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Star signing unveiled

Xabi Alonso: I want to prove myself

He met his new team-mates on Friday; he played his first match on Saturday; he donned Lederhosen for the first time on Sunday; and he was officially unveiled as a Bayern player on Monday. “It's all gone very quickly,” commented Xabi Alonso at his official media unveiling on Monday. “A very warm welcome,” said Matthias Sammer, “it's a special moment for us as we greet a great player and a great personality to the club. We want to win everything, and that's why we need him.”

“Personality" was the key word of the day. For those who may have missed Alonso’s remarkable debut at Schalke, the 32-year-old proved he is one of the great characters in world football today during his three quarters of an hour with the media on Monday. He answered all the questions put to him with great charm and poise, sometimes matter-of-factly and sometimes with a smile, sometimes in Spanish and sometimes in English. Not only that, but he managed a few words of German and even Bavarian (“Mia san mia!”/”Servus!”).

“It's an honour and a privilege to be here in Munich,” the Spaniard said, “it's a fantastic step for me both as a professional footballer and a person.” The midfielder described his debut in Gelsenkirchen as “surprising” because it happened so fast, and “decent” in terms of his performance. “My team-mates helped me a lot, although obviously we were hoping for a better result.”

‘Positive pressure’

Sammer is already a huge fan of the player. There can be no mistaking Alonso’s immense quality, said the board director for sport: “His approach and the way he plays football will help us immediately. He’s a personality with real character out on the field. His aura at the lunch table or in the dressing room, and the experience he’s accumulated is all very important for the team.” Obviously the key elements in football are physique, tactics and technique, “but the thing I love most of all in football is character.”

In those terms Alonso is a perfect fit to FC Bayern. “I'm aware you’re expected to win every game at Bayern. I know this from Real Madrid. It's a good type of pressure.” The midfielder has won the World Cup, and the Euro and Champions League twice each, but he is still hungry. “I want to prove something to myself and play at my very highest level,” he stated.

Three factors persuaded him to leave Madrid for Munich: Bayern’s trophy ambitions, the Bundesliga (“it's getting stronger all the time”) and Pep Guardiola (“a magnificent coach”). Alonso is also curious about life in Germany and Munich in particular. “I've been to Munich before, and as a tourist too. It's a fantastic city. I'm looking forward to getting to know the city and the culture.”

‘We have to adapt’

The cultural dimension to a new life in another foreign country for him and his family and even questions about life in general (Sammer: “Everything in life is a development process”) were among the topics discussed at the unveiling of Señor Alonso, as of course was the language. The 32-year-old intends to learn German “as well as I can. German is the main language at FC Bayern. We Spaniards have to adapt to that. It's important.”

Naturally, Alonso’s first priority in Munich is to play football. The two-week international break comes at just the right time for him. “I'm pleased we now have 14 days to get accustomed to each other and continue to settle into the rhythm of the season,” reflected Sammer, “the last few days have been very hectic for him.”