According to separate reports by Sport Bild and Bild (why do they chop it up like that?) Bayern Munich will back Julian Nagelsmann over Thomas Muller if the latter is benched from now on. The club bosses are fully aware that this could cause unrest in the fanbase and discussions inside the dressing room, however they are committed to backing the coach in player power disputes for the foreseeable future.
Of course, Bild points out the potential pitfalls of this strategy. Muller is one of the most popular players at the club, both among the squad and in the fanbase. He is a Bavarian native and a homegrown player, and enjoys popularity among the influential Sudkurve (ultras). Among advertisers, Muller is also the face of Bayern Munich and one of the club’s most marketable athletes.
He also commands influence among Bayern legends who regularly speak in the media, and has a solid relationship with former club president Uli Hoeness, via his agent Ludwig Kogl. Overall, Muller is not someone a coach can afford to ignore, and the bosses know this.
It should be pointed out that Bild makes no mention of his performances. In 2023, here are the games Bayern started without Muller:
- 1-1 draw vs RB Leipzig (7 minutes played as a sub).
- 1-1 draw vs Union Berlin (22 minutes played as a sub).
- 1-0 win vs PSG (14 minutes played as a sub).
Here are the games that Muller started, with his contribution mentioned:
- 1-1 draw vs Eintracht Frankfurt (1 assist in 90 minutes).
- 4-0 win vs Mainz (1 assist in 64 minutes).
- 4-2 win vs Wolfsburg (1 goal in 60 minutes).
- 3-0 win vs Bochum (1 goal in 45 minutes).
- 3-2 loss vs Gladbach (subbed at 16 minutes).
It is strange that so many questions should be asked about Muller’s place in the lineup when compared to the other attackers at Bayern. If the “performance principle” was at play, like Hasan Salihamidzic says, then who should be on the bench?
- Thomas Muller in 2023: 2 goals + 2 assists in 318 minutes, 1.13 goal contributions per 90.
- Leroy Sane in 2023: 2 goals + 0 assists in 593 minutes, 0.3 goal contributions per 90.
- Choupo-Moting in 2023: 3 goals + 1 assist in 536 minutes, 0.67 goal contributions per 90.
- Jamal Musiala in 2023: 2 goals + 1 assist in 593 minutes, 0.45 goal contributions per 90.
- Kingsley Coman in 2023: 4 goal + 0 assists in 388 minutes, 0.92 goal contributions per 90.
- Serge Gnabry in 2023: 1 goal + 1 assist in 343 minutes, 0.52 goal contributions per 90.
Muller has the lowest minutes of any Bayern forward in 2023 excluding the injured Sadio Mane, yet is the leader in goal contributions per 90. He was scoring or assisting from every start this year. Why didn’t he start vs PSG? Why couldn’t he stay on vs Gladbach?
If it’s about performances, then Julian Nagelsmann should reconsider his course. And if he doesn’t, then the board should reconsider their backing. Bayern Munich are locked in a title race of fine margins, and the Champions League is unforgiving. Indulging the coach like this is hardly the way to go.