Created on 18-09-2014 at 13:17 PM
Medhi Benatia celebrated two debuts against Manchester City on Wednesday night: he was suddenly in the starting eleven without ever having pulled on an FCB shirt before – and without having ever played so much as a second in the Champions League. The central defender was on the pitch for 85 minutes and earned a big thumbs up from coach Pep Guardiola after the match: “Great respect for his performance! It’s not easy when your first game in the Champions League is against Dzeko, Agüero and Manchester City.”
Benatia is “good in the air, quick, and he can read the game,” said the FCB head coach in describing the qualities of the Morocco international who joined Bayern from AS Roma three weeks ago. “He did really well,” said Philipp Lahm commenting on the first appearance by the 27-year-old. “He’s a very, very good central defender, he’s aggressive and he shows a certain tempo and calmness on the ball.”
And what does Benatia have to say? He was quiet as a mouse when he left the Allianz Arena on Wednesday night, but was happy to speak to fcbayern.de the morning after. How was his debut? How nervous was he? And how has he settled in at FCB? Benatia has all the answers.
Interview: Medhi Benatia
fcbayern.de: Medhi, your first game for Bayern, your first game in the Champions League - were you able to get to sleep last night?
Medhi Benatia: I never sleep well the night after a game. Too much excitement, too much adrenalin... I’ll go and have a lie down after training.
When did you find out you were in the starting eleven?
The coach asked me if was ready to play on the morning of the game. Of course! Every player wants to play in games like that. He told me he knew I wasn’t 100 percent match fit. I said that to him as well and that I’d give my all for the team. He showed he has a lot of confidence in me. I’m very grateful for that.
How nervous were you before kick off?
Nervous? I was more focused really. It was a very important game for me. My first game for Bayern - and straight in at the Champions League level! Bayern and Manchester City are both aiming to win the competition. I did my best to understand what the coach wants, follow his advice and help the team.
How happy were you with your first game?
I tried to remain focused even though my legs were feeling tired. It was important for me not to concede - and we did that. And, at the end of the day, we clocked up a great win. It’s all positive. This game’s given me bags of confidence. But I can play much better.
How fit are you if it’s not 100 percent?
I’m definitely 100 percent fit in my head and my heart. But that was my first proper game of the season. In the Champions League! Against Manchester City! I hadn’t played for a month and a half and then it was only in friendlies. I need to get back into the routine and find my rhythm. Then I’m convinced I’ll be able to get better bit by bit.
What was the Champions League experience like for you?
Every player dreams of being in the Champions League. It’s the biggest club competition of all. It’s even more special being there with Bayern, as Bayern are one of the biggest clubs in the world. I’m very proud of being in this team.
What did your team-mates say to you after the game?
Everybody congratulated me. The coach, the staff, my team-mates. Their words gave me a real boost. It’s never easy when you start at a new club. On top of that there was speaking a new language and muscle problems. But I can feel the confidence the club has in me and I know I can help the team move forward.
Do you feel at home at FC Bayern now?
Obviously, I feel even better after my first game. But I already feel at home. Since the day I arrived, everybody at the club has done all they can to make me feel welcome and part of the group.
Have you and your family found somewhere to live in Munich?
My family’s here. My father was at the game last night. My wife is sorting out moving house. That meant I could fully focus on Bayern. I wanted to work as hard as I can every day. I stayed on my own in the hotel longer because of the game against Manchester City. I just wanted to concentrate on the match and nothing else. I’ll finally move into my new house today and spend the first night there. Three weeks in a hotel is more than enough. I’m gradually get used to my new life step-by-step.
Which players have particularly helped you in these early weeks at the club?
Franck Ribéry of course. He speaks French and German and he can translate for me. But a lot of other people have helped me out when I’ve got a question: Claudio Pizarro, Rafinha, Dante... There’s a great set of lads in the team. It’s great fun being here.