With the departure from the Allianz Arena of both Bastian Schweinsteiger and Philipp Lahm over the past few seasons, local boy Thomas Müller remains the only home-grown Bavarian in the club’s ranks. However, the arrival of James Rodriguez this summer has thrown doubt on Müller’s role as the club’s Leitfigur.
So what does the future hold for Thomas Müller?
It always seemed likely that Bayern were going to pull off a major transfer this summer despite walking off with the fifth consecutive Bundesliga title last season. The €41.5 million arrival of Corentin Tolisso from Lyon seemed to be just that signing, but then last week came the news that the Bavarians had pulled off another coup with the 2-year loan signing of Real Madrid and Colombia star James Rodriguez.
Both moves (plus Sebastian Rudy coming over from TSG) certainly strengthen an already strong Bayern midfield (despite the departures of Lahm and Xabi Alonso), but that strength in depth may hurt one existing Bayern star more than most.
With a six Bundesliga titles, four DFB Pokal wins, three Champions League final appearances, nearly 400 league appearances as well as a World Cup winners medal, 27-year old Thomas Müller could be forgiven for thinking his position within the first XI was untouchable, but at a club such as Bayern Munich, such job Raumdeuter security is wishful thinking.
The arrival of James at the Allianz Arena as coach Carlo Ancelotti’s chosen one will cast doubt as to Müller’s role especially with the comments from the Italian boss that the new signing will “play where he feels best”. Müller, the inventor of the modern day role, saw his influence start to wane even last season and the increased competition that now exists will surely only cause him greater worry.
The 2015-16 season saw the Bayern fans favourite score a season’s best 20 goals, but last year’s campaign saw him limited to just five- although he did contribute 14 assists (second in the league to Leipzig’s Emil Forsberg).
Rodriguez, one of the stars of the 2014 World Cup finals where he finished as the tournaments leading scorer, never really reached the heights expected of him in Spain with Real Madrid, and spent much of last season as a bench-warmer for the Galacticos. He has therefore not arrived in Southern Germany to fulfil a similar role.
So what is the ‘preferred role’ that Ancelotti has in mind for the 27-year old? Well, James can play in the number 8 role, as a shadow striker, or as a winger, but his most successful times with both his national team and with Real (under Ancelotti) have been as a number 10. So if the Colombian signing is a shoe-in for the number 10 role, where exactly will Müller be getting his game time?
Under Louis van Gaal he was one of the first names on the team sheet, but under Ancelotti last season, Müller had to settle quite often for a place on the bench as an impact substitute. Robert Lewandowski has the striker role nailed down. The departure of Douglas Costa to Juventus on loan does open up a space on the flank, but Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and Kingsley Coman are surely ahead of Müller on natural ability/ pace.
So it seems that this season could be a real headache for Thomas Müller at Bayern. He has stated that he wants to play more especially in the run-up to the 2018 World Cup in Brazil, but as chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has said “He will need to have a stronger season. The competition for his position is strong”.
Past glories count for little, and if James Rodriguez his the ground running at the Allianz Arena, it could prove to be a very difficult season for one Thomas Müller.