12 July 2014 10:24
Thomas Muller is fast becoming a modern FIFA World Cup great and is set to contest his first final on Sunday.
At just 24 years old, Bayern Munich attacker Muller has accumulated an impressive list of honours, with three Bundesliga titles, a UEFA Champions League winners medal and a FIFA Club World Cup triumph already in the bag.
While rarely mentioned alongside the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi – who he will come up against in Sunday’s clash with Argentina – when it comes to discussions over the best player in the world, it is also difficult to find fault with Muller’s World Cup record.
After claiming the Golden Boot with five goals at the 2010 tournament in South Africa, where he was named the best young player, Muller has been utilised as Germany’s most advanced attacking player for much of this year’s event.
Joachim Low has been one of the main trend-setters in a growing fashion for omitting traditional frontmen from his starting XI, with the versatile Muller the regular spearhead in a menacing and fluid German forward line.
And that approach has reaped rewards – Muller sitting just one goal short of Colombia’s James Rodriguez in the race for the 2014 Golden Boot.
Low has, however, reverted to calling on Miroslav Klose to lead his attack in Germany’s last two matches, with the Poland-born striker becoming the World Cup’s all-time leading goalscorer during his side’s 7-1 semi-final demolition of hosts Brazil.
Such is Muller’s record at the World Cup, Klose’s marker of 16 goals could prove well within his grasp.
The Bavarian has 10 World Cup goals to his name so far and could potentially feature at another three tournaments – Muller would be 36 in 2026.
However, Muller’s contribution to the German team is about more than just goals – he is a constant threat around the opposition box and has also chipped in with three assists during the current tournament.
His meeting with Messi should provide an interesting contrast between the two.
The Barcelona attacker came into the tournament with the weight of expectation to turn in a defining World Cup display, but it is Muller who has so far shone the brightest of the two.
Only one will leave the Maracana with a winners’ medal around their neck on Sunday.
Muller may have won almost all there is to win in club football, but now has the opportunity to claim the most sought-after trophy of all.