Thomas Muller has cast doubt on his Bayern Munich future and could seek pastures new.
The 100-time capped Germany international has fallen down the pecking order in Bavaria, as a result of Philippe Coutinho’s summer arrival, and has now expressed a concern over the lack of minutes being afforded to him by manager Niko Kovac.
“I can identify a trend that does not make me happy,” he recently told Kicker. “If the coaching team continues to view me only in the role of a substitute, I’ll have to think things over. I’m simply too ambitious for that.”
Muller, 30, has started Bayern’s last five games on the bench, but with the stellar form of Serge Gnabry, coupled with Ivan Perisic also waiting in the wings, he may continue to find himself on the outside looking in for the foreseeable future.
This would certainly not bode well for the 2014 World Cup winner. His comments also mirror a recent report from Bild, suggesting he has become disillusioned with his current role in the squad and now wants to bring an end to his 19-year stint at Bayern.
With Muller’s future now up in the air, what is the German forward’s next career move?
A more important role at Bayern Munich
While the Muller-Bayern marriage appears to be on the rocks, it wouldn’t be irrational to consider that these issues will be resolved in the coming months, as the German forward has been one of the main protagonists in the club’s recent successes.
A re-emergence as one of Bayern’s more influential starters would be the ideal scenario for Muller, who has been at the club since the age of 10. He also played a prominent role for Kovac last season, as the Berlin-born tactician scooped a domestic double during his maiden campaign, so it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that this sudden rift will amend itself.
In the aforementioned interview with Kicker, Muller stated that he is ‘convinced that he can help the team with his abilities on the pitch’, while he also refused to be drawn into transfer speculation, instead highlighting his intentions to “make the next few weeks with FC Bayern successful”.
It seems clear that Muller would only leave the club if left with no choice, while teammates have already started to publicly air their support for Bayern’s fifth all-time record goalscorer.
Speaking after Germany’s 2-2 draw with Argentina on Wednesday, Joshua Kimmich said: “In the first place a very big identification figure would leave the club, especially for the fans.
“I only know FC Bayern with Thomas Muller. Without him the club would not be where it is now. It’s the case that when he comes on he always plays well.”
Muller is simply Bayern to the core and holds a strong affiliation with the fans, who will no doubt be deeply saddened by the recent revelations, so Kovac may be enticed to reverse his decision in order to keep the team spirit high and harmony on the terraces in check.
Moreover, former Bayern boss Ottmar Hitzfeld has recently played down any suggestions of an exit, telling reporters: “Thomas Muller at another club is hard to imagine for me. He is an absolute identification figure for Bayern.”
It was only last May that Inter Milan reportedly made an enquiry over the availability of Muller, only for interest to eventually subside, with Antonio Conte bringing in Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez instead.
Well, that interest may develop into something more concrete now that Muller has seemingly issued a come-and-get-me plea; and with no obligation to sign Sanchez on a permanent contract at the end of his loan spell, Conte may be tempted to turn his attention to the German.
Muller will enter the last year of his contract at the end of the season, allowing potential suitors to secure his signature for a more sensible fee this coming window.
As it stands, Inter are currently splitting Sanchez’s astronomical wage bill – supposedly in the region of £500,000-a-week – with Manchester United, so the prospect of paying those demands in full, alongside the actual sum it would take to prise him away from Old Trafford, makes a potential permanent move for the Chilean extremely uninviting.
It will be interesting to see how this story develops over the coming weeks, but Inter and Conte – who has a penchant for signing big – will no doubt be on red alert following Muller’s recent admission.
There are few clubs who possess the genuine financial power to lure a player of Muller’s world class credentials to their ground, but Man Utd – despite recent woes – are one such example.
The Red Devils have previously been linked with the attacking all-rounder, and are said to have tabled a bid in the region of €100m during the days of Louis van Gaal.
The Dutch innovator reigned over Bayern between 2009 and 2011, so he knew exactly what his former student would offer a Man Utd side still trying to stabilise themselves after the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013.
“I can confirm that I wanted Muller. But there was nothing we could do. FC Bayern made it clear that they would not sell him,” he told Bild last year.
Fast forward another three years and Man Utd’s problems are still evident, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the latest under-fire manager presiding over the Old Trafford dugout.
The Norwegian worked diligently to shore up his backline during the summer, but somewhat neglected his attacking ranks, cutting loose both Sanchez and Lukaku without recruiting a successor for either player.
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Those shortcomings in the market reached a nadir in the game against West Ham earlier this season, where Jesse Lingard was forced to play up-top for a period in east London as Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood were all out injured.
If Solskjaer can make it to January, then Muller would be the perfect statement signing; one who would bring a wave of fresh optimism and attacking impetus. For Muller, the chance to be the headline act once again for a European powerhouse, coupled with the riches that inherently follow a move to the Premier League, must be a tempting proposition.
In 2017 when it became apparent Coutinho wanted to leave Anfield for Barcelona, Jurgen Klopp was reportedly eager to bring Muller to Merseyside as a direct replacement for the Brazilian playmaker, but the Bavarians are believed to have rebuffed any and all overtures for their academy star.
At the time Muller was supposedly reluctant to leave his beloved Bayern, making a possible switch to the Premier League improbable, but not only is the forward now seemingly available, he appears keen to depart.
As such, interest from Anfield has resurfaced, and for a club who kept the chequebook closed over the summer, this could be a marquee signing that simply falls into place for Klopp.
Liverpool may have one of the best attacking frontlines in world football, with Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah all making up a very terrifying trident, but were injury to strike any of them, Klopp would be faced with a serious problem.
The Reds are competing on four fronts this term, with aspirations of winning their first ever Premier League title, so reinforcements may be required in January to stave off the threat from Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City and keep intensity levels replenished.
In terms of what Muller would offer Liverpool, well, he could very well be the perfect fit for Klopp, as the versatile forward can slot in at any role across the frontline, be it as a No. 9, a No. 10 or on either wing as what he describes as a Raumdeuter – or ‘interpreter of space’ – drifting infield and positioning himself in dangerous goalscoring areas.
Signing Muller would mean Klopp gets his hands on an experienced pro capable of stepping fluidly into Liverpool’s first-team should any of his front three incur injury, or more interestingly, he could play as a central attacking midfielder – or shadow striker – as part of a 4-2-3-1, making for an exceptionally mouthwatering prospect.