'El Flaco' impresses Maradona
Santo Andre - Goal-scoring machine Gerd Mueller was unkindly nicknamed 'short, fat Mueller' during his career, now Germany's latest hot-shot star has been dubbed 'El Flaco' -- the Skinny One -- by Argentina legend Maradona.
Thomas Mueller claimed the first hat-trick of these World Cup finals in Monday's 4-0 drubbing of Portugal in Germany's Group G opener in Salvador.
The Bayern Munich star, 24, is normally deployed as a winger or attacking midfielder and has only made rare appearances as striker for either club or country.
But the gangly Mueller repaid the faith of head coach Joachim Loew.
His impressive display as a striker against Portugal led to Maradona -- who almost singlehandedly inspired Argentina to the 1986 World Cup trophy -- dubbing him 'El Flaco'.
"He has no muscles, but today he tore them (Portugal) apart," an impressed Maradona told Venezuelan television.
The goal-scoring exploits of stocky 1970s star Gerd Mueller are legendary amongst Germany fans, but his younger namesake currently has his football-mad country swooning.
The 68-year-old Gerd -- also nicknamed 'Das Bomber' -- retired after scoring West Germany's winning goal in the 1974 World Cup final against the Netherlands.
He finished his career with an incredible 68 goals in 62 internationals and the younger Mueller is producing similar impressive statistics with 20 goals in 50 internationals.
Mueller is already on course to retain the Golden Boot he won four years ago, after finishing joint top-scorer, having also won the best young player awards in South Africa.
"The lad's fast, he's got a good technique - he's going to be a great player," Gerd Mueller said.
Mueller started against Portugal ahead of Germany's all-time top-scorer Miroslav Klose, 36 -- the only recognised striker in the squad.
Both Klose and Gerd Mueller have scored 14 World Cup goals in their respective careers, just one short of now retired Brazilian great Ronaldo's record of 15.
And the younger Mueller is closing in fast with eight World Cup goals now to his credit.
"I am certain that Thomas Mueller will eventually get the World Cup goal record, as he still has two or three more World Cups in him," Mueller senior told Wednesday's edition of Sport Bild.
If he wins the Golden Boot in Brazil, Thomas Mueller would become the first player to retain the award.
"I hope he retains the Golden Boot and I'll keep my fingers crossed for him," added Gerd Mueller.
The younger Mueller out-shone Portugal's World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo in Salvador.
While the Portuguese captain is renowned for his personal grooming and showing off his finely-honed torso in his goal celebrations, Mueller has a touch of the boy-next-door."It's his unorthodox playing style that characterises Thomas Mueller," ex-Germany captain Oliver Kahn told braodcasters ZDF.
"Sometimes he doesn't know himself exactly what he's going to do.
"There's a lot of intuition involved, he always knows where he has to run.
"His body language is very important, he makes a strong impression and says 'we want to be world champions' -- I like that."
Mueller's self-confidence was clear as he picked up where he left off at the 2010 World Cup, where he scored five goals.
"He's a light-hearted, cool guy," enthused German FA president Wolfgang Niersbach.
"He says before the tournament that he would again like to be the World Cup's top-scorer -- then he goes and scores three goals.
"He's relaxed and determined at the same time."
But Loew said Mueller's unorthodox runs are an asset which leaves defences guessing the Bavarian's next move.
"He is a very unorthodox player and you can't really predict his lines of running, but he has one aim and that is 'how can I score a goal?'", said Loew.
"That makes him so dangerous, especially in the box."