Why Thomas Müller, and not Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, could be the star of the World Cup

Matthias Hangst/Getty ImagesThomas Müller and Leo Messi playing in the final of the 2014 World Cup.
  • The stars of the World Cup tend to be the players who make it to the semi-finals or finals.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi do not have especially great teams surrounding them at this World Cup.
  • However, Thomas Müller, as the forward for a tremendously talented Germany team, will have plenty of opportunities to score goals.

When World Cup 2018 kicks off, naturally, most viewers’ will be interested to see how Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo fare on international soccer’s biggest stage. But one former star of the international game suspects neither player will be the stars of this year’s World Cup.

“The stars of the World Cup end up being the guys that get to the [semi-finals] and the finals anyway, so it really is a collective thing,” said ESPN’s Sebastian Salazar, translating comments made by former Mexican National Team star Hugo Sánchez at a panel of former soccer players and current analysts held for journalists this past week held by ESPN.

“You don’t get there unless you have a strong team . . . if all the players in Argentina have the mentality of a Messi, or if vice-versa Portugal, if they all had the attitude of Cristiano Ronaldo, it might be a different story.”

Instead, Sánchez said, again translated by Salazar, that a likely candidate to be the star of this year’s tournament is Thomas Müller, the forward for Germany and Bayern Munich ” .. . who’s going to be ̛the forward, and probably a leading goal-scorer on a team that is very well balanced and will probably be there at the end.”

Germany was a popular choice among the panel experts to win the World Cup, and for a good reason, as the reigning World Cup champions are loaded with talent.

Argentina, meanwhile, has often underwhelmed in international tournaments during Messi’s prime, despite featuring quite possibly the greatest soccer player of all time. Messi won the award for the tournament’s top player at the 2014 World Cup, although Argentina lost to Germany in the final match. Portugal, too, has under-whelmed with Cristiano Ronaldo, although they did win the most recent European championship in 2016.

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