x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

New 'Bomber' blows in to Bayern

Marcotti's man Mueller can become as big a Bayern Munich legend as his prolific namesake.

Thomas Mueller.
Thomas Mueller.

They waited a full 30 years to sing that song one more time. "Mueller vor, noch ein Tor!" ("Mueller forward, one more goal!"). And now that they have a reason to chant it again, they do so with full lungs. The advent of Thomas Mueller into the Bayern first team does not just provide manager Louis van Gaal with another attacking option. It also allows the club's supporters to dust off the song which, for 13 seasons, they devoted to the legendary Gerd Mueller, the scoring machine known simply the world over as "Der Bomber".

Now, there is another Mueller to shout about and it speaks volumes about the regard in which he is held that they have exhumed the "original" Mueller's chant to sing his praises. In fact, they have been anticipating this day for a long time. Mueller joined the club as a 10-year-old, progressing steadily through the ranks, until the 2007-08 season, when he was called up to Bayern Munchen II, the club's feeder side in the German third division, who - ironically - are managed by the "original" Mueller, Gerd.

An injury limited him to just three appearances that season, but, the following year, he returned with a vengeance, scoring 15 goals in 32 games, while making his first appearances - four in total - for the first team. Van Gaal saw him for the first time shortly after taking over in July. He told club officials that there was no question about sending him back to Bayern Munchen II for a season. "He's ready now and I want him with me," said the Dutchman.

Many were surprised. Mueller is an attacking midfielder or a striker. And Bayern, frankly, were loaded in both departments. Up front, they could count on Luca Toni and Miroslav Klose, two players who combined for 99 goals in all competitions in the past two years. Besides there is Mario Gomez, another centre-forward, prised away from Stuttgart for £28million (Dh170.3m), after scoring 62 goals in the past two years. Then there is Ivica Olic, a reliable veteran striker who excelled for Hamburg (though his scoring totals were somewhat lower: "just" 46 in 2006-07 and 2007-08).

For those keeping score, that is more than 200 goals scored by the Bayern strikers in two years. In midfield, he had to beat out two world-class wingers like Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben. Not to mention Bastian Schweinsteiger, a stalwart for the German national team and a player who, like him, came through the ranks and Jose Sosa, who, for better or worse, is an Argentine international. Getting the better of all those and even just making the Champions League roster was an uphill battle. But he had Van Gaal's trust, as well as the requisite arsenal of technical and physical skills: size, quickness and an elegant touch.

Still, Bayern have a big squad with highly-paid names, which is why Mueller is being brought along slowly. He is still a young player and youngsters make mistakes, as evidenced by the two yellow cards he received in just half an hour against Bordeaux in the last Champions League match. It left Bayern with a mountain to climb and they were defeated, 2-1. "I'm not going to use my age as an excuse," says Mueller. "I'm just hungry to learn from my experience and make up for it the next time I'm given the opportunity."

Odds are, he will be given that chance real soon. And not just with Bayern. Joachim Loew, the Germany manager, has already indicated that he may well be called up for the national team's next friendlies. It is a lot to digest in a very short time. And ultimately his last name, and the Mueller chant, probably do him no favours. Yet you get the sense that he may just be able to handle it. gmarcotti@thenational.ae

Gabriele Marcotti is an expert in world football and lives in London