Bayern Munich's striker Thomas Mueller reacts after the German First division Bundesliga football match between FC Bayern Munich and SV Darmstadt 98 in Munich on May 6, 2017. (Christof STACHE / AFP)
BERLIN - Bayern Munich's 2017 China tour is seen as being restart for German international Thomas Mueller after a disappointing season. The 27-year old told Xinhua in a recent interview that a warm welcome and support from Chinese fans would be a huge motivation for him in the lead up to the new season.
Previously in China in 2015, the Bavarians this time around will play two games in Shanghai on July 19 against the 13-time English champions Arsenal before traveling to Shenzhen on July 2 to play against seven-time UEFA Champions League winners AC Milan. The games in China are followed by two games in Singapore against Chelsea and Inter Milan on July 25 and 27 respectively.
He says he was overwhelmed by the support of the Chinese fans two years ago and is expecting it to increase this time. According to the Bayern Munich Director of International Relations, Joerg Wacker, the 2017 league champions can count on the support of up to 135 million Chinese football fans. The 2017 China tour has been given the motto "visiting friends" as the Munich-based club wanted to highlight its close relationship with its Chinese fans.
Mueller admitted that the 2016/2017 season had not been totally satisfying as he wasn't a part of the starting eleven in several important games. It is something he wants to change in the upcoming season. The striker admitted to having not been exceptionally happy this season as his goal record was below expectations. In 28 Bundesliga games, Mueller only scored five goals, in contrast to 20 goals in 31 games last season. It has affected his confidence but he says he is optimistic of regaining lost ground.
Mueller has been a part of Bayern's first team squad since 2008 and has been playing for Germany for the last seven. At the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the forward won the trophy for the top scorer with five goals and three assists. The 2014 World Cup winner is an important figure at his club as, after Lahm's retirement, he is the last authentic local Bavarian left in squad.
Hi goals for the future are to win the Champions League again and add additional Bundesliga medals to his already impressive record. For the first time in the history of the top German division, Bayern Munich has won five consecutive titles. Mueller said he is eager to add further successes as his current contract will run out in 2021. The way Bayern are dominating the domestic league at the moment, it would be a major surprise if he does not add another three titles.
Even though team captain Philipp Lahm and Spanish midfielder Xabi Alonso are retiring at the end of the season, Mueller does not expect a substantial restructuring of Bayern's squad. Goalkeeper and German international Manuel Neuer has been appointed as the new captain. With the experience of Neuer, Mats Hummels, David Alaba, Jerome Boateng, Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, Mueller is convinced Bayern can continue to rely on a solid structure within the team in the near future too. He nevertheless expects the club to become active in the transfer market. It is part and parcel of the business, Mueller said. Everyone at the club is aware of the necessity to improve and rejuvenate the current squad.
Bayern Munich's forward Thomas Mueller (2nd R) and Bayern Munich's Spanish midfielder Thiago Alcantara celebrate at the end of the German first division Bundesliga football match between RB Leipzig and FC Bayern Munich on May 13, 2017 in Leipzig, eastern Germany. (John MACDOUGALL / AFP)
Mueller admitted the club had missed out on following up the 2013 treble win with further successes in the Champions League. In last season's semi-final against Atletico Madrid (2-2 on aggregate), the "wrong team" made it into the final on away goals, said Mueller. This time around Bayern was eliminated by Real but there was not much between the two continued the striker. He also feels that there is almost no gap between his club and the other top European outfits.
When in China this summer, the team will be aiming to prove to its fans there that it is a top side on a par with the world's very best. Muller is also looking forward to meeting many people in China which would be inspiring for him personally. Chinese fans, he added, stand for a great enthusiasm in all things football.
He will be eager to explore more of the country and discover more the culture. Many young people love football in China and many support FC Bayern. Looking back at the enthusiastic welcome they received in 2015, he is still amazed by the never-ending support given by Chinese fans. It was incredible to see so many people cheering the team at the airport, during the training sessions took place and at the games.
When talking about the development of football in China, Mueller expects the nation to produce top class players in the next ten years.
Practice, practice and even more practice is his recipe for the success of the country's young footballers. They should also be ambitious and cool-headed. He says this is essential for China's football to lay good foundations and work their way up. It would generate a love of the game among the youngsters who would in turn inspire even more kids to take up the sport.