Earlier this week, the blindsiding report that Bayern Munich’s Thomas Muller might be looking to leave the club sent some minor shock waves through the Bavarian fan base.
While the validity of the report can be debated, the discussion regarding why this was even relevant spiked accordingly. What would make Muller unhappy? Why would he want to leave a club where he has risen to stardom and established himself as one of the great players in the world?
The early word was that Muller was “annoyed that, even after good performances, he is still made to leave the game prematurely — such as when he was subbed at half time for Serge Gnabry against Nürnberg.”
If true, how can Bayern mediate the situation with one of its most important players?
What could be next
While Inter Milan and AC Milan were linked to having interest in Muller earlier this week, our own clairvoyant, Ineednoname, speculated that if Muller really wanted to leave, maybe Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola would have some interest in the Raumdeuter.
Müller reportedly has offers from abroad, with Serie A clubs AC Milan and Inter Milan both being interested, as well as unnamed suitors from England. This is just speculation, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City were involved — after all, Muller was an absolute monster under Pep in 15/16.
Fast forward a few days and here we are with a report from The Sun:
Pep Guardiola is also still understood to still be an admirer of Muller after managing him at Bayern for three years.
If Muller really does want to exit and with the news that James Rodriguez is heading back to Real Madrid, Die Roten would be extremely thing at attacking midfield. Sure Leon Goretzka, Thiago Alcantara, Corentin Tolisso, and possibly even Gnabry could fill that role, but none would like be as effective as Muller, nor have the same chemistry with Robert Lewandowski.
While no one should take this speculation as a firm committal that Muller is leaving or that Guardiola is absolutely going to pursue him, it does lead us to the question of “how did we get here?”
Competition is leaving, so why bolt now?
After being caught up in Niko Kovac’s botched and overly aggressive squad rotation earlier in the season, Muller has settled into a consistent role as a starter. Specifically, Muller has excelled — where he always has — as a creative, space interpreting force behind Lewandowski. At his best, Muller has been an absolute menace to deal with for the opposition this season despite constantly battling with James for playing time or checking the lineup sheet to see if he has been pushed out to the wing.
It is tough to read the mind of any athlete, but it is fair to wonder if Muller has just had enough of looking over his shoulder with James lurking about? And you know what...if that is the case, maybe Muller is justified.
For a player with such a solidified reputation and history of success and production, Muller has found himself scuffling to seemingly always have to prove himself to secure playing time. Maybe that has been grinding on Muller even though he has absolutely earned the right to be an unquestioned starter.
With James heading out of town in June, the immediate speculation will turn to Bayern’s rumored pursuit of Bayer Leverkusen ace Kai Havertz. While Die Werkself is not likely to bid adieu to Havertz this summer, Germany’s next great attacking midfielder might not too far removed from a massive transfer to Bavaria. At 19-years-old and considered to be the next great German player, there is little chance that Bayern will let itself get outbid for Havertz.
Commitment and support
In the end, I think what Muller wants more than anything are the same things that Lewandowski wanted last summer: commitment and support. For a player with such production and a proven history, Muller has not been given the assurance that he’s a bonafide starter, despite the stats that back-up just how much better the team is when he’s in the lineup.
If the Bayern front office values Muller, perhaps bringing in another “10” in his prime — such as Bayern did with James — would not be the best way to provide that encouragement. That is not to say to avoid a player like Havertz — no one would suggest passing over such a talent — but perhaps relaying to Muller that he is the man and the unrivaled starter until there is an established heir apparent might be enough to squelch any hard feelings that may have accrued over the past two seasons.