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‘Definitely not my last match’

Clear-the-air talks prompt Sagnol to stay

A dozen voice recorders, numerous cameras and a throng of reporters surrounded Willy Sagnol when he left the dressing room and emerged into the mixed zone at the Allianz Arena after Wednesday’s UEFA Cup meeting with Aris Salonika. The Frenchman paused for dramatic effect, before slowly and deliberately issuing a sentence which will gladden the heart of Bayern fans everywhere: “That was definitely not my last match for Bayern Munich.”

The brief statement put an end to weeks of conjecture regarding the player’s future. After seven months out with a cartilage problem, the Frenchman had gone public with a request to quit the club at Christmas. “We had a difference of opinion about my comeback,” Sagnol explained, ascribing his want-away statements to a disagreement with Ottmar Hitzfeld over his readiness for a return to squad duty.

Productive talks

“He wasn’t playing because he wasn’t fit,“ countered Hitzfeld, who sent Sagnol on for the final 11 minutes of Bayern’s last match before the long mid-season break. Since resuming the squad programme in November, Sagnol had clocked up only 20 minutes in the Bundesliga (against Duisburg) and a couple of minutes in the UEFA Cup (against Braga). He also appeared twice for Bayern’s third division reserves, one of those over the full 90 minutes.

Sagnol himself would have preferred more playing time with the first team. “I think I was expecting rather more,“ he confessed. However, clear-the-air talks with the board and the coach had settled the issue. “In my opinion we found a good solution,“ Sagnol reported, “we’re all happy now.”

Leading personality

“I’m delighted he’s staying,“ commented Hitzfeld, keen to capitalise on the 30-year-old’s experience during the rest of the campaign. “Provided he’s fit, he’s an important member of the team. I’m counting on him for the second half of the season,“ the coach confirmed, “I hope he can return to being a leading personality at this football club.“ Sagnol is determined to rise to the challenge: “I’m looking forward to the rest of the season. I’ll be back.“