When Thomas Muller replaced Serge Gnabry in the second half of Germany’s 2-2 draw with the Netherlands back in November 2018, few could have envisaged it being his international swansong.
Die Mannschaft had recently suffered an uncharacteristically horrendous World Cup campaign – just four years on from their triumph in Brazil – and calls for Joachim Low to freshen up his ageing squad saw Muller pushed to the wayside.
He wasn’t the only casualty from the tournament with Mats Hummels, Sami Khedira, Mario Gomez and Mesut Ozil all either announcing their retirement from national team duties or being deemed surplus to requirements.
Football managers are notoriously stubborn individuals and they rarely go back on a decision, but Muller has effectively forced Low’s arms into the air and told him to admit defeat.
The Bayern Munich man has been included in Die Mannschaft’s 26-man squad for this summer’s delayed Euro 2020 finals – two and a half years on from his last appearance for Germany.
So, for those of you who don’t take much of an interest in the Bundesliga, what’s he done that’s so remarkable he’s forced Low to pretty much publicly admit ‘I was wrong’?
Well, erm, how can we put this: he’s been really good at football. Like, really good.
In the Bundesliga alone, since Muller last took the field for Germany he’s amassed an incredible 22 goals and 52 assists.
In the same time period, that’s more assists than fellow Euro 2020 squad members Toni Kroos, Emre Can, Ilkay Gundogan, Jonas Hofmann and Jamal Musiala – combined. In fact, it’s more assists than Musiala has made career appearances.
The fact of the matter is, Muller’s performance levels haven’t dropped one bit since he was omitted for the Germany squad, the only thing he was guilty of was being over the age of 25.
Not only has he maintained his extraordinary levels he’s actually managed to go one better and improved them.
Since 2018 the 31-year-old has broken the record for the total number of assists in a single Bundesliga campaign – a record previously held by some bloke called Kevin De Bruyne – while he’s the only player in the German top flight this season to have hit double figures for both goals and assists.
Some will argue that Muller plays for the best team in Germany and so he’s bound to rack up decent figures, though it’s him who makes them tick a lot of the time, with his high octane pressing and ridiculous work-rate helping to keep Bayern on the front foot.
His partnership with Robert Lewandowski is another reason Bayern have swept aside the majority of the teams that have dared come before them in recent years, with Muller’s creativity and guile aiding the Polish hitman’s bid to equal Gerd Muller’s 49-year-old record Bundesliga goalscoring record for a single season.
Since November 2018, Muller has hung no fewer than nine winners’ medals on his mantelpiece (probably) a figure that some of his Germany teammates won’t manage in their entire career.
The Bayern man isn’t the only shock inclusion in Low’s recently announced Germany squad, with the aforementioned Hummels also brought back in from the cold as Die Mannschaft go in search of their third European Championship crown.
In a way, hats off to Joachim Low for having the balls to go back on himself. On the other hand, what were you thinking in the first place?
Two and a half years is a long time in the career of a professional footballer, and for Muller to maintain both his fitness and performance levels to even make it back into the reckoning for the Germany squad is an outstanding achievement.
It’s just a shame we’ll have to delete this as soon as he scores the inevitable winner against England.