SINGAPORE: Thomas Muller is an established international football star, but the Germany and Bayern Munich forward owes a debt of gratitude to a man from South-east Asia.
From 2001 to 2013, former Malaysian international defender Lim Teong Kim, who is also the uncle of ex-Singapore defender Lim Tong Hai, was a coach at Bayern's youth academy.
Famous players like Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Toni Kroos and Muller himself graduated to the first team under his tutelage.
The 2014 World Cup winner broke into a wide smile and spoke effusively when The Straits Times asked him about his former coach Lim.
Muller said: "I learnt very much from him. He has a great eye for tactics and to take the right positions on the pitch.
"He was one of the first coaches I learnt football from, so I enjoyed it very much."
Approaching his peak at 27, Muller's 37 goals in 85 international games ranks him ninth in Germany's all-time list while his 10 strikes in two World Cup Finals gives him a shot at breaking compatriot Miroslav Klose's record of 16.
Lim could not be reached for comment, but in an interview with The Sunday Times three years ago, he complimented Muller for his "huge work ethic".
"He had a huge desire to succeed, which is as important as individual skills if you want to make it far in football," he said then.
"In training, we constantly drilled into him to always follow a shot into the penalty box and anticipate the rebound, which is one of the key aspects of his play now.
"The drills may seem minute and mundane, but Muller practised them fastidiously nonetheless." - The Straits Times/Asia News Network