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?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Voices
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
voicesThokozile Masipa simply had no choice but to jail the athlete
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004
music

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

News
i100
Life and Style
The Tinder app has around 10 million users worldwide

techThe original free dating app will remain the same, developers say

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

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album