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Interview: Martin Demichelis

'First stop Säbener Strasse'

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When FC Bayern entertain Premier League champions Manchester City in the first group match of the new Champions League campaign on Wednesday there will be a reunion with an old friend: Martin Demichelis. The central defender played at FCB for eight years collecting a host of titles along the way. After two seasons at FC Malaga he joined the Citizens in the summer of 2013. Ahead of his return to Munich, the first Argentinean player at Bayern took time out for an interview with covering the start to the season, Wednesday’s match against his former club and the World Cup Final defeat against Germany.

Interview: Martín Demichelis Hello Martin. Welcome back to Munich. As the reigning champions of England you have started the new season with two wins, one draw and a defeat. What’s your assessment of the season so far?
Martin Demichelis: “Like FC Bayern, we didn’t have an easy start. A lot of players returned late due to the World Cup and we rarely had a full squad available during the pre-season. A lot of them were away on international duty last week and that didn’t help us. But we’ve got seven points out of twelve and we’re at home to Chelsea at the weekend. We’ll have 15 points if we win and that’s after playing against Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea. I think we can be very happy with that.” You were the last player to start training again as one of the World Cup runners-up. What shape are you in at the moment?
Demichelis: “The first two games were tough as I only had ten to twelve days work in the pre-season. I only played one game in the international break and then it was straight back to the club. That gave me chance to catch up physically and I’m feeling really good again now.” You scored the crucial leveller to make it 2-2 at Arsenal last weekend. Was that your first marker for the match against FC Bayern?
Demichelis: (laughs) “No, no. That was my first headed goal for City, I scored twice with my foot last season. It’s always good for a defender to score from time to time but my main job is to stop them going in. In that event it was doubly important as it was a vital game and it was the goal that secured a point for the team.” Where would you go first if you came to Munich in a private capacity?
Demichelis: “I don’t need long to think about that as my first stop would be Säbener Straße. There are still a lot of people there I’d like to meet such as players like Claudio Pizarro, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Philipp Lahm, the medical section with the physios Gerry Hofmann, Fredi Binder, Gianni Bianchi and Stephan Weickert, the kit men - everybody at the club I got to know over the years. That would definitely be the first place I’d go.” Are you still in contact with FC Bayern?
Demichelis: “Of course. I have regular contact with Claudio, Basti and Philipp. I had a long chat with Basti after the international against Germany last week. But I also keep in touch with players who are no longer at Bayern. Bixente Lizarazu for example or Roque Santa Cruz and Zé Roberto.” You’ve got to know players from a lot of countries. Where will you live when you hang up your boots? Argentina? England? Germany? Spain?
Demichelis: “That’s a question that comes up more often for me and within the family the older I get and the less time I have left as a player. There’s no doubt that Argentina is closest to our hearts as that’s where we come from. But we had many happy years in Munich and two very good years in Marbella where we keep going back to since we moved to England. Argentina and Marbella are the front runners at the moment but I don’t think you can answer that question seriously in this job until the time comes.” One question on the World Cup Final must be allowed: How painful is the defeat now?
Demichelis: “Obviously, that was a defeat that hurts and one you’d like to forget. We didn’t suffer such a heavy defeat against Germany as Brazil did where Germany dominated the game. We played an attacking game against the favourites and we created two or three clear goalscoring opportunities but we weren’t able to convert them unfortunately. The disappointment, annoyance and pain associated with the defeat are massive at first. On the other hand, we shouldn’t be ungrateful. You have to accept Germany deserved to win, we had a great tournament and we did our country proud. You mustn’t forget Argentina had never got past the quarter-finals in the past 24 years. So I think the people in our country really enjoyed it.” You had a very good World Cup. You were suddenly a first choice. And you are also an established central defender at Manchester City. Are you a better player at 33 than you were back then at Bayern? Where do you think you have improved?
Demichelis: “There’s no doubt having the experience of playing in different top European leagues has helped me enormously. The approach to the game is very different in Spain compared with the Bundesliga and it’s different again in England. I’d even say the Premier League possibly poses the toughest challenge for a defender. You’re always stretched to the limit physically and mentally. That’s one of the main reasons I made it into the World Cup squad. But my time at Malaga was important and it helped me to develop my game. Everybody thought I was there on holiday and just finishing off my career. And then we only got knocked out of the Champions League at the quarter-final stage by Dortmund. All those experiences and my age have definitely contributed to me improving overall.” You know the Allianz Arena from when it opened. How will you feel when you run onto the pitch on Wednesday?
Demichelis: “To be honest, every return to Munich is something special for me and it is wrapped up with all sorts of emotions. And even more this time when I play in the stadium I know so well and where I played so often. I think the Allianz Arena is one the best stadiums in the world. I’ll really enjoy playing against the club that means so much to me and who I owe so much to. It will definitely be a very emotional experience for me.” How do you rate Manchester City’s chances in the group alongside Bayern, AS Roma and  CSKA Moscow?
Demichelis: “Our group is much tougher than last season with the Italian runners-up Roma taking the place of Viktoria Plzen. I think the group is evenly balanced, very tough and even the smallest slip can cost you a place in the knockout rounds. That’s why we’re heading for Munich with the intention of picking up three points to get off to the best possible start in a difficult group stage. We want to get as least as far as we did last season, that is the Round of 16. The main aim is to top the group to avoid some of the big teams. That won’t be easy but we’ll try our best. You should always set yourself the highest possible targets.” How do you think the game will turn out on Wednesday?
Demichelis: “Meeting FC Bayern now is the best possible benchmark for us to see what level we’re at. As usual, Bayern are one of the favourites to win the Champions League and we’ll see on Wednesday where we need to improve our game. I’m expecting a close game between two teams with similar qualities. Both play a possession game, want to attack and don’t shut up shop at the back. I’m really looking forward to the game.”