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Thomas Müller is awkward, robotic, and truly world class

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Don't think too hard about how he looks. It's weird, but it works.

Lennart Preiss/Getty Images

The first time you watch Thomas Müller, he's the most nondescript, average player you've ever seen. Then you watch a bit more and he looks extremely awkward. A bit more, you start to realize that he's good. Then he's very good. Then he's absurdly brain-meltingly good. You start to wonder if aliens sent him to earth to see if their humanoid robot could better humans at their most popular sport.

You don't have to "get" Cristiano Ronaldo. It's obvious from the second you look at him that he was put on Earth to be a professional athlete. Throw him into any physical activity and he'll perform it at an exceptional level. You don't have to get Zlatan Ibrahimovic either. He's tall and it would take someone who was new to watching soccer about 30 seconds to figure out that he's good at putting the ball in the goal. Even Lionel Messi, whose body is atypical for an athlete, isn't as strangely incomprehensible as Müller. At first, you look at Messi and go, "this guy is the best player in the world?" but then you see him get the ball and everything makes sense. It becomes obvious why his body type is advantageous for a lot of the things he does with a ball.

There is no "aha" moment of realization while watching Müller. All that comes is acceptance. Yes, he is running fast, and he is controlling the ball well, and his passes are going where he wants them to go, and the ball is going into the back of the net. It doesn't immediately make sense, but it is happening.

The games of Ronaldo, Ibrahimovic and Messi look effortless, but Müller always looks like he's trying really hard. There's no flow, no fluidity. Zlatan moves like that time traveling blob from Donnie Darko, and Müller moves like the Tin Man waiting for Dorothy to find his oil can.

But if you watch long enough, a strange thing happens. You stop getting so hung up on how weird he looks and notice that there aren't any deficiencies in his game. He's just as likely to score a header or tap-in as he is a 30-yard screamer. He's just as likely to assist a teammate with a 50-yard Hollywood ball as he is a cross, a cutback or a backheel flick. He plays center forward, left wing, right wing, attacking midfield and central midfield -- sometimes all in the span of five games and sometimes all in the span of five minutes. He is everywhere. He is everything.

Müller has never played center back, but if he were thrown into the position with no training, he'd probably do a better job than Dante did in the first leg of Bayern Munich's tie against FC Porto, because he gets the most critical part of the game better than anyone else: space.

Space is the hardest thing to both understand and describe about soccer. A lot of tactics have to do with individual matchups, but they're a lot more focused on where it's OK to allow your opposition to have space and where it's not, as well as how to open up the spaces that you want to get into. From his debut season as a first-team player at 20 years old, Müller got this.

There might not be a single physical or technical thing that Müller is truly world class at, but this is unimportant because his brain buys him some leeway. Perhaps he is a half-step slow, his touch is a couple of inches too strong, his jump is a few inches short and his shot is lacking in power; literally none of this matters. The reason it looks like he's not good, but notches goals and assists at an impressive clip anyway, isn't inexplicable and isn't luck. He's just in the right place quicker than anyone else, every time.

This is why Müller is arguably the most consistent player in the world. There's a minor blip in his age-22 season, but otherwise ...

2009-10: 52 appearances, 19 goals.
2010-11: 48 appearances, 19 goals.
2011-12: 53 appearances, 11 goals.
2012-13: 47 appearances, 23 goals.
2013-14: 51 appearances, 27 goals.
2014-15: 40 appearances, 20 goals.

... this is pretty incredible stuff. He also has a World Cup Golden Boot and Silver Boot -- he could easily be the tournament's all-time leading scorer at just 28 years old.

No one would argue that he's better than Ronaldo or Messi, but the difference in Bayern's goal differential when he isn't on the pitch is more dramatic than the difference in Real Madrid or Barcelona's when they don't have their stars. If every player in Europe was released from their contracts and we conducted a fantasy draft, Müller wouldn't just go after those two, but also Paul Pogba, Eden Hazard and a small handful of other players. And then the team that took Müller at 15 or so would laugh their asses off as they collected trophies.

Müller's been the best attacking player on two domestic double-winning teams, a treble-winning team and a World Cup-winning team. He's about to collect at least one more trophy this season, if not three. He's only 25.

All hail the greatest wiry, unathletic-looking footballer of all time.

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