After going a year without scoring, Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago Alcantara has now found the net in three consecutive Bundesliga matches, serving a timely reminder of his ability and providing the driving force behind his side's return to the league summit.
Sometimes tough love can have the desired effect and the way Thiago has responded to being overlooked by Hansi Flick for his first three games in charge is straight from the textbook of 'The best ways to deal with setbacks.'
Flick's constructive criticism worked and, since December, Thiago has gone from being one of the last names on the teamsheet to the very first - to the extent that he has now played more Bundesliga minutes (1,221) than any other Bayern midfielder this season.
On Matchday 20, he was more than just complicit in the defending champions returning to the top of the Bundesliga for the first time since October with a comfortable 3-1 win over Mainz, netting the team's third goal inside the opening 30 minutes to effectively kill the game off before half-time.
"I'm absolutely delighted that Thiago's now scored for the third game running," said Flick. "This was yet another really good performance from him."
It was the kind of display Bayern fans had been treated to with regularity following the Spaniard's arrival in Bavaria in 2013, at the orders of then coach Pep Guardiola.
"He's shown once again what a great player he is," commented David Alaba. "In particular when he's on the ball, but also in terms of his defensive work."
Watch: How Thiago pulls Bayern's strings
For anybody who had forgotten that Thiago learned his trade in Barcelona's famed La Masia academy, the production line which also delivered a certain Lionel Messi, the 28-year-old gave a perfect reminder with his futsal-style skills in beating Pierre Kunde and then shifting the ball through two more Mainz defenders before using his left foot to beat Robin Zentner with an accomplished finish.
"He's done that really, really well," said Bayern's sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic. "He's playing in such a dominant way, together with Josh [Kimmich]. I'm not surprised, though, because I know how good a footballer he is."
With 107 spells of possession – more than anybody else on the field at the Opel Arena on Saturday, Thiago won 63 per cent of his challenges and, after almost a full year without scoring, he is now doing so for fun.
"Every year, I try to be stronger than last year," Thiago told Sport1 at a similar juncture of last season. "At the moment I'm stronger than I was last season – and next season I want to be even better than I am now."
Watch: Thiago's best skills for Bayern
He is certainly delivering on that promise. Bayern have posted 4-0, 5-0 and 3-1 wins in their past three assignments with their midfield metronome on the scoresheet during their rise back to the summit for only the second time this season.
Last term, Thiago was on the losing side only twice, with Bayern failing to win any of the four games in which their key player missed out due to injury (two defeats, two draws).
The Spain international is looking similarly influential this year and there is something ominous in the way the record champions have regained their place at the top of the pile.
And there is also a certain quiet menace about Thiago's displays as he bids to win a seventh straight Bundesliga title – one for each of his seasons in Munich. On this form, you wouldn't want to bet against it.
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