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Exclusive interview

Alonso: My job is to keep the play moving

Xabi Alonso’s 2015 began with two firsts: the player’s first-ever mid-season break, and his first winter training camp with FC Bayern. At the end of the stay in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the 33-year-old spoke to about the last nine days, but also about settling at a new club, his role in the team and how he is getting on with learning German.

Interview: Xabi Alonso Xabi, how was the first winter break of your career?
Xabi Alonso: It’s a new experience for me and I like it. You get to freshen up physically and mentally, and now we’re back on the pitch preparing for the second, decisive half of the season. It’s gone really well so far. We’ve really trained very well.

Legs are always heavy after a training camp. Wouldn’t you rather have the legs of a younger player right now?
No. Age isn’t the important thing. What matters is how you feel, and I feel very good indeed. Just like every member of the team I’m working hard towards peak form and trying to help the team. I want to be ready for the big matches that are hopefully coming up in the rest of the season. We have big targets.

That was your first training camp with Bayern. Were there significant differences compared to your experience in Madrid or Liverpool?
It’s more or less the same wherever you go. The differences are quite small: the structure of the week, the working methods, especially with Pep Guardiola. He has his own methods and I’m learning a lot from him.

You’ve been in Munich six months, but was it still a good week to be getting to know your team-mates even better?
Obviously we spent a lot of time together in Qatar, although I already felt well settled before then. I get on well with everyone. Everything at Bayern is totally professional, but also very relaxed.

The impression right from the start was that settling in really wasn’t a problem for you.
Yes, it’s never been a problem. When I went to Liverpool ten years ago, I didn’t need much time to get to grips with things and understand how it all worked. It’s been the same with Bayern. One of the reasons I came was to gain new experience and get to know the Bundesliga and a special club like Bayern. And I can already say it’s been a great career move.

Could it be that you get along especially well with Bastian Schweinsteiger?
Bastian is a great lad, very friendly and open. We’ve played against each other a few times and there’s great mutual respect and admiration. He’s been at Bayern so long, he’s a key player, and he’s achieved so much. He’s a very good representation of what Bayern is about.

Passing is one of your main attributes. Has that always been the case?
It’s always been my job. If you’re at the heart of the game, you can’t have the ball at your feet for long. Instead, the ball should be coming and going to and from your feet as often as possible, and ideally very quickly too. That’s what I’m trying to do. I’m the one who switches the ball, from one side to the other and from defence to attack. My job is to keep the play moving and ticking over. It fits to my character too.

Does your character show out on the field?
Every player has his own character. I can’t play any other way. I’m not a striker, a winger or a central defender... The biggest challenge facing the coach is to place the right cogs, the different parts of the machine, in the right place. That’s what brings success.

Are you having much success with learning German?
I had Hausaufgaben (homework, spoken in German) for the holidays, but I’ll really pick it up again once we’re back in Munich. I’m making progress but German is kompliziert. Ich brauche noch ein bisschen Zeit (complicated. I need a little more time). Learning German is my big off-field challenge.

Which of your team-mates is the best German teacher?
Thomas Müller.

Thomas? You’re more likely to learn Bavarian than German from him.
One step at a time. First German, then Bavarian.