Now a club ambassador for Bayern Munich, Claudio Pizarro was also a hero for Werder Bremen. The Peruvian striker scored 125 goals for the former and 153 for the latter before hanging up his boots at the end of last season. Who will he be supporting on Saturday?
Bayern open Matchday 8 at home to Bremen, and there are few in the world for whom this fixture had more meaning. Pizarro enjoyed four spells with die Grün-Weißen and is their record scorer; but he also went on to win 16 major honours with the record German champions.
bundesliga.com sat down with the 42-year-old Bayern club ambassador - who only hung his boots up in the summer - to get his thoughts on the game and what lies in store for both clubs going forward…
bundesliga.com: Claudio Pizarro, you began your Bundesliga career with Bremen before winning six league titles with Bayern. Who will you be supporting on Saturday?
Claudio Pizarro: “It’s a very special game, obviously. I played for both teams, I have lots of friends and lots of good memories. Obviously I’m at Bayern at the moment, so I hope they play well and win the game. But like I’ve said lots of times, I have a lot of love for Werder, and whenever they’re playing any other side I hope they do well.”
Watch: Pizarro helped make sure his final Bundesliga moments weren't also Bremen's at the end of last season
bundesliga.com: You arrived at Bremen from Peru in 1999 and played your last game for them 21 years later…
Pizarro: “I’ve said it a lot: it’s like my second home. I’ll always be so grateful for the opportunity they gave me to come to Europe, it was the club where I played for the first time in Europe, and obviously a club I’ve returned to a lot, for the love that the people gave me. I’ve always felt very comfortable and I’ve always had an amazing relationship with the club and with the fans.”
bundesliga.com: What made you choose Bremen when you first decided to swap South America for Europe?
Pizarro: “It’s a tough question to answer! It was a really big decision, really. I think my father and I were looking at everything with my representatives, because I had another option to go to Betis in Seville, and that would have been the comfortable choice, you know? The language, a country that was definitely a bit more known than Germany among us South Americans because of the language. But I ended up choosing Bremen because my parents, my representatives were there, they saw how Werder worked, it was very disciplined, they came to welcome me very quickly, and at the end of that day that was what we opted for.”
bundesliga.com: Josh Sargent is the man leading the line for Werder today. You played with him over the last couple of seasons. How do you rate his progress?
Pizarro: “Great, I got to know him well. I think he’s a very talented boy. Very intelligent, very capable of analysing situations and seeing moments in games to take advantage of them. I think with time he’s going to learn much more, of course. But I hope he scores lots of goals for Werder and I hope he has a good season.”
Watch: The best of Sargent's eight Bremen goals to date?
bundesliga.com: You also had two spells as a striker for Bayern before becoming a club ambassador. What are your best memories from your time as a player there?
Pizarro: “I think the nicest time and the most successful was 2013, when we won the treble: the DFB Cup, the Bundesliga and the Champions League. It was very special, it’s a year I’ll never forget.”
bundesliga.com: There were many champions in that squad. Who was your favourite player to play with?
Pizarro: “I’ve said it lots of times: for me, one of the best players I ever played with was Ze Roberto, a Brazilian who I played with for many years at Bayern. He was one of the most important players for me, because he was always giving me the ball to score! He was always one of those players who surprised me a lot.”
bundesliga.com: Bayern won their second continental treble last season. Which players from this current group impressed you most?
Pizarro: “I think definitely the players that they had from the championship in 2013; the treble in 2013. With the experience they have, and the years they’ve spent at the club, they would have been a great support for the new players, and the younger players. They were Thomas Müller, Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng, David Alaba and Javi Martinez. For me, those were the most important players for Bayern to be able to win the treble again.”
bundesliga.com: Does anyone stand out to you from among the younger players?
Pizarro: “I played… well, I never played with [Joshua Kimmich], I’ve played against him, but I’ve had the chance to speak to him a few times, and you realise how much of a professional he is. He’s a very professional player. And when you’re like that, you’re always learning, trying to pick up new things, watching other players, analysing situations, always looking forward and always trying to improve. I think that’s what made him such an important player in the club, and obviously in the national team too, he’s taking a more important role, and he’s becoming an increasingly important player at Bayern.”
bundesliga.com: Were you confident Hansi Flick would be able to recreate the success you enjoyed under Jupp Heynckes at Bayern?
Pizarro: “To tell you the truth, no. I didn’t expect it. It was a very nice surprise, and perhaps I was mistaken not to have expected this to happen, because usually when there’s a big change you need time to adapt, you speak a lot about the past coaches, he came in without being as well-known as other potential candidates, or at least without the name that others had. And there were lots of replacements needed in the squad, there were lots of players leaving like [Franck] Ribery, [Arjen] Robben. So it was on the younger players, and you would expect them to need some time to adapt to the changes. But at the end of the day it all happened really quickly, and the work of Hansi, the way he got the group together, the way they adapted to the difficult situations in the league, the Bundesliga, the cup, I have to say it surprised me a lot, and I’m very happy about it. I think for everyone who belongs to the Bayern family, it was very special.”