'We still have many steps to take'
At Friday's press talk at the Doha training camp Xabi Alonso said he did not want to speak German. "After the holidays I still need a bit more time to improve my German. I make many mistakes. Perhaps a little later," the 34-year-old Spaniard said, asking the journalists for patience -- in near-perfect German. He then answered reporters' questions in fluent English. Five years at Liverpool in the Premier League are to thank for that.
FCB skipper Philipp Lahm feels Alonso's presence is "impressive," both on and off the pitch. "He's seen a lot and gained lots of experience. He's a model pro when it comes to the question of how to behave in different countries," said Lahm, revealing that Alonso "always speaks German" with his team-mates. "It's impressive how quickly he's learned the language."
Xabi: I'm happy in Munich
Lahm is not the only man who appreciates the Basque's relaxed and accommodating manners. The people in charge at FC Bayern recognise Alonso's qualities and extended the Spanish world and European champion's contract through 2017 shortly before Christmas. "It's a pleasure to stay, and I'm happy I'll be playing here for at least one more year," declared Alonso, who feels "very much at home" in Munich.
The midfielder aims to expand his impressive collection of silverware too. "I have the feeling we have good chances in the race for all three titles," stressed Alonso, but qualified his statement: "Provided all the players are available and in the right condition." In the second half of the previous campaign FCB had "many problems, week by week," according to the seasoned fighter. "Hopefully we'll be more lucky than last year this time."
Helpful winter break
But first "it's time to build up the revs and work," explained Alonso. "We have ambitious goals and we want to achieve them." The eldest player in the FCB squad said the winter break was "very helpful and important." Alonso is in a good position to make that assessment: his previous spells in Spain and England did not include winter breaks. "You can relax, clear your head and lay back. Then you have time to prepare, as we're doing here. An intense second half of the season lies ahead of us. I think it's an advantage compared to other leagues."
And compared to Juventus for example, Bayern's next Champions League opponents. "We're in for two very intense encounters, we have lots of respect," said Alonso. Last year's finalists have won all of their last eight league fixtures. "If we don't play at the highest level we'll have problems," continued the Spaniard, who won Europe's elite club competition with Liverpool in 2005 and Real Madrid in 2014.
"Of course it's the greatest goal at this point in my career. We all want this title," commented Xabi, who could draw level with the competition's record winner, Clarence Seedorf on three titles. "It's a big challenge for me to be part of such a respected circle of players." But that is all a long time in the future, according to Alonso: "We still have many steps to take on the way." If he achieves this goal with FC Bayern, chances are that Alonso will speak German at the ensuing press conference.