Thomas Mueller still has a way to go to live up to his legendary namesake Gerd Mueller. But if he keeps up the prodigious goal-scoring he has displayed so far at this World Cup it won’t be long before he’s a legend in his own right.
Mueller’s winner in the 1-0 victory over the United States in Recife on Thursday takes his tally in Brazil to four following a hat-trick in the 4-0 win over Portugal, and his overall total to nine after five at the 2010 tournament.
He is now level with Brazil’s Neymar and Argentina’s Lionel Messi on four goals at the tournament.
Mueller moves into a tie for 13th on the all-time scorers’ list — with greats like Eusebio, Christian Vieri, David Villa, Paolo Rossi, Vava, Roberto Baggio and fellow Germans Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Uwe Seeler — and better than Diego Maradona.
Another goal would pull Mueller even with Germany’s 1954 World Cup hero Helmut Rahn, Argentina’s Gabriel Batistuta and three others. And an 11th goal would knot Mueller with Hungary’s Sandor Kocsis and current US coach Juergen Klinsmann in joint sixth place.
“Every nation in the world would love to have Thomas Mueller on their team,” Klinsmann said.
“He doesn’t need two chances. He’s fine with one and he puts it in the net.”
Mueller can play as a midfielder, wide player or central attacker, and is currently used by Germany boss as a “false nine,” floating in front of the opposition defence, pulling defenders out of position and always popping up in space with the instincts of a natural goal-scorer.
'Very smart player'
He’s blessed with unparalleled stamina and is regularly the player who tops the teams running average. On Thursday against the US he ran more than 11 kilometres, popping up all over the field. “In the run up to the World Cup in Italy we saw that Thomas Mueller is mentally very strong and right now he is very difficult for any opponent to figure out,” said Germany coach Joachim Loew.
“He’s a very smart player and always finds a way into the area. He’s in great shape and you have the impression it’s so easy for him. He runs the most in the team and the heat doesn’t seem to affect him.” Most importantly Mueller has the instinct of where the ball might end up and is able to somehow disappear so that opposing defenders have difficulty picking him up.
That’s why he was hovering unnoticed on the edge of the box when the ball came out to him from a corner to steer home the winner against the US.
To hear him describe it, the goal was simple. “I realised there was no opponent next to me so I concentrated on the far post,” he said. “I saw the ball ricocheting towards me and I just focused on the ball and the far post and I hit the ball the way I thought I would hit it and that was that.”