Munich - It has only been a matter of weeks since Xabi Alonso made his move to FC Bayern München from Real Madrid, but the Spanish midfielder already looks a club veteran.
Following the greats
He has featured in all nine games since his transfer, starting eight, and has already set a league record for the number of touches in a single match - 204 against 1. FC Köln. A serial trophy winner, lifting 13 trophies for club and country in the past nine seasons, Alonso is truly a perfect fit for the current Bayern side.
“It wasn't an easy decision to leave Real Madrid but I wanted a new challenge - and the chance to move to another country and another top club played a big part in my decision,” explained the 2010 World Cup winner to fcb.de in reference to his decision to end a five-year spell in the Spanish capital by signing for Bayern in the final days of the summer transfer window. “Playing for Liverpool, then Real, and now Bayern: that's a wonderful career path.”
And Alonso is in no doubt of the stature of his new club. “Five Champions League titles, the golden era in the seventies, the win at Wembley and the incredible treble-winning year," he continues. "If you love football, you know Bayern's history. Many of the greats in the history of the game have played here.”
The Spanish midfield maestro is also full of praise for the current set-up at the Rekordmeister. “It's a club and a team with a winning mentality; that makes things easier for me. I have a good relationship with Pep Guardiola - we speak a lot - and I can sense the trust my team-mates have in me. They know what I can bring to the table.”
He also has a clear idea of how he fits into the side. “Obviously I want to be an important player out on the pitch,” clarified the 118-time Spanish international, “but I think it's important that a group of German players take the lead in the dressing room. The new players have to listen up and take notice.” He seems to have been doing just that from Bayern's six FIFA World Cup winners Manuel Neuer, Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm, Mario Götze and Thomas Müller.
A good start obviously means nothing unless you are there or thereabouts at the end of the season, as the 32-year-old notes. “We're doing well but we want to keep improving and be top at the business end of the season. And in the Champions League we have an important game in Rome next - we want to qualify for the knock-out stages as quickly as possible”, hopefully with the aid of players currently returning from injury. “Franck Ribery coming back is huge, and hopefully Basti [Schweinsteiger] will be fit again soon as well. They're important players - we need them.”
Like his compatriots Thiago Alcantara and Guardiola before him, Alonso has also found Munich to be a very easy place to settle in away from football. “Munich is a beautiful, cosmopolitan city,” he believes. “My family and I feel very comfortable here. And I can't complain about the weather.” Is there anything he's struggling with since his move? “The only thing that's complicated is learning German! We'll need a bit more time to get to grips with it.”