Bayern Munich Must Ensure Thomas Muller Bounces Back from His Euro 2016 No-Show

Clark Whitney@@Mr_BundesligaFeatured ColumnistJuly 18, 2016

Germany's Thomas Mueller reacts during the Euro 2016 semifinal soccer match between Germany and France, at the Velodrome stadium in Marseille, France, Thursday, July 7, 2016. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Petr David Josek/Associated Press

From the very beginning of his international career, Thomas Muller has been a key player for the Germany national team, and his performances have directly correlated with their success.

In 2010, he broke into the first team and was hugely influential for Germany at the World Cup, contributing to a third-place finish for Joachim Low's inexperienced and injury-riddled side. Then 20 years old, he was crowned top scorer of the tournament and was the youngest player to amass five goals or more at a World Cup since Pele.

At Euro 2012, Muller was poor. He looked off his game and neither scored nor assisted a single goal. Germany advanced to the semi-finals but never looked at their best: Three group-stage wins by a single goal and a quarter-final win against Greece were followed by a 2-1 loss to Italy in a match in which the Azzurri were in control from an early stage.

Then at the 2014 World Cup, Muller was again heroic: He scored five goals for a second consecutive World Cup and also gave three assists, just as four years prior. Germany were crowned world champions.

This summer, the European Championship followed the script for Muller as the same tournament four years ago. He was off his game and grew more frustrated as the tournament progressed.

He ended the Euros goalless with just one assist (against Northern Ireland), and his attitude visibly worsened with each game. By the end of the tournament, he looked like Cristiano Ronaldo at his worst, shooting from almost anywhere and harassing the referee over any potential disagreement.

For a player who just had the most successful club campaign of his career, Euro 2016 amounted to a sizable piece of humble pie. Aged 26 years and coming off such a magnificent season, one in which he'd directly contributed to a whopping 44 goals (including 32 he scored himself), much more was expected of a player in his prime.

Last week, Muller admitted at a press gathering that he felt "useless" in his role in the Euro semi-final loss to France, pointing out the fact that he moved out of the position expected of him (via ESPN's Stephan Uersfeld): "I roved about too much. [I should have accepted] I was deployed as a central attacker and might be without a touch of the ball for 20 minutes. I didn't do that."

He added that leaving his assigned position "left the central attack vacated."

As Muller stewed in self-criticism, new Bayern coach Carlo Ancelotti asserted the forward simply needed a holiday. Per MailOnline's Amitai Winehouse, the trainer said: "He needs a holiday because he has completed many games, but when he comes back, he will be an important part of the team."

The first half of Ancelotti's statement is absolutely true. Muller looked tired even before Euro 2016, as the immense form he'd shown during the fall campaign subsided in April and May. He scored just six of his 20 Bundesliga goals after the winter break, three after February 20 and one after March 12.

There were times when Muller was able to turn on a switch and deliver in key moments, notably in the second leg of the Champions League round-of-16 tie with Juventus, but overall he was off his game in the second half of the campaign, and his form only cooled toward its end.

Muller played 3,819 minutes for Bayern alone in 2015-16, and his workload for Germany amounted to an extra 1,232, per Transfermarkt. 

Bayern fans can only hope the second half of Ancelotti's statement is true. There's no reason for the Italian to bench Muller, who has been integral to his club's success over the last seven years. But he will need the German forward to be at his best if the Bavarians are to succeed in 2016-17.

Bayern committed their future to Muller last fall when he penned a new contract that saw him become the club's top earner with a whopping €15 million annual salary, per Sport Bild (in German). It amounts to almost double his previous wage (€8 million) and will last until 2021.

With such a wage for such a long term, there is and will be a place for Muller in the starting lineup. And at Bayern, that requires repayment in goals. There will be a certain pressure that comes with Muller's wage and the leadership position it implies.

Muller has rarely failed to deliver as a Bayern player, but after his performances for Germany at Euro 2016, his confidence may have taken a hit. It is therefore important that the Bundesliga champions give him sufficient time to recharge physically and mentally. And it's crucial that Ancelotti nurtures him and helps him find the form that made him arguably the world's best attacker last fall.

It's within Muller's reach, but it is now up to Ancelotti and the Bayern management to do what's necessary to support the 26-year-old so he can rebound after a summer to forget.

   

@Mr_Bundesliga

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