Forward-thinking Muller earns praise

Thomas Muller, scoring Bayern's third goal and his second, is clearly back to his best after coach Jupp Heynckes' return for a fourth stint.
Thomas Muller, scoring Bayern's third goal and his second, is clearly back to his best after coach Jupp Heynckes' return for a fourth stint.

MUNICH • Bayern Munich manager Jupp Heynckes hailed the continued renaissance of forward Thomas Muller after his brace in the Bundesliga leaders' 5-0 Champions League last-16, first-leg thrashing of 10-man Besiktas on Tuesday.

Muller had a frayed relationship with former Bayern coach Carlo Ancelotti, who saw him as a bench-warmer, but Heynckes has brought out the best in the Germany international since returning for a fourth stint at the club in October.

There was nothing spectacular about either of Muller's two goals, but as the Turkish champions discovered, the 28-year-old's ungainly style makes the German hugely effective in front of goal.

"The first goal was typical Muller," said Heynckes.

"It's interesting how players prepare for these sort of games. Thomas takes it to another level, he knows that a special performance is needed in the Champions League.

"He is performing well and he motivates the others. He's important for our system and not just because of the goals. He's also important for the vertical game."

"With his speed and reactions, he's often in the right place and that makes him unique. That's the real Muller."

ALWAYS ADDING VALUE

Thomas takes it to another level... he is performing well and he motivates the others. He's important for our system.

JUPP HEYNCKES, Bayern coach, on his forward Muller's role and contribution.

Robert Lewandowski had a double and Kingsley Coman also scored against an overrun Besiktas, who had last man Domagoj Vida dismissed for tripping Lewandowski outside the box in the 16th minute.

The German champions are virtually assured of a seventh successive quarter-final appearance, but Heynckes admitted the red card paved the way for a comfortable evening after Besiktas had put up early resistance.

"The turning point was the sending-off and (Muller's) goal just before the break," said Heynckes after his side equalled a club record of 14 consecutive wins in all competitions.

The second leg takes place in Istanbul on March 14.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 22, 2018, with the headline 'Forward-thinking Muller earns praise'. Print Edition | Subscribe