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Anniversary interview

‘FCB can be proud of the past 114 years’

Happy birthday, FC Bayern! The reigning Club World Champions were founded 114 years ago on Thursday, although there won’t be a big birthday party: it’s not a milestone number, and there are only two days to go until the crucial Bundesliga meeting with Schalke 04. However, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge exclusively told, “we’ll do the right thing and give Bayern three cheers.” The chairman of Germany’s biggest club looked back over Bayern’s eventful history, but also assesses the present too. Bayern Munich will be 114 years old on Thursday. Will the board be raising a glass in celebration?
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge: We’ll do the right thing and give Bayern three cheers. We’ve got a great history and the last 30, 40 years have been particularly successful. Bayern can be proud of the past 114 years. But we won’t be euphoric. We had the really big party for the 100 years celebration when Loriot gave a phenomenal eulogy.

FCB have just enjoyed the most successful season in the history of the club…
Yes. It was simply brilliant. We’re writing a success story at the moment in a way we’ve never experienced before. We’ve had a lot of great teams over the years, starting in the 1970s with Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Müller and Sepp Maier when we won the European Cup three times on the trot. An incredible achievement! But it was a different time back then. The quality we’ve got on the pitch and on the bench now is out of this world. The club is possibly going through its best period to date.

Are you proud to be at the head of this club?
We once had a vice-president called Hans Schiefele. He always used to say after winning games: 'Keep calm gentlemen, we’re all here just to serve Bayern.'

Bayern made it 14 Bundesliga wins in succession at Hannover last weekend. Were you able to enjoy the game watching from the stands?
I enjoy every game - even close-run games like we had in London. The team is full of outstanding individual talents. However, that quality needs to be married to a philosophy. Jupp Heynckes and now Pep Guardiola both got it just right. There is an absolutely clear plan in every game. And we show the necessary respect to every opponent. I’ve never heard Pep utter a single arrogant word. That really pleases me and that struck me in his time at Barcelona. Our popularity has never been so high before. That’s also down to Pep.

To what extent is the current success due to Pep Guardiola?
This individual is a stroke of fortune for Bayern Munich as he combines quality and hard work in an unparalleled way. Everything that looks so effortless in public is the product of hard work from Monday to Friday. The intensity on the training ground, which I regularly see from the window of my office, is a marker. It’s no coincidence we’re writing this success story now.

Is the battle for the league title already done and dusted with the 19-point lead?
It is an incredible lead. No team has ever had that many points after 22 Matchdays. However: we’ll carry on in the same commanding and calm way but we won’t take anything for granted.

Bastian Schweinsteiger returned to the starting eleven on Sunday. How important is he for Bayern?
Bastian is Mr Bayern. He grew up here, established himself as a young player and he’s extremely popular with the fans. I’m happy he’s available to us again for the last third of the season when the campaign hots up. We need him if we’re to hit our targets. The same goes for Franck Ribéry. He can terrorise any opposition defence. We know all about his quality.

We’re at home to Schalke on Saturday. How do you think the game will go?
Schalke started well after the winter break. They were on the up and up. But we want to keep our winning run going to maintain our positive rhythm. Every win gives us more confidence, more security.

Let’s take another look at the first leg of the Champions League Round of 16 tie at Arsenal. Did you think it might go wrong given the tricky opening minutes?
It’s the norm in England for teams to come out and go straight on the attack. Particularly at home. They almost caught us out. But we got the upper hand after the penalty save. Then we quickly regained the belief we could win the game.

Manuel Neuer had a great game…
He wasn’t voted the 2013 World Goalkeeper of the Year for nothing. He’s a fantastic keeper. Players like him make the difference in big matches. And he’s also a wonderful human being on top of that. People like him are good for Bayern.

Can you imagine having anyone else in goal for Bayern?
We don’t need to worry about that at the moment. Manu has a contract to 2016. I can see him playing for us for a long, long time. He’s happy - and so are we.

How does the team need to approach the return game against Arsenal?
Different from last year. (laughs) But we shouldn’t think about that game too much. Everything went wrong. Somebody slipped for the opener. We had lots of chances that went begging. It was touch and go at the end. But perhaps we can learn a lesson from that. We’ll approach this game with the necessary respect.

Bayern are in the running for the treble again this year…
We’re in really good shape in terms of defending the German championship. That’s the title we set as our target. We’re definitely the favourites in the DFB Cup tie against Kaiserslautern. I think it’s too early to make a prediction for the Champions League. We’ll be in the quarter-finals if we get past Arsenal. I don’t dream about the treble at night but I do know everything’s being done to make sure the team is ready physically, tactically and mentally. That means we can all sleep well.

The World Cup is on this summer and that could have a negative effect on the build-up to the 2014/15 campaign. What are the plans looking like now at the end of February?
We haven’t finalised arrangements yet. Of course, it won’t be easy as Bayern will probably have the biggest number of players at the World Cup. And the Bundesliga starts again on 22 August. We need to make sure the players have enough time to recover. We will definitely be holding the training camp in Trentino again. And we’re also off to America at the end of July. We’re planning to play two or three games there. New York and Portland are definite venues.

The club has recently reached out to the fans - that includes the chance to choose blocks in the South Stand. How has that worked out?
We have a wonderful, harmonious and co-operative relationship. I hope it continues like that for a long, long time. We’ll play our part and we take the fans’ wishes very seriously. Wherever there’s a chance to make improvements, we’ll take a favourable look at it. On the other hand, I’m happy past problems like the pyrotechnic issue are behind us. It will be good to maintain the status quo on a basis of mutual co-operation.