BERLIN - Bayern Munich made an explosive start to the Champions League with a 2-0 win at Spain's Villarreal in Group A on Wednesday, but for coach Jupp Heynckes it was equally important to see that his players were having fun.
After almost two seasons under strict disciplinarian Louis van Gaal, where hard work and obedience was the order of the day, Bayern players this season are looking far more relaxed and enjoying their football.
The timing could not have been better given that the Champions League final is in Munich next year and Bayern are eager to get a shot at the big prize in front of a home crowd.
"For players at such a level it is important that they have fun, that they enjoy themselves," 66-year-old veteran coach Heynckes told reporters.
"They need to be able to express themselves and you have to make them feel important," Heynckes, in his third spell at Bayern, added.
Bayern scored once in each half through Toni Kroos and Rafinha but could have added at least another three as they controlled possession against the Spaniards and kept a clean sheet for the seventh straight game in all competitions.
Even despite injuries to top striker Mario Gomez and defender Daniel van Buyten, the Bavarians kept pressing and seemed to have lost none of their offensive spark.
Nils Petersen, who had joined in the summer from second division Energie Cottbus, made his Champions League debut as a second half substitute for Gomez and should have also scored his first European goal after missing two clear chances in a span of five minutes.
Among those blossoming under Heynckes is Frenchman Franck Ribery, who set up the first goal and was a constant source of trouble for the Spaniards.
His performances under Van Gaal had been far more erratic and his relationship with the "Tulip general" bordering on hostile.
"Franck played an outstanding game and if you see it was not only his offensive play that was fantastic but it was also his defensive work that was important. Franck is a street footballer."
The coach also played down the importance of Gomez's injury and the gap in attack it could leave if he is ruled out for some time.
"Ivica Olic is back in two or three weeks and we can always play with Ribery as a striker," he said with a laugh.
"Look at Barcelona, they don't play with one centre forward. They can all take over that role."comments