very much our mo­ti­va­tion.”

Head­ing to France this week­end there will in­evitably be a sense of ex­pec­ta­tion given the sump­tu­ous foot­ball Ger­many played two years ago in Brazil.

Muller once again led the way in that tour­na­ment, scor­ing five goals as Joachim Loew’s side swept past all to claim a fourth World Cup tri­umph.

Af­ter the tour­na­ment there were a host of re­tire­ments. Miroslav Klose, Phillip Lahm and Per Merte­sacker all walked away from in­ter­na­tional foot­ball and Ger­many’s re­sults have suf­fered.

Head­ing into Euro 2016 they lost to France, Eng­land and Slo­vakia. But Muller in­sists they are ca­pa­ble of re­peat­ing their suc­cess in Brazil.

“Af­ter the World Cup of course we lost very im­por­tant play­ers to re­tire­ment, but that is part of foot­ball,” said Muller.

“The younger play­ers are now more ex­pe­ri­enced, plus we have play­ers break­ing through. We can’t re­place the play­ers we lost but we still have a very strong squad.

“Peo­ple saw the unity we had as a team in Brazil and even though there have been changes, that unity still re­mains.

“The coach [Loew] is re­spon­si­ble for so much of the bond that we have.”

Cer­tainly Muller and Co will be wary of group ri­vals Poland, a side who beat them 2-0 in qual­i­fy­ing for the Euros.

“Poland showed in qual­i­fy­ing how strong they are, and I know all about the strengths of [Robert] Le­wandowski,” Muller said of his Bay­ern team­mate.

“No game will be easy though - when you are world cham­pi­ons every­body wants to beat you. We will con­cen­trate on our­selves. Of course there are many good teams who we must re­spect, but our fo­cus is on our game not any­body else’s.”

‘I CAN GET BET­TER’

Cer­tainly if Ger­many are to emerge victorious on July 10 in Paris then you can guar­an­tee that Muller will have been in­stru­men­tal. Still just 26, he has thrived on the big­gest stage, some­how keep­ing his cool un­der the most ex­treme pres­sure.

“If you want to play on the big­gest stage you have to be con­fi­dent un­der pres­sure,” he said. “You need to forget ev­ery­thing around you and just let your game be in­stinc­tive.”

Com­bine this with his unique abil­ity to seek out space and Muller seems to guar­an­tee goals. Even more wor­ry­ing for ev­ery de­fence in France is that the World Cup win­ner be­lieves he can get bet­ter.

“I al­ways want to im­prove, no mat­ter what level I reach, there will al­ways he ways I can get bet­ter and ar­eas I can im­prove in,” warned Muller.

It is a state­ment that should send shiv­ers down the spine of Europe’s best de­fend­ers. While Muller has al­ready scored 10 goals at two World Cups, he failed to find the back of the net at Euro 2010. Ex­pect him to ad­dress that this sum­mer and once again prove why he is one of the world’s most feared for­wards.

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