Thomas Muller: He'll Never Inspire Poetry

Not that we condone the writing of poetry about footballers, of course. But if we did, we'd suggest that you write abut (The Real) Ronaldo, whose record Muller will take...

Last Updated: 19/06/14 at 09:33 Post Comment

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Thomas Müller now has eight goals in seven World Cup games. He's 24. He has two, perhaps even three more of the big ones left in him, which for a team like Germany means at least ten games, in all likelihood quite a few more, and that's not including the ones remaining in this tournament.

The short version is that if he keeps himself right, and nothing goes too badly wrong, Müller will probably beat Ronaldo's World Cup goalscoring record, which of course presently stands at 15, unless Miroslav Klose manages to nick enough minutes in the next few weeks to claim it himself.

Now, ask anyone with a passing interest in football about Ronaldo, especially people who saw him in his astounding pomp, and they could talk for ages about him, and what made him so brilliant. The pace, the dribbling, the unstoppable power, the super-human ability to do all three of those things at once while maintaining some sort of freakishly astonishing balance, and then remember to score at the end of that ridiculous trick.

Ronaldo was electrifying to watch, and at his real peak (between about 1996 and 1999, before the first bad knee injury) he was arguably the most exciting footballer of all time. And with that glory he combined achieving astonishing statistical feats, just one of which was that World Cup scoring record.

Müller on the other hand...well, even seasoned football-watchers will struggle to tell you why he's good. We all know he is good because...well, he keeps scoring goals...and he's always in the Bayern Munich and Germany teams and...well...he just is good. Isn't he?

The problem is despite obviously being good, it's not quite so obvious why. He isn't particularly quick, he doesn't have a thunderous shot, he's tall but not exactly Tim Cahill or Cristiano Ronaldo in the air, he doesn't have too many tricks. In this respect he's a little like Novak Djokovic, who doesn't have the grace of Roger Federer or the power of Rafa Nadal, but manages to beat the pair of them because he doesn't have any weaknesses. That might be Müller - his greatest strength is he doesn't have any weaknesses, but his greatest weakness is he doesn't have any strengths. He does wear his socks at a pleasingly Steve Claridge-esque height though, giving him the air of the bloke who plays for your Sunday league team who shambles onto the pitch as the game is kicking off and always forgets his shinnies. But that just makes him endearing, rather than offering an explanation for why he might belong among the greatest players of all time.

Should Müller break the record (and the way this World Cup is going, it's not ludicrous to think he might do it this year - everything else has happened, so what the hell, why not this?), people won't be awfully happy about it. It'll be confusing for one thing, as nobody will be quite sure why he's any good, but it will also be quite unsatisfying.

People still equate records with quality and standing - Ronaldo was probably the greatest centre-forward the World Cup had seen since Gerd Müller, so it was fitting that the former took the latter's record, and took it with some flair. This sort of thing is ephemeral but important: it's sort of an extension about the old Danny Blanchflower line about winning with glory. Müller wins things and scores goals, but Ronaldo did things with style and with a flourish, not waiting for the other lot to die of boredom.

Müller is, if you want to be dramatic about it, not a player one could write poetry about (if for some reason you wanted to throw together some rhyming couplets about a professional footballer), but Ronaldo is. If you prefer, Müller isn't a footballer you can really get misty-eyed and nostalgically over-emotional about at 1am after too much red wine, but Ronaldo is. Indeed, your correspondent may or may not have done exactly that not too long ago. Maybe. Can neither confirm nor deny.

So by this token, we will mourn the passing of Ronaldo's record to Müller, if and when it happens, just as some may mourn if Klose takes it at some point. It isn't fair - of course it isn't fair. Should Müller become the greatest goalscorer in World Cup history while only having half the obvious natural gifts that Ronaldo did, he should be lauded more, not less. His will be a sublime triumph, but one that won't be celebrated. Because we football fans like to get misty-eyed at 1am, you see.

Nick Miller - follow him on Twitter

I think there's already something rather poetic about a man called the Interpreter of Space.
- harry hotspur

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