The 52-year-old Juergen Klinsmann(REUTERS)
The 52-year-old Juergen Klinsmann(REUTERS)

Thomas Muller role model for Bayern Munich: Klinsmann

  • Muller wouldn’t feature regularly that season but he went on to score in the Champions League knockout stages coming on as a substitute against Sporting Lisbon.
By Bhargab Sarmah
PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 09:57 PM IST

Juergen Klinsmann didn’t enjoy spectacular success during his only season as Bayern Munich manager in the 2008-09 season but the Germany stalwart left an indelible mark on the club during his very first month on the job.

In the club’s opening game of the Bundesliga campaign, against Martin Jol’s Hamburg at home, Klinsmann brought on an 18-year-old debutant to replace veteran forward Miroslav Klose for the last 10 minutes. With the score at 2-2, Bayern were searching for a late winner.

There would no more goals but for the teenage substitute Thomas Muller, it would be the first taste of professional football in what would grow to be a highly successful, trophy-laden career. He wasn’t the only 18-year-old in that game –Toni Kroos was in the starting line-up.

Muller wouldn’t feature regularly that season but he went on to score in the Champions League knockout stages coming on as a substitute against Sporting Lisbon.

Into his 13th season at the club, Muller is an influential figure in Hansi Flick’s world-beating Bayern side. According to Klinsmann, the 31-year-old is not done yet and will continue to be an important part of the team. “He is just the best example of consistency, of being driven and hungry for every single game,” he said during an interaction with Indian reporters ahead of this weekend’s Der Klassiker between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga.

“He is not the typical No 9 because Bayern have Robert Lewandowski, or have had other No 9s before Robert. But he found his role on the pitch where he is always dangerous. On the other side, he is an extremely good team player. He keeps the spirit up in a group. He always has a joke in his lips and is a hard worker. Often people look at Thomas Muller and say he scored this many goals or got this many assists but what a lot of people don’t see is the defensive work he puts into his game,” he added.

“As soon as there is a turnover, he goes after opponents. And he sends the signal for the high-pressure game that Bayern Munich are playing in the last few years. He decides the moment when to go high up the field and pressure their opponents. He does that extra type of work which is very tiring because when you do high pressure as a striker, you lose the energy in that moment. Maybe you win the ball back but you miss that energy now to finish off a chance, for example,” explained Klinsmann.

“But Thomas Muller doesn’t mind doing all that work for his teammates. From a Bavarian or German’s perspective, he has always been with this club. He is just the role model for Bayern Munich because he lives and breathes Bayern Munich.”

Saturday’s game in Munich between Bayern and Dortmund will have repercussions in the title race as well as the race for the top four spots. Bayern have a two-point lead over second-placed Leipzig with Dortmund a further 11 points behind in fifth.

Dortmund trail fourth-placed Eintracht Frankfurt by three points, and according to Klinsmann, Dortmund are under pressure. “It’s a must win for Borussia Dortmund to get into the Champions League. To get there, they have to go to Munich and go for the three points. Bayern now are in the title race with Leipzig but I think Dortmund are under even more pressure because they need to get into the top four,” he said.

In a separate interaction, German great Lothar Matthaeus said Dortmund defenders will have their work cut out closing down spaces around Polish striker Lewandowski, who has scored 28 goals in 22 league games this season. “Lewandowski is very good in tight spaces. He doesn’t need five-six touches. He can make quick turns and create space,” he said.

Hailing the 32-year-old Lewandowski as the best striker in the world, Matthaeus also warned Bayern of the threat posed by Dortmund’s 20-year-old Norwegian forward Erling Braut Haaland, who has scored 17 goals in 18 Bundesliga games this season.

“He (Haaland) is always pushing his teammates. And it’s working well for Dortmund. Haaland makes the difference for Dortmund like Lewandowski does for Bayern,” Matthaeus said.

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