Space invader Mueller offers Germany star quality

Two years after being exiled from the Germany squad on the back of their woeful performance at the 2018 World Cup, Thomas Mueller is back and heading to the Euro 2020 finals.

With his deadly eye for space in the box and outstanding form for Bayern Munich, Mueller's return to international football was widely forecast.

And it was confirmed Wednesday when Joachim Loew ate humble pie and named Mueller as well as Mats Hummels, another player the coach effectively sacked in 2019, in Germany's squad for the Euro 2020 finals.

"Back again @dfb_team! I am ready for the Euro 2020," Mueller posted on Instagram.

The 31-year-old, who scored 38 goals in 100 appearances for Germany, can play on the wing or in attacking midfield and will bolster Germany's options at the Euros.

Mueller is a one-club wonder, a rarity in modern football.

He holds the joint record of 10 Bundesliga titles, all with Bayern Munich whom he joined as a schoolboy.

On the football pitch, Mueller is all business, but off it he likes to horse around -- literally.

His wife Lisa is a passionate dressage rider and the couple own a stud farm near Munich.

Mueller's eye for goal has never been in doubt -- 214 goals and 218 assists in 580 appearances for Bayern provide the evidence.

But his sense of humour is just as sharp.

He once famously avoided reporters questions by talking into his passport - which he pretended was a mobile phone - while grinning as he walked through Munich airport.

In a 2011 interview with the Munich-based Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Mueller described himself as a 'Raumdeuter', which roughly translates as 'interpreter of space' - although he is also the archetypal 'space invader'.

His greatest attribute is his ability to anticipate space in the penalty area, often spotting gaps before they open, leading to killer passes or finishes.

Since Bayern Munich coach Hansi Flick restored him to the starting line-up in 2019, Mueller has responded with 21 assists in the Bundesliga both this season and in 2019/20.

Last Saturday, Robert Lewandowski equalled the Bundesliga record of 40 goals in a season, but Mueller deserves some credit for the passes he provides.

- 'Radio Paehl' -

Born in the Bavarian town of Paehl, Mueller rose through Bayern's youth set-up and caught the eye of then head coach Jurgen Klinsmann in 2007-08 after scoring 18 goals in 26 games for the Under-19s.

Mueller's tendency to chat non-stop during training sessions earned him the nickname "Radio Paehl".

He made his Bundesliga debut a month before his 19th birthday.

Mueller was famously mistaken for a ball boy by Diego Maradona after making his Germany debut against Argentina in March 2010.

He made his international breakthrough as a 20-year-old at that year's World Cup. His five goals and three assists won him the Golden Boot as top-scorer in South Africa and the best young player award.

There was no chance of mistaken identity when Germany hammered Maradona's Argentina 4-0 in the quarter-finals with Mueller in the thick of things.

He continued to flourish for Bayern, but suffered Champions League heartbreak, losing the final on home turf at the Allianz Arena to Chelsea on penalties in May 2012.

Bayern and Mueller finally won their third Champions League final in four years by beating Borussia Dortmund 2-1 at Wembley in 2013.

However, the pinnacle of Mueller's career came a year later as Germany won the World Cup in Brazil.

Mueller again scored five goals, including a hat-trick in the opening 4-0 rout of Portugal and the first goal in the unforgettable 7-1 semi-final thrashing of Brazil.

Like most of his team-mates, Mueller struggled at the 2018 World Cup in Russia and started on the bench for the 2-0 defeat to South Korea which confirmed Germany's exit in the group stages.

However, his performances last season, when Bayern won the treble of Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup meant Mueller could no longer be ignored by Loew for the European Championship.