presented by
Mid-season interview, part 2

Sammer: The hard work continues

After a highly successful but also intense and energy-sapping year, the players, coaching staff and management at FC Bayern are now on their mid-season holidays. The rapidly approaching New Year is a good time for sporting director Matthias Sammer to cast his eye back and review the last 12 months at the club. In the second part of a major interview, Sammer discusses last summer’s new arrivals Juan Bernat and Sebastian Rode, established superstars Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry, and his expectations for the rest of the season.

Interview with Matthias Sammer, part 2 Matthias Sammer, Juan Bernat is the undoubted surprise package of 2014/15 so far. He’s the only outfield player who appeared in every match. How would you assess his progress?
Matthias Sammer: We’d been watching Juan Bernat for a long time and we relatively quickly recognised his wonderful attributes and potential. He’s athletic, quick, supple, wiry and he’s very skilled. On top of that he’s down to earth and a family guy, so he’s a perfect fit here. He’s still only 21, but the speed with which he settled in, put himself forward and also made so much progress in terms of defending is truly remarkable. We’re delighted and very proud. We’ve hit the jackpot as a club, no question about it.

Sebastian Rode has also fitted in well, hasn’t he?
Rode is a team player, the kind great teams always need. Whenever he plays you have the feeling he’s on fire, for the team and of course for himself too. I’ve rarely known a case like this where you actually have to slow him down at times. He has a good, clean character, he’s absolutely integrated, respected and popular in the dressing room. And he’s a fans’ favourite, because he’s from the same mould as Jens Jeremies or Hasan Salihamidzic, players you could send out there and they’d be burning with desire and giving everything.

Arjen Robben was arguably the best player of the first half of the campaign. He seems to be getting better every month – is that a fair assessment?
Arjen is a perfect example of how an older player can still learn and develop, and refuse to be satisfied with what he’s already achieved. He invests 100 percent in every training session. In the past he often tried to pull tricks on his body, but that’s not on. He’s learned to stay more calm and relaxed and take a day for himself if necessary. He’s given the idea of keeping on learning throughout life, including for players who are around 30, a basically perfect boost. There’s one other thing I want to say about Arjen, and it also applies to Franck Ribéry...

Go ahead...
Both are often accused of not working hard enough for the team. That’s utter nonsense when you see how team-oriented both of them are. They’re both world-class players who’ve retained their individuality and inventiveness but are fully-integrated members of the team. And they’re both exemplary, in training and the way they look after their bodies. Top professionals! I can only advise every young player to watch them as they go about their daily work and learn from them.

In the circumstances it’s even more regrettable that Arjen hasn’t joined Manuel Neuer as one of the last three candidates for the Ballon d’Or.
In the first instance I’m overjoyed that Arjen was voted Sports Personality of the Year in the Netherlands. That’s really exceptional and it means he’s up there with the true greats. I know it means a lot to him. Regarding the Ballon d’Or, it’s a subjective thing and can’t be measured objectively. There’s a very large group of players who’ve won the World Cup, including our world champions, who could legitimately be candidates. It’s regrettable sometimes that you can only have one winner each year. But whether Arjen has the title or not: he’s one of the best players in the world! And I’ve got my fingers crossed for Manuel Neuer to be named World Player of the Year.

Bastian Schweinsteiger has resumed playing after a very long lay-off. Are you pleased about that, and how do you think he’ll do in the second half of the season?

Bastian is a phenomenon, in my opinion. He’s worked very hard to get back out on the pitch, and I’m really impressed. I also have the greatest respect and esteem for the way he’s put himself forward and played. He’s very robust, he exudes power and truly impressive desire. I hope the enforced breaks end up doing him good and, given his style of play, allow him not to lose any years of his career.

What will be the key factors in mid-season training?
First of all, I hope all the players use the holidays to relax. It’s essential because last year was so intense. But as of the first day of training, we’ll work hard and focus on the restart fixture away to Wolfsburg. It’s important we recover our rhythm as fast as possible, because we have the first Champions League match in mid-February. From the minute we resume training we have to consign everything we’ve achieved so far to the archive.

Could the Wolfsburg match effectively settle the title race?
That’s not mathematically possible, so it’s irrelevant. Even if we make a success of the match, it changes nothing about the need for top quality work every day.

Who are your main rivals for the league title?
We’re always our own main rivals. The challenge is to prove ourselves anew every day and continually impose our game in every competition. We need to summon up all our quality, because we know how good we can be. That’s our job.

How will you spend the holidays?
On vacation with my whole family – and I too need the break. I’m looking forward to nice conversations, good long walks, the comforts of home and family life. Spending such a relatively long and intense period with my family is a real highlight for me personally.