Bayern Munich sent nine of their star players to Euro 2016 earlier this summer, and among them were some of those most expected to make an impression on the tournament.
Robert Lewandowski, who had led all scorers with 13 goals for Poland in qualifying and had scored 42 in all competitions for Bayern during the 2015-16 campaign, was one of them. Another was Thomas Muller, who had recorded 32 goals in all competitions in the previous season.
The goal hauls for both players during the 2015-16 campaign were career highs. And having been so prolific for their respective countries prior to the Euros, it was expected they would stand out at the tournament in France. What actually transpired left much to be desired.
Lewandowski didn't have a shot on goal until the round of 16, despite having plenty of chances to score. He finally found the net with his only goal of the tournament in the quarter-final with Portugal, but it wasn't enough to send his team to the next round.
There were many players in the Poland squad who played better in France than the captain Lewandowski, of whom so much more was expected.
Aubameyang P-E @Aubameyang7
@lewy_official wow and the race is started. hat-trick 😆👏🏽2016-8-26 20:12:53
Muller was even worse in that he failed to score throughout the entire tournament. After scoring five times in both the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, he produced nothing for his country at the 2016 Euros, at least in terms of goals. It was very, very disappointing, and the player himself later admitted he was "useless" (h/t the Daily Mail) during Germany's semi-final loss to France.
Yet, on Friday, both Lewandowski and Muller roared back into form. The Polish striker had a hat-trick against Werder Bremen as he led his side to a 6-0 victory to open the Bundesliga season. And although he didn't find himself on the scoresheet, Muller matched his strike partner's goal haul in terms of assists.
For Lewandowski, it was a second hat-trick in as many games; he'd netted three against Carl Zeiss Jena in the DFB-Pokal opener a few days before. The goals he scored on Friday were a great demonstration of his range of skills: With the first, he sprung the offside trap and dribbled towards goal before firing a perfect finish from a tight angle; for the second, he stabbed home a cross with a volley; the third he took coolly from the penalty spot.
Bleacher Report UK @br_uk
More goals, more records for Robert Lewandowski 🙌🏼 https://t.co/qTzYXSfRVy2016-8-26 21:39:03
Muller similarly showed his range of abilities, not only in his assisting of goals (as opposed to scoring) but in the manner in which he provided service. With his first, he played a classic right-winger's aerial cross to Lewandowski; with his second, he played a clever backheel to Philipp Lahm; with the third, he dribbled in the right side of the penalty area before cutting back to Franck Ribery for the finish.
The fact that Lewandowski and Muller were so brilliant in Bayern's Bundesliga opener is not to be underestimated, as the pair were the driving force of the league champions' attack throughout last season.
True, Ribery and Douglas Costa at different times had their spells of brilliance. But the most consistent influence on the Bavarians' moves forward was the combination of their main striker Lewandowski and his right-hand man, the supporting striker Muller.
After all, it was they who scored a combined 50 (and assisted 12) of Bayern's 80 goals in the Bundesliga last season.
There can be a post-summer tournament hangover for weary players, and when it's the most important players who are taking time to get back into form, it can have an impact on the entire team's performance.
Not at Bayern: By the looks of things, their two best attackers are ready to deliver the goods. They were on day one, at least, and that bodes well for Bayern's hopes as they begin their push for titles in three major competitions.