In a long interview with Archie Rhind-Tutt of ESPN, Bayern Munich coach Thomas Tuchel touched on a number of topics. One of the major ones was the status of Thomas Müller within the team and the number of minutes (or the lack thereof) played by the veteran in the season so far.
Here’s the relevant excerpt from the interview:
Archie: Thomas Müller. Managing that situation for you must be one of the most difficult parts of the job.
Tuchel: Yes and no. [laughs]
Archie: A legend of the club, and he’s used to playing a lot more from the start than he is. How is that for you?
Tuchel: It’s painful for me and hard for me. I understand how big it is for the club and fans that players like Thomas play, that they are in the club and make this club special, and I’m the first one to agree.
These kinds of guys make it special, and you’re always looking for that mix — to have guys from Munich, guys from Germany, guys from the youth academy mixed with superstars like Harry Kane, and that makes a mixture so that the team is loved and something special.
Thomas is one of the outstanding guys in the history of Bayern Munich, he won everything. It’s very hard to tell him week by week that it’s not him who starts. I can only speak very highly of him, the attitude he trains with is the attitude of a young player. He doesn’t have the body of a young player of course. He doesn’t have the speed of one anymore, but he has the attitude and mindset and that is so beautiful to see.
He is always there in training and even if he doesn’t start he trains the next day, he’s with the young guys and he will do everything to win a 4v4, to win a 5v5 in the next day, he will never say “oh I feel something I better stay off” which would also be okay for me. That’s the easy part of the job, that he is like this.
I know that he wishes for more minutes, I also wish sometimes I had one or two places more to give the guys the minutes they deserve, but I’m happy and I will never doubt the legend that he is.
Tuchel’s statement borders on damning with faint praise, especially given some of his (stated) reasons for leaving Müller on the bench in the past. Recently, the coach has started giving him more minutes in the starting XI, even with the return of Jamal Musiala from injury — getting both players on the pitch together has seen an upswing in performances.
However, whether Müller remains a permanent fixture in the lineup going forward remains to be seen, as players like Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry regain fitness. Despite his lack of minutes, Müller is only second behind Leroy Sané in the club’s assist charts, and he clearly has plenty to offer to the team.
If Tuchel wants to limit his minutes to preserve his fitness, then that’s one thing. However, during the Hinrunde we saw Müller fail to make the XI for long stretches at a time, only coming back when Jamal Musiala went down with a hamstring injury. That’s a clear waste of his talent, and hopefully the coach recognizes this going forward.
You can listen to the full interview on the ESPNFC YouTube channel.