It’s that time of year when fans and pundits are putting together their predicted XIs for the season ahead. As things stand you’d have to look far and wide to find a prospective Bayern Munich XI which contains Thomas Muller.
It’s been a summer of considerable change for the German champions. Plenty of new faces have arrived as coach Carlo Ancelotti seeks to reinvigorate a team that won the title last season but were uninspiring at times.
The twin retirements of Xabi Alonso and Philipp Lahm have opened a couple of slots in defence and midfield while the permanent addition of Kingsley Coman and the loan signing of James Rodriguez give Carlo Ancelotti some intriguing propositions in attack.
Bayern have not spent €40 million on Corentin Tolisso to stick him on the bench while top level performers like Arjen Robben, Arturo Vidal and Thiago Alcantara you would assume are untouchable in the line up. Assessing Bayern’s options leaves little room for World Cup winner Muller.
Robert Lewandowski is non-negotiable at No. 9; Robben and Coman are pacier prospects on the right side while Tolisso and Rodriguez look to be first picks in any central playmaking position.
It has led to considerable debate over Muller’s role in the team and indeed his long-term future with Bayern.
The issue has come to a head in the past seven days with former Bayern sporting director Matthias Sammer imploring Ancelotti to recognise Muller as the “soul and future” of the club.
Bayern have been hollowed out of hometown heroes with the departures of Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger in recent seasons and Sammer fears that dropping Muller would send the wrong message.
President Uli Hoeness advised Sammer to butt out before backing Muller to regain his form in a pre-season interview in China last week.
What is obvious is that Muller did not enjoy his first season under Ancelotti in the same way that he enjoyed his last one under Pep Guardiola. He has admitted that it took a while to get to grips with Ancelotti’s expectations but what is evident is that he now has work to do to stay uppermost in his coach’s thoughts for the season ahead.
Muller struggled to carve himself out a niche in the lineup and even finding game time in the season upcoming might be a struggle.
His productivity in front of goal was diminished last season and he failed to influence what could be termed the big games as the campaign drew to a close.
A poor Euro 2016 followed and Muller has spent the time since trying to work his way out of his funk.
He endured a 999-minute goal drought at one point and only scored five in the Bundesliga all season long.
Now there is considerable chatter about his time with his boyhood club potentially being curtailed.
Manchester United bid €100m for his services two summers ago but he looks a long way short of that valuation even in this inflated market place. Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool have all been credited with interest during this transfer window but Bayern’s stance is that he’s not for sale.
In many ways this could well be the most important season of Muller’s career. The German Confederations Cup victory demonstrated that no one in the international picture can afford to rest on their laurels. The emergence of talents like Leon Goretzka and Timo Werner mean Joachim Low has more quality than ever to call upon up front.
If Muller fails for consistency this season then he could well be out of the picture as Germany seek to defend their World Cup. And his time at Bayern could well be over, too.