Euro 2016 was a disappointing tournament for Thomas Muller, and no one knows that more than the striker himself.
1. Müller’s mea culpa
No Nationalmannschaft headliner fell from a greater height at Euro 2016 than goalless goleador, Thomas Müller. Off colour. Off the pace. And mysteriously misplacing his trademark space invader and finishing skills.
So how refreshing it was to see him bravely owning up to his failings this summer, especially critical of his work as leader of the line in the semi-final loss to France.
“I moved around too much ” opined the Bayern star. “I didn’t want to wait in the box for 20 minutes and feel useless. I should have accepted that I’d been picked as a striker and stayed in the middle. The point of attack was left vacant. I ought to have played
with more discipline. That didn’t help us.”
In stark contrast to his outstanding track record of marksmanship in World Cup finals ( a total of ten goals in 2010 and 2014), the usually so clinical Müller has yet to break his duck in eleven European Championship fixtures and though disappointed with the disparity in effectiveness, still couldn’t resist a typically self-disparaging dig: “You could say I had a 100 per cent strike-rate in France. I didn’t score once.”
Arguing that neither he or Germany had come up short through lack of effort, the 26-year-old insisted there was absolutely no need for the team’s attack-conscious
philosophy to be overhauled.
“Should we now operate like France, sitting back and soaking up opposition pressure? That’s not what we are about. You can achieve the right results in a different way.”
2. Joachim Löw: class act
Head in hands in the technical area with the pain of impending doom etched on his face, the Bundestrainer cut a figure of pure, undiluted agony as the clock ticked down against the French.
But what a winner Jogi Löw proved to be in the aftermath of elimination. Magnanimous in defeat, dignified, totally supportive of his players and even prepared, according to Kicker magazine, to send letters of congratulation to the coaches of the two finalists.
“Throughout the tournament, your team displayed a great mentality, ” he apparently wrote to Portugal boss and newly-anointed ‘Selecao‘ god, Fernando Santos and had equally warm words for Didier Deschamps: “You put us out and deservedly went through to the final.”
Löw might not be to everyone’s taste in Germany at the moment, with 43 per cent of respondants to a recent Kicker poll wanting him to stand down. However, credit where it’s due; the man’s a generous loser.
Not that he will be abandoning ship any time soon. He is under contract to the DFB until 2018 and come hell or high water, will be on the bridge for the World Cup in Russia.
3. Enter the Olympians
Careful not to overly inconvenience the pre-season plans of German clubs, Olympic coach, Horst Hrubesch, has announced his 18-man group for the imminent Brazil Games (August 3 – 20).
His selection contains no fewer than six full internationals, notably Dortmund full-back or central defender, Matthias Ginter, and the holding midfield Bender twins, Lars (Leverkusen) and Sven (Dortmund).
Germany, competing in their first Olympics since Seoul in 1988, are optimistic of a medal, but arguably more important will be the tournament experience.
Hrubesch has chosen several young guns with a realistic chance of featuring at the next World Cup and for the likes of RB Leipzig striker, Davie Selke, Schalke midfield pair, Leon Goretzka and Max Meyer and Leverkusen winger Julian Brandt, it’s an ideal opportunity to press their claims.
Hrubesch has had to tread most diplomatically in putting together his party, limiting his picks to two per club, ignoring those involved in Champions League or Europa League qualifiers and also opting not to select players who have recently changed clubs (such as Leverkusen frontrunner, Kevin Volland striker Timo Werner of RB Leipzig).
4. New models in the Motor City garage
Hot prospect Real Madrid striker, Borja Mayoral, is to move to Wolfsburg on a temporary one-year deal.
A prolific converter of chances for Real’s reserves, Castilla, and in the UEFA Youth League, the 19-year-old made his senior debut for the Galacticos last October and went on to appear in a half-dozen La Liga matches in 2015-16.
Real regard Mayoral’s switch to the Bundesliga as the last semester of finishing school. Thus the absence in the contract of a loan-to-buy option.
He is not likely to be the only addition to Wolfsburg’s attacking brigade. Excellent Serb left-winger, Filip Kostic, is widely-tipped to swop relegated Stuttgart for the VW outfit, while club CEO, Klaus Allofs has conformed his interest in Juventus and Italy front-man, Simone Zaza.
Wolfsburg will have to dig deep, though. Zaza is rated in the 25 million euro bracket; Kostic at around 17 million.
Seemingly headed for the ‘Autostadt’ out door are bad boy forward, Max Kruse and rangy Dutch centre-forward, Bas Dost.
5. Robben back on ice
It didn’t take long for Arjen Robben’s time-honoured injury curse to flare up again, breaking down with an adductor muscle problem only 35 minutes into Bayern Munich’s first pre-season friendly of the summer and now set to be out of action for at least six weeks.
The veteran Dutch winger was sidelined for three months last term with a similar complaint and given his age (32) and rolling subscription to the infirmary – never completing a full campaign in his seven years at Bayern – his ability to figure prominently under new coach Carlo Ancelotti has to be in doubt.
Although an absolute matchwinner on his day, he does have to be on the pitch and in his case there are just no guarantees.