Thomas Müller playing himself back into Germany contention

BERLIN (AP) — Thomas Müller’s inspirational performances for Bayern Munich are fueling growing calls for his reinstatement to the German national team.

Müller is arguably in the best form of his long career while the Germany team is struggling. Joachim Löw’s side was thrashed 6-0 by Spain in the Nations League last month – Germany’s biggest loss since 1931.

Müller is the only Bayern player apart from captain Manuel Neuer to have played in every Bundesliga game so far this season, and he scored two goals Saturday to keep Bayern top with a 3-3 draw against Leipzig.

He already has six goals and five assists in 10 league games this season. Only Robert Lewandowski has scored more (12) for Bayern.

Müller’s performances are helping to inspire Bayern’s younger players, too. With no fans in stadiums in Germany due to restrictions against the coronavirus, Müller could be heard urging players like Kingsley Coman, Leroy Sané and 17-year-old Jamal Musiala against Leipzig.

Müller also came off the bench to convert a penalty in Lewandowski’s absence for Bayern to draw at Atlético Madrid 1-1 in the Champions League the previous Tuesday. It wasn’t a game Bayern had to win — the defending champions were already sure of progression to the next round — but Müller’s commitment remained the same.

Former West Germany goalkeeper Bodo Illgner became the latest to call for Löw to recall the 31-year-old Müller on Monday, when he told Kicker magazine, “Every coach wants a professional like that in their team, every player too.”

Löw hasn’t picked Müller since he announced in March 2019 that he was no longer counting on 2014 World Cup winners Müller, Jérôme Boateng and Mats Hummels. Their replacements have not impressed so far.

Löw’s own position as coach has been called into question after a string of underwhelming performances and poor results, but he received backing from the German soccer federation last week when it said he should “unreservedly continue.”

Illgner, who helped West Germany win the World Cup in 1990, said there were two reasons the federation was sticking with Löw: “A lack of an alternative at this time and also that he had successful times that shouldn’t be forgotten.”

Löw has been in charge for 189 games and has a contract until after the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Former internationals like Bastian Schweinsteiger and Lothar Matthäus had previously called on Löw to restore Müller, Hummels and Boateng to the team.

Müller was again asked about his potential return on Saturday.

“This issue is very, very far away for me. The next international break isn’t until March. I try to help the team I’m on the pitch with, to reach our goals. You can discuss everything else as much as you want. I’ll keep going — and then we’ll see,” Müller said.

He was diplomatic when asked about the federation’s decision to stick with Löw as coach.

“The federation decided it, so all of us Germans have to get behind this decision and do all we can to get things going again — and with Joachim Löw we will get things going again,” Müller said.

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More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Ciarán Fahey on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cfaheyAP

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