Two men, one goal: Thomas Muller and James RodrIguez may be rivals in FC Bayern’s attacking department, but when it comes to World Cup ambitions, the original Bavarian and the player on loan from Real Madrid tick similarly.
Both want to win as much as possible in 2018 – first together at the club and then with their national teams at the World Cup in Russia. There is also a connection on the subject of the World Cup: Muller was top scorer with five goals on his World Cup debut in South Africa in 2010. The Colombian James achieved this feat four years later with six goals in Brazil.
"In World Cup years, I have so far been able to convince well," said the 28-year-old Muller on Thursday in the training camp of Bayern in Doha: "That makes me extremely hopeful."Muller scored five times again in the 2014 World Cup triumph in Brazil. With a total of ten goals before his third World Cup appearance, he is the eighth most successful active player in the eternal list of World Cup scorers, which is headed by Miroslav Klose with 16 goals.
James RodrIguez, an attacking midfielder who is more of a goal-scorer, also has his sights set on the World Cup tournament in the summer. But the 26-year-old would like to avoid a duel with defending champions Germany and his Bayern colleagues for as long as possible. "If, then I would rather want to play towards the semifinals against Germany, because Germany is a top opponent."
Muller against James – this is World Cup future music. Muller or James – that could happen more often in the second half of the season at FC Bayern. For both prefer to play centrally in attacking midfield. There they can play their so different qualities best: James with his fine left foot. And Muller, with his unpredictable runs and constant moves into the penalty area and towards goal.
The first half of the World Cup season was not exhilarating for Muller. Four goals in 20 competitive games meant a mediocre yield, even if six assists highlighted his quality as a team player. Muller no longer considers the goal quota to be decisive: "I’m in a different role. I have more of an eye on the big picture."Muller is, after all, also filling in for the injured Manuel Neuer as team captain.
In the fall, a muscle injury also slowed Muller down at times. It was the time when newcomer James blossomed. The Colombian had moved to FC Bayern as a desired player of Carlo Ancelotti, but only after the change of coach did he really arrive in Munich. "I just play more, the rhythm is the key," the Colombian explained his personal upswing in Doha on Thursday.
James benefited from Heynckes. He can communicate with him in Spanish. "The coach talks a lot with the players. It makes you feel like you’re in good hands," said James. In the meantime, he also feels at home at FC Bayern. "My presence is here. I’m not thinking about anything else at the moment," he replied when asked if he wanted to return to Real Madrid – as of today.
Until 2019, Bayern have James on loan for the time being. The Colombian has brought the distinctive success thinking from Madrid with him. In his first year at Bayern, James is aiming for all three titles in the Bundesliga, Cup and Champions League: "I want to achieve everything. If so large quality is in the team, one can dream times of the triple."
That unites him again with Mueller. "All the titles you can win, you want to win. We are aiming for the highest targets," said the triple winner from 2013. For this – despite the many victories under Heynckes – an increase in performance is necessary in the second half of the season. "We are still away from the playful ease that we pick apart the opponents," said Muller. FC Bayern is currently working intensively on this quality in the training camp.