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How Thomas Muller Remains Vital for Bayern and Germany

Thomas Muller has a penchant for handing out nicknames, from “Lewangoalski” (Robert Lewandowski) to “Roadrunner” (Alphonso Davies). But in the Bayern Munich dressing room, he’s known as “Radio Muller.”

That nickname was coined by ex-Bayern assistant coach Hermann Gerland due to his unrelenting on-field communication with his teammates, opponents and referees. Bayern Munich themselves ran a video of his best soundbites in June, but his continuous chatter is no joke. Muller’s vocal side gives us a window into how he has become so important for both club and country.

Now in his 14th season as part of Bayern Munich’s first team, Muller’s ability to tweak his game over time has seen him remain as important as ever under new boss Julian Nagelsmann. The 32-year-old’s Bayern Munich career to date is remarkable, but his own unique skill sets and positional intricacies take a certain manager to (a) understand what he offers and (b) find a system where he can dictate the tempo of the match either with or without the ball. So far, it has clicked with Nagelsmann.

“He’s got outstanding quality and was always one of the most difficult players to prepare to face as an opponent, because you just can’t pick him up because he’s got this incredible feel for space,” Nagelsmann said in preseason. “He’s always driven to play all the time and be the best, so why should I do without a player of such quality?”

Muller said the start of the season has been “great” for Bayern, emphasising the brilliant “spirit in the team,” but also that “the most important thing is our behaviour on the pitch, our combinations and our fire to fight for offence.” He’s managed four goals and six assists across 11 games for Bayern, and this form — as well as his understanding with Flick — means he is integral to his Germany side. “You can’t always grasp his playing style, but you can’t quantify what he brings to the team and the club either,” Flick recently said of Muller.

Germany were the first team to qualify for the 2022 World Cup on Monday thanks to their 4-0 win over North Macedonia, but that step was made possible by Muller’s late winner against Romania in the previous game. Just like at Bayern, the Germany side has the spine of experience in Manuel Neuer, Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka, with that sprinkling of the new generation in Bayern Munich’s Jamal Musiala, FC Salzburg’s Karim Adeyemi and Bayer Leverkusen’s Wirtz. Muller slots neatly into the middle of it all, with the younger players benefiting from him. Kai Havertz, 22, said back in July playing alongside Muller is like having a “third assistant coach.”