Mueller wins World Cup Golden Boot, best young player

By The Associated Press

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Germany midfielder Thomas Mueller has won the Golden Boot award for top scorer at the World Cup and was also named best young player of the tournament.

Mueller was one of four players to finish on five goals, but won by virtue of his three assists, two more than his nearest rivals — Spain’s David Villa and Wesley Sneijder of the Netherlands, who each had one assist.

Mueller, 20, has spearheaded a new generation of players that include Mesut Oezil, Sami Khedira, Jerome Boateng and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer in a German team that finished third.

The Bayern Munich ace, who 12 months ago was playing in the German third division, succeeded compatriot Miroslav Klose, who topped the scoring at the last World Cup in Germany four years ago.

Mueller first gave notice of his huge potential during last season’s UEFA Champions League as Bayern made it all the way to the final. It was his first full season at the Bavarian giants and he ended up scoring 19 times in 52 appearances.

He is a fast, composed and technically gifted attacking midfielder or second striker who scores and creates goals.

Ahead of the World Cup, Mueller was valued at about 10 million euros (12.5 million dollars), but there are now suggestions that on the back of his performance in Africa, he has more than tripled this valuation.

Mueller, who made his full international debut against Argentina in a friendly in March, is a product of a systematic and extensive German youth program, which began 10 years ago after Germany crashed out of the 2000 European Championships in Belgium and the Netherlands.

The German football federation DFB then chose to embark on scouting and developing new talent, a program which was further enhanced when former captain Matthias Sammer was appointed sports director in 2005.

Since then the German Football League wand the DFB have invested some 500 million euros ($630 million US) on youth development schemes.

All Bundesliga clubs were mandated to have their own junior training centers, while the DFB developed centers of excellence and talent-spotting program across the country.

The results have been outstanding — Germany won the under-19 European championship in 2008, and then won the under-17 and under-21 European titles last year. Before that, Germany had gone 16 years without a European title at junior level.

In South Africa, Mueller extended the legend of the Germany number 13 shirt, which his namesake Gerd Mueller made famous during a distinguished career in the 1970s.