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Final season at FCB

Ze keen to bow out with ultimate flourish

Zé Roberto boasts an impressive personal medal collection, but the man capped 84 times by Brazil is determined to end his last season at Bayern with the crowning glory: “The Champions League is my priority this season, and I’ll do whatever I can to help us win it,” he declared after Monday training in Munich.

A day after his 34th birthday, the midfielder also confirmed his departure from Germany’s leading club at the end of the season. “This will be my last year at Bayern. This season, and that’s it,” announced Zé Roberto, who plans to continue playing for “two or three years” before hanging up his boots at the age of 37 or 38.

No alternative to FCB

The 1998 World Cup runner-up ruled out a move within the Bundesliga. “After you’ve been so long at Bayern, there are no alternatives in Germany,” he smiled, although he also dismissed suggestions he would return to his homeland, where he appeared for Santos in 2006-7 between spells in Munich.

Before his second farewell to Bavaria, the gifted individual is yearning for another tilt at the biggest prize in European club football. He made a huge contribution as Bayer Leverkusen reached the 2002 Champions League Final, but he was suspended and played no part in the Glasgow showdown which saw Real Madrid, another of his former clubs, register a fortunate 2-1 victory.

Changes aplenty

The father of three has high hopes of new boss Jürgen Klinsmann. “I think the coach shares my goal. There have been plenty of changes. Klinsmann has come to Munich with a new philosophy and a new project,” commented Zé, clearly impressed by recent developments at the Säbener Strasse.

“What’s been achieved here in so short a space of time is unbelievable,” he declared after his first visit to the new performance centre last Friday. “Everyone’s very pleased with the changes,” he added on Monday, welcoming the introduction of an eight-hour day for the players during pre-season: “I think it’s positive because it keeps us focused for the entire time.”

Four doubles

The Brazilian described training under Klinsmann and his team as “wonderful. It’s a long time since I worked this much with the ball. Pre-season used to be exclusively about running.” As a genuinely seasoned member of the squad, Zé Roberto recognises the futility of laying down conditions regarding his favoured position. “I just want to play, no matter where,” he remarked, although he noted how much he had enjoyed the more defensive midfield role assigned to him last term.

Even without spectacular new signings, Zé feels the current squad has the strength in depth for Klinsmann to create “a very, very good team.” After four domestic doubles with Bayern, the eminently likeable craftsman holds out justifiable hopes of signing off with a remarkable flourish.