KUALA LUMPUR: German World Cup winner Thomas Muller may have played under famous names such as Pep Guardiola, Carlo Ancelotti, Louis van Gaal, Jupp Heynckes and Joachim Low, but it is a Malaysian coach that he credits his great success with.
The 30-year-old super forward has named the Melaka-born Lim Teong Kim as the coach responsible for his rise in professional football.
In an interview with foxsportsasia.com on Saturday, Muller attributed much of his success to Teong Kim.
The German icon said Teong Kim was responsible for the all-important football foundation in his formative years as he made the transition from academy prospect to professional football.
“He (Teong Kim) was my coach in the youth team for two years,” Muller said in the interview.
“He was one of the first coaches I learned football from, so I enjoyed it very much.
“I learned about tactics and the basics for becoming a professional footballer from him.
“One example is the overlap move when your teammate has the ball and you have to overlap to create the two-on-one situation.
“He was a very clever guy and I liked him a lot,” added Muller.
Muller came under Teong Kim when the Malaysian was part of Bayern Munich's youth coaching set-up between 2000 and 2012.
Muller, along with former Germany captain Philipp Lahm, Toni Kroos and Bastian Schweinsteiger, was among those under Teong Kim, who started off as Bayern's under-12 coach in 2000.
Muller, who won the 2014 World Cup, has a remarkable record of 181 goals in 471 appearances for Bayern, winning seven Bundesliga titles and the Champions League crown in 2013.
In an interview with NST Sport on Jan 13, 2010, Teong Kim described Muller as a hardworking player.
“I worked with Muller when I was coaching Bayern's Under-13 and Under-14 teams.
“Muller was not as gifted as some of his teammates then, but he made it big because of his dedication to training and matches,” said Teong Kim.
Teong Kim played for German club, Hertha BSC in 1987 but it was his impressive coaching work at Bayern that prompted former Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin to hire him as the project director of the National Football Development Programme (NFDP) in August 2013. Teong Kim was re-designated as the director of the Mokhtar Dahari Academy in 2017.
However, some critics questioned Teong Kim’s monthly salary of RM175,000 after the national youth team, groomed under NFDP, failed to make an impact in the AFC Under-16 Championship in Kuala Lumpur. He was subsequently removed as the national Under-16 coach.
The 56-year-old Teong Kim is now the technical director of the Mokhtar Dahari Academy. Despite the criticism from several quarters, Teong Kim, whose contract with the academy expires on Oct 31, is still highly regarded at Bayern for grooming players like Muller and Lahm.
Hopefully, Teong Kim can produce a star of Muller’s calibre from the Mokhtar Dahari Academy. But it’s also important that those players at the academy make the most of Teong Kim’s much talked teaching.