It took Thomas Müller just one minute to make a significant impact in Bayern’s Munich clash with FC Köln on Saturday.
Coming on for Jamal Musiala in the 64th minute, Hansi Flick’s side needed some additional firepower to quell a resurgent opponent. After two first half goals from Bayern, the visitors had pulled one back in the 49th minute and were now threatening to level the scoring.
Fortunately for Bayern, these are the kind of moments Müller has built a career off of. With essentially his first touch after walking on to the pitch, the forward received a pass in the middle of the opposing half, looked up and played a through ball towards the on-running Robert Lewandowski to score a third and effectively kill off the game.
Although Bayern would go on to score another two goals and win the game by a comfortable margin, Müller’s immediate impact was undoubtedly one of the most important moments of the game. The German champions rely heavily on their 31-year-old forward and just don’t look the same without him.
Indeed, Müller’s absence had been acutely felt in the previous two games. As the forward was isolating from a positive Coronavirus test, Bayern dropped points in a 3-3 draw with relegation-threatened Arminia Bielefeld then lost all three in a defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt a few days later. In the space of one week the Bavarian giants had lost their key forward, dropped points and suddenly let RB Leipzig back into the Bundesliga title race.
How much do Bayern rely on Müller?
If it sounds like Müller almost single-handedly cost Bayern those results or indeed has that much of an impact on how well Flick’s side perform in each game then that’s because he really does.
While midfielders like Joshua Kimmich and Kingsley Coman can create goals and free can score them quite like Lewandowski, Müller has a remarkable ability to score and create in equal measure. Sometimes he’s the playmaker, sometimes he’s the target man. But more often than not, he’s always the match winner.
In 32 appearances in all competitions, Müller has amassed an incredible tally of 13 goals and 15 assists. Only five players in this season’s Bundesliga have scored more goals from open play than Müller. None have created more assists. And when we compare him to the rest of the continent we can truly see how incredible a season he’s currently having.
When we bundle Müller’s Bundesliga performances up into his average goal contribution per 90 minutes it spits out a number that suggests the German forward is roughly either scoring or assisting 1.02 goals per match. And when we filter out penalties and any player that has played less than 1000 minutes in their domestic division, we find that Müller’s average is one of the best best in Europe.
Outperforming Mbappe, Messi and Ronaldo
Although Müller sits behind teammate Lewandowski as well as Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland and Stuttgart attacking midfielder Sasa Kalajdzic, the former German international is still offering more per game than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues.
Remarkably, that means the Bayern forward is enjoying a more productive domestic campaign than some of the biggest names in football. For example, PSG forward Kylian Mbappe sits just below him on 1.01, Tottenham Hotspur forward Harry Kane can muster just 0.98, while Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo sit even further down the pecking order with averages of 0.93 and 0.89 respectively.
Despite winning dozens of trophies with Bayern and the German national team, Müller has always been an underrated player. But this season’s stats suggest he’s currently one of the very best players in the world.