Thomas Muller was back to his ungainly best for Germany in their World Cup qualifying win over Norway, giving the sort of bafflingly effective display which makes him one of the game’s most enigmatic players. The German Football Federation, not always noted for its sense of humour, summed up Muller’s style of play in a nutshell on its Twitter feed with its description of the first of his two goals in the 3-0 win.
“The grace of a swan wearing ice skates, but he’s just so darn effective,” it said, followed by the hash tag “#muleteer”. Muller has scored 34 times for Germany in 79 appearances but had not hit the target in a competitive international since last October, a run which included the whole of Euro 2016.
The goal which ended the drought in the 15th minute was absolutely typical. Muller had a shot on goal blocked by the Norway defence, fell over, managed to get up again and then score with a deflected left foot shoot despite having four defenders in close proximity.
Joint topscorer at the 2010 World Cup, Muller has never conformed to the footballers’ stereotype. He stumbles rather than glides past opponents, his ungroomed mop of floppy hair has not changed in years, he has unusually skinny legs and he eschews tattoos, while his wife is an amateur dressage rider rather than model or actress.
Muller’s own Twitter feed is named “esmuellert” from the verb Muellern (literally to Mueller) which he has invented to describe his own style. “The term describes his odd movements,” explained a user on the question-and-answer website Quora. “Sometimes it looks like Mueller has no control on his extremities and his body is just moving on its own.”
“That’s the key element in his game that causes so much trouble to defenders.” Coach Joachim Loew was as relieved as anyone to see Mueller rediscover his scoring touch.
“He didn’t give the impression that he was tired at the Euros. He looked fresh, agile and was making a lot of runs, but he was unlucky as the ball just wasn’t falling for him,” said Loew.
“Of course that’s been eating away at him a little bit, because he did have some chances. So it’s really, really good for him that he got himself two goals to give himself a boost.
“It’s a World Cup campaign again now, and he always seems to score regularly there. I think it will make his life a bit easier now that he’s scored his first international goal in a long while.”