Munich – It can safely be said that FC Bayern München Medhi Benatia has made his mark in Munich. During his first half season in the Bundesliga, the Moroccan defender has more than vindicated Pep Guardiola's decision to make him one of his biggest signings last summer, growing by the game for the record German champions.
"My main duty is to prevent goals and I've done that pretty well so far"
In an exclusive interview with bundesliga.com, the former Udinese Calcio and AS Roma centre-back gave his views on his first few months in the Bundesliga and the reasons for Bayern's superlative form.
bundesliga.com: Medhi Benatia, could it be said that you've now settled in with your new club?
Medhi Benatia: Absolutely. I was given a positive welcome from the very first day I arrived at the Säbener Straße and I'm thoroughly satisfied with these first five months. I got into my rhythm quickly and am feeling really good as part of this team.
Benatia: I was pleased of course because I know that I can help my team at set-pieces. I showed often enough for Roma that I can score goals, but my main duty is to prevent them and I've done that pretty well so far, although that's also because my understanding with Manuel Neuer and Jerome Boateng's worked very well.
"I always try to fulfil Guardiola's expectations"
Benatia: What counts for me the most is the faith the coaching team places in me, and I've had plenty of that. Of course I've had to sit on the bench quite a few times, but in such a great team the competition is so fierce that you've got to accept the coach's decisions. You mustn't forget also that I arrived from a different country, and in that respect I needed a bit of time to adapt. Now I feel I'm fully integrated, though, and if the coach picks me in his starting XI then he knows I'll always give it everything. I feel I've reached 100 per cent of my potential. Of course the style of play in the Bundesliga is far quicker than in Italy, but I'm completely satisfied.
bundesliga.com: Do you expect Manuel Neuer to pick up the Ballon d'Or on 12 January?
Benatia: He would certainly deserve it. Manuel is phenomenal. He works incredibly hard every day in training because he always wants more and more. He's a really down-to-earth guy too and he's got a good chance against Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi because he's had an amazing year. He may not be scoring 60 goals a year, but he's conceding very few and he's indispensable for that reason.
Interview by Alexis Menuge