Exclusive: Meet Euro 2016’s Space Invader
Germany striker Thomas Muller is so good he has invented his own unique position
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.