Now that Thomas Muller has announced that he will not be retiring from the German National Team, Lothar Matthaus is concerned that the commitment will affect his performances for Bayern Munich. Speaking to Tz’s Philipp Kessler (via @iMiaSanMia), the former Ballon d’Or winner compared it to his own career and retirement.
“From my own experience,” said Matthaus, “I can say that I may have left the national team a little too late. Things were going very well for me at club level in the late 1990s, but not anymore at the DFB. I moved to the USA at the beginning of 2000. Euro 2000 wasn’t good.”
“I thought Thomas was at his best when he only focused on FC Bayern,” he added. “From my point of view, he was no longer as present at FC Bayern as he was before, due to the double burden (club+national team) that he had in the last year and a half.”
While it’s a valid observation, Lothar may be confusing correlation for causation here. While it’s true that Thomas Muller’s production has dropped in the last 1.5 seasons, it’s also coincided with a tactical flux at Bayern and changes to the underlying system Muller thrives in. That’s arguably more important than the small distraction of international football.
To his credit, Matthaus does acknowledge this. “Due to his position in both systems,” he said, “In Bayern without Robert Lewandowski and in the national team — Thomas hasn’t been as brilliant.”
Where does that leave Muller now? Can he reinvent himself one last time and find a niche in the increasingly competitive squads he finds himself on? Honestly, I wouldn’t bet against it. He’s a guy who can pull it off.