Thomas Müller has arguably been Bayern Munich’s most important player during Hansi Flick’s time in charge. - © Thomas Eisenhuth/Bundesliga/Bundesliga Collection via Getty Images
Thomas Müller has arguably been Bayern Munich’s most important player during Hansi Flick’s time in charge. - © Thomas Eisenhuth/Bundesliga/Bundesliga Collection via Getty Images
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Why Thomas Müller is Hansi Flick’s key at Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich are now closer to the top of the Bundesliga table than they have been at any point in the past two months – and a huge chunk of the credit for that belongs to Thomas Müller, who is arguably the key to the resurgence of Hansi Flick’s side.

Müller underlined his importance in the thumping 5-0 win over Schalke on Matchday 19 in which he netted his 100th club goal at the Allianz Arena.

A ceremonial milestone it may be, but considering Robert Lewandowski is the only other player to have achieved the feat it gives you an idea of the elite company he keeps.

And while one goal in a routine win may not ordinarily be of great significance, it did serve to highlight the 30-year-old’s continued outstanding form under Flick: Müller has now chipped in with four Bundesliga goals and seven assists in nine league games with Flick at the helm, making him the league’s best provider in 2019/20 with 12.

For reference, Lewandowski has had nine goal contributions (seven goals, two assists) across the same period.

“He’s got a very good sense of the game tactically and he’s a player who’s very important on the pitch – he’s the coach’s right-hand man,” said Flick of Müller recently. “He leads the team, he leads his teammates and plays at a very high level. Thomas is a player that would do any team good.”

That much was once again in evidence against Schalke, where Müller’s all-round contribution was astonishing. Nobody made more runs (89), only one made more than his 29 sprints, while only two players covered more ground than his 7.20 miles, made more crosses (6), won more tackles (9) or had more attempts on goal (2). Simply put, in almost every statistical metric, Müller was among the top performers.

"He's behind you!" Thomas Müller (front.) and Hansi Flick (r.) worked together closely as Germany won the 2014 FIFA World Cup. - imago sportfotodienst

All of which has contributed to Bayern earning more points in Flick’s regime (21) than any other side apart from RB Leipzig (22). By way of comparison Borussia Mönchengladbach have 16, Borussia Dortmund 17.

So what’s changed? The self-styled Raumdeuter – or space invader – has been given free rein to do what he does best: find space and exploit it. And his interplay with Lewandowski, Bayern’s goalscorer par excellence, has been vital. “We have a very good understanding on the pitch,” said Bayern’s No.9. “We talk to each other a lot and that’s why it works well.”

Teammate Leon Goretzka perhaps put it best after the Schalke victory on Saturday: “In just a few weeks Hansi Flick has created an environment in which everyone feels good. He gives us a tactical plan for every game and we work from that.”

With Müller feeling the love, he is more than happy to adapt his own game as long as it benefits Bayern.

Watch: Thomas Müller's roots

"Maybe I’m not a goalscorer anymore," he said last year. "I try to be more responsible for the whole team, to give the team structure, organisation and power, and try to get assists.

"I also try to score goals but when I have to decide between going into the box or maybe trying to secure the zone in front of the box for the counter-attack, sometimes I decide for the defensive action. I try to win games, I try to be important for my team but it's not that important for me to be the top scorer.

"Since I'm a little older now, I know that you're always particularly motivated. From my point of view, that's the difference and why we became German champions seven times in a row."

It is a testament to Müller's longevity - and breakout at such a young age - that 12 seasons into his professional career, he is only getting better.