Pep's Müller vs Carlo's Müller: How did it all change at Bayern Munich?
From one of the best in the world to a benchwarmer, what exactly is up with the World Cup winner?
If you look up Thomas Müller's Wikipedia page, you'll see him described as a forward, a winger, or an attacking midfielder. What is he, really? A player's most suited position isn't something that people have doubts about, but in case of the German, it's an exception.
Thomas Müller enjoyed his best days under Josep Guardiola, where he played a vital role in everything Bayern did. He scored frequently, assisted just as regularly, and played almost every game. He is a true icon and a Bayern Munich legend even at a relatively young age of 27.
That is no mean feat by any means, and even though his best position on the pitch is still arguable, it goes without saying that Thomas is a top, top player. The highest scorer in World Cups among all active players, that too having played them aged 20, and 24, Müller's quality is beyond any doubt whatsoever.
So why is a player of his calibre being benched by Bayern boss Carlo Ancelotti? Perhaps the answer lies in Müller himself. The 27-year old is a lethal weapon who can hurt the opposition in more ways than one. He's a complete forward who can contribute healthily irrespective of where he plays.
However, he has always been a player rather difficult to deploy. Should he play behind Robert Lewandowski, or on the right? It's a doubt. He hasn't been in among the goals ever since Ancelotti took over, and it is evident that Müller has failed to convince the Italian.
"He's atypical because he's a great forward with an unorthodox skill set. We expect great forwards to be outstanding in terms of athleticism, technique or creativity. Those aren't his strengths. Instead, his strength is tactical, in that ability to read the game, to fill the right space at the right time," Ancelotti had said earlier in January this year.
Carlo's words about Müller proves that he knows about the German much better than we feel he does. Müller's exceptional eye for goal is down to the fact that he somehow knows what is going to happen, and positions himself accordingly.
It would be safe to consider him the best in the world in anticipating things, and that unique skill has made him a world-class footballer. However, with the summer signing of Colombian James Rodriguez, Müller has further competition for a place in the line-up. All this sounds strange when you realise he was one of the first names on the team sheet only 15 months back.
Müller can perhaps be seen as a jack of all trades, master of none. Whether that's a positive or a negative trait is up to perspective. Guardiola saw Müller as an indispensable member of his team because was his jack of all trades. Ancelotti doesn't rely as much on Thomas because he is a master of none.
Guardiola's usage of Müller's qualities is commendable. A big proof of the same is the way Bayern played Juventus in the Champions League round of 16 in 2015-2016. Having gone 2-0 down, and facing the prospect of a humiliating early exit from Europe, Pep decided enough was enough, as he used Müller almost alongside Lewandowski.
Their movements in the box created a nuisance for the famed defenders of Juve, who suddenly seemed to have forgotten how to mark. The German scored their equaliser after his strike partner opened their scoring. One could see that the other's presence was vital in creating space for something to be created, and once they did manage to get even, they humbled Juventus with considerable ease to eventually win 4-2.
An eternity seems to have passed since those days, as Müller is less likely to score a goal now than in those days. Following Bayern's defeat to Hoffenheim this weekend, much has been talked about, and a lot of negativity surrounds the club inside out.
Lewandowski has been sceptical of his side's dealings in the transfer market, and the consequence of his dialogue on the matter has been ill for the Pole. Talks of Müller's frustration on not being heavily involved has also done the rounds, with the German recently talking about a rumoured move in the past to Manchester United.
It cannot be argued that the atmosphere has changed at the Bavarian club, and things haven't been as easy for Bayern as they usually are. If they are to lose Müller, who really cannot be blamed for wishing to ply his trade elsewhere, they'll be losing a one of a kind player.
Going back to the question with which we started off, perhaps, Müller just a really amazing player who needs to play every week, and needs to be told that he's going to play every week. Confidence has been low of late, and maybe it's just a little bit of trust that will change things for the better. For the better of Carlo Ancelotti, primarily.