While many of his teammates were in Dortmund playing for Germany against Argentina on Wednesday, Thomas Müller addressed the rampant speculation about his discontent at Bayern Munich in an arresting interview with Kicker. Müller confirmed that he is not happy with his recent status as no more than a substitute, but denied tension specifically with the man who has usurped his position, Philippe Coutinho.
Müller has been left out of the starting line up for Bayern’s past five games, playing a mere 66 minutes since his last start, against RB Leipzig, in which he provided an assist to Robert Lewandowski for Bayern’s only goal. Müller said he is “absolutely not” content with his minutes since that game. He said,
I just turned 30 years old, am in top form and hungry for success — with the club, but also personally. I’m firmly convinced that I can help the team with my abilities on the pitch.
Müller, like many fans, was very surprised to find himself on the outside looking in after his performance under head coach Niko Kovac just last season. Müller said he did not see his own benching coming:
No, not for me. After I was able to play myself into the starting lineup successfully on the 10 position, and we won the Double after a furious catch-up race, I did not expect this development.
But Müller has not started for Bayern ever since Coutinho regained his match fitness. His performances — one goal and four assists in 450 minutes vs Coutinho’s two goals and three assists in 545 minutes — have not led Kovac to rotate between the two attacking midfielders more evenly.
Kovac himself, in fact, revealed that he views Müller strictly as a substitute in a comment after Bayern’s 2-1 loss in Hoffenheim, in which Müller again provided an assist to the only goal after coming off the bench. Kovac said of Müller, “When there’s need, he’ll definitely get his minutes.” Müller told Kicker,
When I was confronted with that statement after the game, I was obviously surprised. But I’m not so sensitive about something like that. There already has been a one-on-one conversation with the coach. The case is thus closed for me.
But that does not necessarily mean Müller’s situation may chance. Müller does not, however, fault Coutinho for his woes. Asked about the loan that brought the Brazilian to Bayern, Müller indicated clearly that he is unhappy with Kovac and his assistants.
Of course, [Coutinho’s transfer] intensified the competition at my best position, but that isn’t the problem at all. It’s not about that at all. A coach has to make difficult decisions before every game. In the past five games, though, I can identify a trend that does not make me happy. If the coaching team continues to view me only in the role of a substitute, I’ll have to think things over. I’m simply too ambitious for that.
“Thinking things over,” of course, echoes the speculation of Bild that Müller is already pressing for a winter transfer out of Munich. Müller refused to comment on any such rumors, indicating instead that he will continue to fight to prove himself in training and in whatever minutes he sees on the pitch:
The media has speculated wildly in the past few days. I won’t take part in it. Now I have to concentrate completely on sport in order to make the next few weeks with FC Bayern successful. As for the competition, I will not let up and will still give my all in training and in the games. I have nothing else to say about that.