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Frenchman aiming high

Sagnol: I want to recapture my best form

Newly-wed with a child in the offing, and with France’s early exit from Euro 2008 a rapidly fading memory, Willy Sagnol has started his ninth season at Bayern on a surge of energy and optimism. The longest-serving player at the club is arguably more motivated than ever before, as Sagnol is raring to go after finally emerging from a spell blighted by injury . “I want to get back to the level I had before,” he declared on Friday.

After a two-and-a-half week vacation in the south of France where he took time out to marry his long-term partner, the 31-year-old said he was “feeling very good. I’m delighted to be back on the practice ground again.” He is not wasting any more time contemplating his country’s pitiful showing at Euro 2008. “The European championships are history for me,” he firmly stated.

End to international career?

Sagnol revealed he is considering whether the time has come to call time on his international career, an option he had discussed with controversial France coach Raymond Domenech. “He told me it would be a shame if I stopped now.” However, the man capped 58 times by the 1998 World Cup winners is keeping an open mind. “I simply haven’t decided yet.”

The right-back is totally focused on his duties with Bayern. The Bundesliga title – Willy already has five German championships to his name – was the “minimum” FCB should be hoping to achieve, he said, although a personal goal is equally important to the player this season. Sagnol is utterly determined to bounce back from a torrid 2007-8 and restate his top-class credentials.

Battle for places

“I was sidelined for ten months with injury, and then the situation in March, April and May wasn’t easy for me,” the 31-year-old recalled. A cartilage injury in April 2007 prompted the long and tiresome lay-off, after which he was unable to command a regular place in Ottmar Hitzfeld’s starting line-up. Just as he seemed poised to recover full fitness, he suffered a slipped disc in March and was forced back to the sidelines.

All that is now behind him. “I’ll work hard every day,” he announced. The right-back is fully aware of the intense internal competition for his place, where Philipp Lahm and Christian Lell are both jockeying for position. “Each of us has to give it his best shot. The coach decides who plays,” Sagnol acknowledged.

Everything for FCB

That also applies to the nomination of a new club captain. “I’d be delighted to take the armband, but it’s the coach’s decision,” commented Sagnol, who will in any case assume a powerful position in the dressing room hierarchy as the club’s longest-serving player. “After eight years at a club, you’ve got to be sharing your experience,” he observed, making it clear he would do exactly that: “My heart belongs to Bayern,” he declared.