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Thomas Müller on the transience of coaches, glory, and soccer careers—including his own

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Sport1 caught Bayern Munich's Raumdeuter in a philosophical mood for an in-depth interview.

Thomas Mueller of Muenchen gestures during the Bundesliga match between Sport-Club Freiburg and FC Bayern Muenchen at Schwarzwald-Stadion on March 4, 2018 in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany.
Thomas Müller.
Photo by Simon Hofmann/Bongarts/Getty Images

Thomas Müller is in form and knows to enjoy it. In a full-length interview with Sport1, he talked about everything from his form, coach Jupp Heynckes's impending retirement, his own status as Bayern Munich's last local player, and the future end of his own career.

Return to form under Heynckes

Bayern Munich v VfL Wolfsburg - Press Conference & Training Session
Heynckes and Müller back in 2012, Guangzhou, China.
Photo by Victor Fraile/Getty Images

Since Jupp Heynckes took charge of Bayern Munich, Müller has at last refound his form of old. Across competitions, he now sports double digit results in goals and assists: 10 goals, 11 assists, the vast majority of them scored since former coach Carlo Ancelotti was dismissed. Asked whether he could explain the dramatic turnaround, Müller replied,

No, actually I'm not doing much different from before. Of course, I have more playing time and know I have to make the most of it. The coach spurred me on from the start and brought me on board right away. That did me good. Still, you have to pay him back with your performance. With us, the lineup isn't determined by sympathy, but rather by what works.

Müller downplayed Heynckes's praise that he is unique in Europe, instead emphasizing the fierce competition on Bayern's talent-stocked roster: “You have to perform; otherwise, we have too much good on the roster that could play in my place.”

Bayern’s next coach

As Heynckes recently—and it seems, definitively—declared he will retire at the end of the season, Müller feels both disappointment and understanding:

It's what he announced. When he came, he never mentioned anything more. That's how it will be. We all have to be thankful that he took on the job. . . . Our job is to crown it with success together with the coaching staff.

Asked about reports that some players are dissatisfied with the uncertainty surrounding the question of who will be Bayern’s next coach, Müller emphasized the importance of the impending decision:

Those who are concerned about who it will be are the first ones to raise critical questions. It's a decision that has to be weighed carefully. It’s not as if ten coaches are coming in and out of the employment office, and you can look at their business cards and say, “Oh yeah, he fits FC Bayern—we’ll take him!” Normally, the goal at Bayern is that when you have a coach, he then is coach for at least two or three years.

Müller seemed to acknowledge that the team is not directly involved in the decision, describing it rather as the business of the sporting director (Hasan Salihanidzic) and chairman (Karl-Heinz Rummenigge).

The last of the Bavarians

Asked how he felt about being “the last Bavarian icon,” Müller was candid about his special status—while also underscoring its fleeting nature:

What do you mean feel? That’s how it is and the club also plays it up a bit. Naturally, it suits the region, myself, the club, and the fans. For me, the most important criterion is on the pitch. When things work well there, it’s a bit like a fire accelerant. It’s fun for the fans when they have someone from the region, it’s fun for me to have my club around me and for things to go well. When we’re not successful on the pitch, the whole thing goes up in smoke.

VfL Wolfsburg v Bayern Muenchen - Bundesliga Photo by Christof Koepsel/Getty Images for MAN

As for the future, Müller hesitated to say whether he would see out his career at Bayern like Philipp Lahm:

It’s hard to see three, four years into the future. If things go like they do now, why would I want to leave? But you never know what will happen in the next few years. What am I capable of? What are the conditions? Do I have the coach’s confidence or not?

As for dreams of playing abroad, like Bastian Schweinsteiger, Müller again emphasized the uncertainty of soccer careers:

Normally it’s always a mixture of professional considerations and financial aspects. Sometimes the whole package decides to go abroad, sometimes not. But nobody can tell me that he planned his career for the long term. Very short-term factors like one’s private life play a part in it.

Life after soccer

Müller betrayed a philosophical understanding of the transience of soccer careers in his final remarks, in response to the question about whether he missed Philipp Lahm, who retired—some think, prematurely—last season.

In the beginning it was strange, because I had been with him on the training pitch for years and joked with him a lot along the way. But we’re just figures in this business. When you’re gone, you’re gone. Then the next guy will play in my position. Then nobody will give a hoot about you. It'll be the same with me. The competitive aspect is always the most important. Of course, Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger aren't just any old players, but will always be remembered as prominent figures. But day to day, it's about the guys who are on the pitch.

As for the end of his own career, Müller again declined to make any definite statement:

Of course you think about it now and then. But normally, you want to get a little distance from the weekend business and collect yourself. I don't have any direct plan yet. I don't even known how long I'll still play.

For the present, Müller was happy to conclude by praising the trusting and gentle nature of his beloved horses.