World Cup 2014 final - Germany vs Argentina preview: Thomas Muller - the everyday superstar

Germany’s most effective player is no flashy celebrity like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar or Arjen Robben but just an ordinary bloke

Berlin

Thomas Müller advertises milk. He doesn’t have his own brand of perfume or underwear. He doesn’t dress up as a space warrior to display the virtues of a mobile phone. Occasionally he advertises something as dramatic as a football boot. But generally it’s just milk.

LIVE: Germany vs Brazil World Cup 2014 final latest

Müller shares his name with the milk company in question. It also happens to be the most common surname in Germany. That makes him the advertiser’s dream. He is the normal footballer. The superstar you would take to meet your grandparents. The message is: Thomas Müller drinks it, so Germany drinks it.

His normal image is not simply something Müller trundles out for whichever brand wishes to exploit it. The reason Germany and its milk companies love him is because he is genuinely quite normal.

Read more: Messi with chance to emulate Maradona
Will Germany have an advantage because of extra rest?
How Germany conquered the football world

The German international grew up in rural Bavaria, sleeping under Bayern Munich bedsheets. At the age of 19 he married his childhood sweetheart. After scoring twice against England at the 2010 World Cup he grinned proudly at the TV reporter and dedicated both goals to “my Grandma and Grandpa”. The nation swooned.

 

That his feet remain bolted to the ground is remarkable, given the speed with which he rose to fame. In early 2009 he was yet another player in Bayern Munich’s youth system. Eighteen months later he was a national hero.

But fame and attention slide off Müller like water off a duck’s back. He has a gift for dealing with the media, mocking and entertaining journalists at every turn. More than once he has told a reporter: “That is a shit question”. After the 7-1 victory over Brazil, he told his interviewer: “After our beloved game against Algeria, you criticised us. Now you’re going to praise us to heaven”.

Muller opens the scoring against Brazil Muller opens the scoring against Brazil  

Müller has no illusions about the glamour of modern football. He told one newspaper recently that “if the prize for the World Cup top scorer was a half-burnt candle in a jam jar, then I’d take a half-burnt candle in a jam jar”. While Cristiano Ronaldo has a museum dedicated to himself in Madeira, the only thing to celebrate Thomas Müller in his home town of Pähl is a “monument” built after the 2010 World Cup. It is a lumpy, greyish boulder painted to look like a football.

That is about as close as the inhabitants of Pähl get to deifying him. When the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper sent a reporter to the town in 2010 to find out about Müller’s roots, he was greeted with a protective response. Yes, they all said, we love him, he’s a great kid. But we’re not telling you any more than that. He’s our Thomas.

However grounded he may be, there is always the other side of Müller. He is a world-class footballer, arguably one of the best of his generation. In the football world he is as savvy as any other modern player. Throughout last season he grumbled about his lack of playing time. It was a clever tactic. He never wanted to leave Bayern, but the perpetual, quiet comments to the press coaxed the contract he wanted out of the club.

 

There lies the danger in casting Müller as a loveable, normal bloke. In fact, he is one of the most intelligent footballers out there. Manuel Neuer admitted recently that “Thomas reads everything that’s written about him the moment he gets back to his room”. Müller is a student of modern football. He understands the dangers of fame, and what he can get out of it. That has probably allowed him to retain more normality than most players.

On the pitch, too, there is an immense intelligence. What makes Müller such an effective player is his unpredictability. That lies not only in his unorthodox physique and technique, but also in his tactical versatility and his ruthless perception. He finds gaps in opposing defences by breaking the rules of what a No 10, a right-winger or a centre- forward should do. For Germany, it is indispensable.

 

Yet even on the pitch normality shines through. His socks around his ankles, Müller scampers around the grand arenas of world football as if they are his back garden. When he finds the net, he simply jumps up in delight, punching the air in pure excitement.

There is humility in that excitement. He loves playing football and loves winning, and knows the best way to do that is to play his game wherever the manager puts him.

In that sense, he is the natural poster boy of this German side. Of all the favourites at this World Cup, Germany are the only team without a defined superstar. The one who comes close, Müller, is not cut from the same cloth as Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar or Robben. He is a team player, confident but humble, straight-talking but intelligent. A superstar, but effortlessly normal.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
food + drinkFrom Mediterranean Tomato Tart to Raw Caramel Peanut Pie
Extras
Boys to men: there’s nothing wrong with traditional ‘manly’ things, until masculinity is used to exclude people
indybest13 best grooming essentials
Arts and Entertainment
Armstrong, left, and Bain's writing credits include Peep Show, Fresh Meat, and The Old Guys
TVThe pair have presented their view of 21st-century foibles in shows such as Peep Show and Fresh Meat
Travel
travelPurrrfect jet comes to Europe
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch attends the London premiere of his new film The Imitation Game
people He's not as smart as his characters
Life and Style
healthMovember isn't about a moustache trend, it saves lives
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Keys to success: Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber
arts + entsMrs Bach had too many kids to write the great man's music, says Julian Lloyd Webber
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

Bryan Adams' images of wounded soldiers

Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities