Müller shines as goalscorer, instigator and motivator
Two goals, one assist, plus a tireless instigator and motivator for the team -- there is no question Thomas Müller is back on song at FC Bayern. In the absence of injured captain Manuel Neuer, his stand-in Müller took responsibility as he led the team in all areas. In Tuesday night's 5-0 runaway victory against Besiktas, the 28-year-old capped his recent impressive performances with another outstanding display.
"That's Müller for you -- he's got it!" declared coach Jupp Heynckes in praise of the man of the match after the convincing win in the first leg of the Round of 16 encounter. "He's a player who's really important to our system because he can sometimes score a goal out of nothing. He's very much on top of his game and can motivate others," said Heynckes about the homegrown star. "He's always in the right place thanks to his effervescence, pace, and the speed of his reactions. That makes him unique."
Real striker's goals
Müller scored his 41st and 42nd Champions League goals against Besiktas. Only two players have scored more often than Müller (21) in the knockout stages of Europe's premier club competition: the two World Players of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo (56) and Lionel Messi (38). For the first time since the 6-1 victory against Porto in April 2015, Müller was involved in three goals in a single Champions League game. Müller had a total of seven shots, which is only one less than in the 2012 final against Chelsea.
"My goals were real striker's goals," said Müller about the way he netted his brace against the Turkish champions. "The first was a typical Müller goal and the second was outstanding. He doesn't always necessarily look particularly elegant but he's often very clever and very efficient," reported central defender Mats Hummels, thrilled by his Germany teammate."
Great game intelligence
Hummels explained he is currently seeing Müller's "strongest phase" since he rejoined the record champions in the summer of 2016. "I've always stood up for Thomas because he's an incredibly intelligent player." Players are often assessed according to whether their game "looks especially elegant" or is "full of technical tricks". But he believes game intelligence is the most important thing for a player. "And up to now I've not seen anybody who has more than Thomas," stressed the defender.
Müller has scored nine goals in all competitions this season and "if he hadn't been injured for five weeks then he would've netted even more goals," vouched Heynckes as he praised Müller's ability to prepare for big games. "It's really incredible with Thomas how he knows exactly that the Champions League is something really special that also requires special performances."
Müller's special reward
For Müller, his shift ended with an unusual exchange of shirts. Instead of a Besiktas player, Müller chose the German skier Thomas Dreßen who was at his first Champions League game. "It was a fantastic evening," raved the downhill sensational winner of 2018 on the legendary Streif course as he received the Bayern shirt with the number 25 on the back. In exchange, Müller was given Dreßen's bib with the number 20 from the Super-G race at Hahnenkamm.
"A bib from a Kitzbühel winner from this year. If I wear it the next time I go skiing then I'll have right of way -- I agreed that with him," said Müller who was full of respect for Dreßen's tour de force: "I'm just not quite sure if I'll really do downhill in Kitzbühel. Definitely not during the season." Hopefully, Müller will still have one or two Champions League games to play.