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Frequency change: Thomas Müller’s amazing transformation in the DFB team

Frequency change: Thomas Müller’s amazing transformation in the DFB team

For more than a decade he was the clown and spokesman for the DFB team. Now Thomas Müller works in the background – as a moderator who mediates between the generations in the team.

Thomas Müller bore his nickname with pride for many years. It was both an ornament and an obligation for him, and wherever Müller appeared in public, he did everything to justify it. “Radio Müller” is what they called him at FC Bayern and also in the national team. Müller was always on the air, a saying here, a comment there, not a game, not a training session that he did not cover.

Sometimes Müller’s performances turned into comedy, Mario Barth’s style. Müller seemed trapped in his role and felt he had to deliver even when he didn’t have a good joke ready. That was the case at the 2022 World Cup, when he sat on the podium at Qatar’s Al Shamal Sports Club and joked to himself, with Niclas Füllkrug as his sidekick. The World Cup then turned into a disaster for the national team, knocked out after the preliminary round, and Müller’s jokes soon seemed inappropriate. They were the wrong text for the new reality in German football.

Radio Müller has changed frequency

On Tuesday, Thomas Müller took to the stage again. The national team is currently in Blankenhain, Thuringia, where it is holding its first training camp for the European Championships. The press room in Blankenhain Castle was overflowing, an expression of a collective expectation that there would probably be “a real Müller” again. A few flippant remarks and a little something palatable, from which a story or a TV report could easily be put together.

But Müller didn’t deliver. He disappointed his audience with a maturity and seriousness that one would hardly have expected from him. He did have a few well-placed barbs in his program, for example that he occasionally admonished the younger generation of players in the dressing room to “incorporate ‘the, the or the’ into a sentence.” So not: throw in the towel. Rather: throw in the towel.

Otherwise, Radio Müller had changed frequency. It is now playing classical music, the adult program. Müller, 34 years old, 128 international matches, has found a new role in the national team. He is now the presenter who brings the team, some of them very young, together and prepares them for the upcoming European Championships. He wants to remind people that these days “it’s about more than just a nice shot into the corner.” That great success can only be achieved through a balance of work and fun.

Thomas Müller: Friend of yodelers and rappers

Müller has now made it his mission to create this balance. He does not do this with the attitude of an elder who just tells the younger players the stories of the 2014 World Cup victory. Müller can also listen. He finds it “interesting to look into other people’s lives,” he said, and national coach Julian Nagelsmann has also noticed this. Müller is someone who can handle both the “yodelers” and the “rappers” in the team, Nagelsmann said. He gets on with the older players like Manuel Neuer, 38, Toni Kroos, 34, and Ilkay Gündogan, 33, and at the same time has a connection with the young, highly talented players like Florian Wirtz, 21, or Jamal Musiala, 21, nicknamed Bambi.

Müller has now taken on a complicated job in the national team. He is a leading player who doesn’t play – or at least very little. The German squad has an oversupply of offensive players: Gündogan, Wirtz, Musiala, Sané, Havertz, Führich – there is little room for someone like Müller, who is also rarely in the starting eleven at FC Bayern.

Müller helps where there is need

What Müller can bring to the game is stability and order. But he can no longer keep up with the pace of Wirtz, Musiala and Havertz. Müller will be the man for certain moments at the European Championships, he masters all attacking positions including that of centre forward and will help out wherever there is a need. A small role for someone who was a regular in the national team for more than a decade.

But Müller complies, without resentment or lamentation. In the eyes of the national coach, this is not a given. Nagelsmann had doubts about other established players as to whether they would have been prepared to accept a demotion. Nagelsmann did not nominate Mats Hummels, also a 2014 world champion, for the European Championships, even though the 35-year-old Dortmund player is having an outstanding season and will face Real Madrid in the Champions League final with BVB on Saturday. Leon Goretzka, 29, one of Bayern’s best players in the second half of the season, also remained uninvited. Both are considered to be so-called strong characters who a coach should avoid putting on the bench. This could create a bad atmosphere.

None of this is to be expected from Thomas Müller, although he did do a bit of self-promotion during his appearance on Tuesday. He had looked at the statistics, said Müller, and in the category of “expected assists” (passes that were expected but possibly not played), he is still “top of the league”.

The fact that Müller, the man of words, has to resort to numbers at the end of his career is a nice punch line. One that Müller made without realising that it was one.

Source: Stern

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