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Farewell interview

Pizarro: I'm still a rascal

Claudio Pizarro has earned a number of nicknames in his long career. Uli Hoeneß called him a Schlawiner, something between a smooth operator and a cheeky rascal. Mehmet Scholl felt he was “the best player” he had ever encountered. And to Bayern fans he is simply “Pizza”. After a total of nine years at FCB, the Peruvian will officially say farewell in front of 75,000 fans at the Allianz Arena prior to Saturday’s Bundesliga meeting with Bayer Leverkusen.

fcbayern.de talked to the striker at the Säbener Strasse training ground where he reviewed his time in the famous red shirt, discussed the typically German virtues he has made his own, and revealed his plans for the future.

Interview: Claudio Pizarro

fcbayern.de: Hello, Claudio! Welcome back to the Säbener Strasse. It’s your first visit in three months – how does it feel?
Claudio Pizarro:
It’s very different when you’re not here to train but just to greet your former team-mates. However, I knew it would happen at some point so I’m prepared. I’m looking forward to seeing my friends again and wishing them all the best.

What are you doing with yourself at the moment?
I’m keeping fit with running in the forest. I want to keep playing, but the right offer hasn’t come through yet. Otherwise I’m enjoying the time with my family. I’m starting to miss having the ball at my feet though. I miss being out on the pitch and training. I hope we’ll soon have a decision about what I do next.

On Saturday evening you return to the Allianz Arena, where 75,000 fans will officially bid you farewell. What does that mean to you?
A great deal. I've played for FC Bayern for a long time, so saying goodbye is very special to me. Besides I haven't yet had the chance to say goodbye to everyone. I'm really looking forward to it.

Mehmet Scholl once said that you were the best player he ever played with. Are you proud of that?
Of course! Mehmet was a very good player, one of the best to have played for Bayern. If such a great footballer says this about you you're delighted. On the other hand Mehmet was important to me too, he often tried to pass the ball to me. That's why I managed to score so many goals.

Which was the best Bayern team you played in?
That's hard to say. Every team was strong. In terms of titles the 2013 treble team can't be matched of course. With the Champions League victory in London a dream came true for me, it was my best experience too. But FC Bayern had strong teams before then too, for instance in 2006, when we won the double for the second time in a row.

Your personal records are no less impressive. With 176 goals you're ranked ninth in the all-time Bundesliga scoring chart, in front of legends such as Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Uwe Seeler and Dieter Hoeneß. How important is that to you?
It's an honour to be ranked among the top ten goal scorers in Bundesliga history! If I continue to play in Germany I'll try to move up in the rankings of course. Fifth place is within reach, after all (Ulf Kirsten, 182 goals, fcbayern.de).

At the same time you’re the best non-German Bundesliga scorer of all time. Did you think you would play in Germany for so long?
Not at all! (laughs) But at some point you begin to look at stats such as the all-time scorer ranking. People approached me and said, “You could be the best foreign striker in league history!” Eventually I topped Giovane Elber, the former record-holder. He was even pleased for me.

You were only 20 when you arrived in Germany with Werder Bremen back in 1999. How difficult were your first months here?
At first I didn't focus so much on the culture and the language. Football was the most important thing to me. It's the reason I came here after all! But after four months I began to become more familiar with the language and the culture. That was very important.

Were you homesick?
Every now and then. That time wasn't easy. I’d never seen snow before. Suddenly I had to play football in snow! Ailton, who I played with for Bremen at the time, has helped me a lot. His Spanish is very good. We're still in touch.

In what ways have you changed in the years in Germany?
Most notably, my German is better (laughs). And I’ve gained a lot of experience. You learn many things in football, partly because of the different culture. I've learnt a great deal from the Germans and football.

Your wife Karla once said that you are 'more German than the Germans' nowadays. What exactly does she mean by that?
Certain things which I dismissed at the beginning are important to me now: punctuality and orderliness for instance. I was a rascal, as Uli Hoeneß used to say. I still am. But more experienced now. (grins)

Felix Magath once said about you, full of respect: ‘Claudio could be an absolutely world-class player if he really wanted to.’ Do you have any regrets about your career?
Of course I've made mistakes. But there's nothing I regret, otherwise I wouldn’t have learned so many things. I've always tried to be as good as possible. By the way, I always got along very well with Felix Magath. He kept me in good shape, I was always fit under him. That was very important to me.

You’ve been the top scorer in the DFB Cup and the Europa League and scored four Goals of the Month, but you never finished as the league’s top scorer. Do you regret that?
No, I really don’t. It never interested me. Winning trophies with the team was always what mattered to me.

You’ve also never been to a World Cup with Peru.
The World Cup is still in my thoughts. Obviously it won’t be easy to realise this dream, but after the Copa América, the coach told me I’m still needed. I can’t say whether I’ll still have enough left for a World Cup. I have to take one step at a time and find a club as the first thing. We’ll see what happens after that.

You’ve often said you’d like to stay in Munich with your family after you finish playing. What do you like most about the city?
Everything! We feel very much at home here and know lots of people. Obviously that also applies to my three kids, and that’s very important to me. They were born in Germany, they know the culture and have their friends here. It’s one of the most important factors. I don’t want them to forget their Spanish though, which is why we only speak Spanish at home.

What will you do after you finish playing?
Maybe I could do something with FC Bayern. Let’s wait and see. I’d like to keep playing for a bit first, and then the club and I might see what we can do.

Like Thomas Müller, you love horses. One of your horses is named ‘Oktoberfest’...
Most of my horses in Peru are named after well known people or things. I own a couple of horses in Germany together with Thomas and Tim Borowski. One of them’s called “El Tren” (“The Train,” the nickname of former Bayern striker Adolfo Valencia).

We’ve talked about being a smooth operator or rascal. Is Claudio Pizarro grown up now?
Of course! But I reckon part of me will remain forever a child. It keeps me young (laughs).

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