It is now five years since Thomas Muller made his professional debut for Bayern Munich, and in that time the 24-year-old has racked up his fair share of achievements. Awarded the adidas Golden Shoe for the tournament’s top scorer at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, he also helped Germany reach the semi-finals of UEFA EURO 2012 and won an historic treble with Bayern in 2013.
Today Muller ranks as one of the world’s most technically adept footballers, but it is his elusive playing style that makes him so effective and crucial to his teams' success. The popular Bavarian mischief-maker, a Bayern player since his youth days, is just as indispensable to the national team as he is to the star-studded cast of Germany’s most successful club.
Speaking to FIFA.com, he elaborated on his style of play, the brevity of life in football and his ambitions for the World Cup next summer. And, despite already having won a myriad of honours at club level, one trophy in particular still sits atop his silverware wish list: “I want to win the Club World Cup."
FIFA.com: You have been a professional footballer since 2008. In that time, what has changed for you?
Thomas Muller: It’s hard to say, I’ve got older [laughs]. Everything is very intense now. Thankfully I’ve never been injured and have managed to play four and half years almost uninterrupted. The summer break is always only a short respite from the game, which means individual seasons tend to roll into one.
With the possible exception of winning the treble, what has been your best memory?
The World Cup in 2010 and my first [full] season [in the Bayern first team in 2009/10] were obviously amazing. Nobody could have predicted then how successful it would be for me. We reached the Champions League final and that was fantastic!
Do you prefer to play up front, on the wing or in a central position?
This year I’ve played in a few different positions, but it’s been like that for the last few seasons, so not that much has changed really. I’ve always played where the coach has put me. It also depends on the game itself and the opposition; different teams always defend differently.
How would you describe your style of play?
I’m a player that works very hard and will do everything to win and I think I know how to do that in football, what roles are required for each position. So I just always try to do my bit for the team, and with me that means playing a lot of matches. If I want to feel I've played well in a game, I also need to have run around a lot. And I try to complement my team-mates so that the whole teams functions well. A lot of people say that I do a few crazy things, but I don’t see it that way. To me, it all makes sense [laughs].
What would the title of winners of the FIFA Club World Cup Morocco 2013 mean to you?
Again, that’s hard to say. It’s a trophy that's coveted right across the world, possibly more so elsewhere than it is in Germany. But if I’m competing in it – and getting there isn’t easy – then I absolutely want to win it as well. Lifting another trophy would crown our treble-winning season. The Club World Cup is the missing piece for us. We want this trophy too and I’m very motivated to win.
Have you already begun thinking about possible opposition?
We know there’ll be teams from every continent there, and the football might be different to what we’re used to in Europe. You also have top teams from all over the world. We’re the favourites but we need to prove that first.
Might you be hoping for a final against Brazil’s Atletico Mineiro?
It’s always nice to speak of finals and playing against a Brazilian team would be good as well. We could use it as a trial run for next summer [laughs].
Would you dedicate any trophy you might win to Jupp Heynckes?
Of course, he contributed a lot to our recent success. We won the treble under him, completely deservingly, and it’s because of that that we now have a chance to win this cup. It just happens to take place in December; there’s not much he could have done about that.
Pep Guardiola has said he will give the players time off in Morocco to see the city. Will you take him up on that or will you stay remain in the hotel?
If there’s a chance to have a look around, then I will. We see enough of hotel rooms throughout the rest of the year.
At the end of a long and tiring year, is it hard to fight the fatigue and muster up all your strength again for another competition?
It’s certainly not easy, but if this were a DFB Cup game, we’d have to win that as well.
Goal-line technology will be used for the first time in Morocco. What is your opinion on the use of technology?
I think it’s a good idea and it won’t hurt anyone. Nobody’s authority is being undermined; in fact it’s the opposite. It’s a great way of helping the referees.
You just referred to the difficulties of qualifying for the Club World Cup – Bayern had to win the UEFA Champions League to do so. Do you think that this might be your only chance to win this trophy?
No, not really. It’s actually my ambition to be able to compete for this trophy again in the future. That’s how it has to be at FC Bayern.
How do you rate the team’s chances of reaching another Club World Cup?
I think they look good. The treble doesn’t feel like a long time ago, but already there’s talk of the next set of trophies and sometimes that’s a bit too soon - the only thing that matters is what comes next. If you do that, there’s a risk you forget just how special an achievement it was when we won the treble. I do have that impression sometimes.
Do you regret that a footballer’s career now moves so quickly? You hardly have time to savour your successes...
Regret is the wrong word. If you’re constantly winning things, your achievements mean less and less. And if you win a lot of games, the expectation is that you not only win the next game but also dominate it. People don’t intend for that to happen, it’s just a completely normal reaction. More and more is expected of us now, even after we’ve won so many trophies. But as a player it’s certainly difficult. We could reach the quarter-final of the Champions League, but none of us would consider that a success because it’s expected of us. Apart from winning trophies, there isn’t much that we would actually celebrate.
Do you notice that FC Bayern are becoming a bigger and bigger club with a global reputation?
You do notice that Bayern are a name on everyone’s lips at the moment, and it’s a good, fun image that we have. Hardly anything negative is said about us. A few years ago it was different: it was FC Hollywood or arrogant Bayern. You just don’t find that view anymore and we have a positive image across the world.
Why is that the case?
We play in the right way and we play good, clean and attractive football?
Will Franck Ribery be producing yet more fireworks at the Club World Cup?
Franck wants to impress in every game he plays and because he’s such a good player, he usually does. I think it will be the same in Morocco.
Who is your favourite for the FIFA Ballon d’Or?
There’s a reason that six players from FC Bayern have been nominated: it means our performances from last season have been recognised and honoured. So there’s every chance that it could be one of us that wins it.
How do you rate Germany’s chances at the World Cup in 2014?
We’re one of the favourites, of which there are maybe three or four. But football always involves an element of luck and predicting how it will finish is always difficult. Obviously we want to win the Trophy, but there’s no guarantee.
If you could play one team as late as possible at the tournament, who would it be?
We can beat any team on our day.