Despite parting ways with Cologne, Bundesliga legend Claudio Pizarro still intends to play one more season at the top before hanging up his boots, and even has a FIFA World Cup campaign in sight.
“I’ve kept myself in good shape physically,” he told bundesliga.com in an exclusive interview recently. “Maybe I’ll keep playing, but I’ll decide on that after the season.” When asked about his chances of featuring at a maiden World Cup with Peru, the striker replied, “I’m doing what the coach asked of me. If you’re fit, then you always have a chance. Now I’m just waiting for the decision.”
Even after just one season in Cologne, Pizarro Given was given what he described as “a really special farewell” by the club ahead of their final home game against Bayern Munich, where he was warmly applauded by both sets of fans who hold the Peruvian in such high regard. Perhaps only in Bremen, where he scored most of his 272 Bundesliga goals, is he held in greater esteem.
It was at Alianza that Pizarro caught Bremen's eye; despite an offer from Real Betis in Spain, Bremen "came to watch and left a good impression," and so it was to northern Germany where the striker headed in 1999.
There was an early Bundesliga connection that played a part in the decision, too: Pizarro had enjoyed the German top flight on television as a child. "Even though it was on at seven in the morning on Sundays, my dad and I always used to watch it."
The Bundesliga is a league and Bremen is a club that now hold special places in Pizarro's heart. Of his record 192 Bundesliga goals, 104 came over the course of three spells (1999-2001; 2008-2012; 2015-2017) at the Weser-Stadion, although the Peruvian concedes that adapting to the rigours of the professional game in Germany was no easy task at first.
"The language didn't put me off," he said. "I came to play football and so that was my language. But the weather! I'd be out there on the pitch and it would be snowing or hailing. Sometimes I had to ask myself what I was doing there."
Adapt to Germany he did, though, to the extent that suggesting Pizarro is now half-European is well received by the striker. "I've become very organised," he says with a smile. "I'm always on time, and this is sometimes a problem with Peruvian friends. 'Tell me what time to be there and I'll be there,' I often say, because in Latin America we usually say eight when really we mean nine!"
Watch: Pizarro scores of one the Bundesliga's best goals of all time
Indeed, Pizarro adapted to life in Germany so well that he earned a move to record champions Bayern in 2001, where he played until 2007, before returning for a second stint between 2012 and 2015.
Pizarro's two spells in Bavaria were laden with success: he won six Bundesliga titles, five DFB Cups and the UEFA Champions League (among other honours).
"Bayern always win because they have such a good squad," said Pizarro. "They could play in three different leagues at the same time. Being a player in Munich brings a lot of pressure as a result, but I always coped well with that."
It was in his second spell at Bayern that Pizarro crossed paths with Pep Guardiola, the coach who left the biggest impression and who led Germany's record champions to three successive Bundesliga titles between 2013/14 and 2015/16.
Pizarro confesses that Guardiola told him that "one day the coaching bug is going to bite you," although at the moment the Peruvian has no plans to go into coaching once his playing days are up.
"Football has taken a lot out of me, and that would only get worse if I were to become a coach," said Pizarro, before admitting that if he did take up a place in the dugout one day, he "would be a maniac like Guardiola."
Watch: Pizarro's top 5 Bayern goals
Pizarro certainly speaks of and analyses football with the considered view of a coach and given that – bar one spell at Chelsea in 2007/08 and his professional beginnings in Peru – he has spent his entire career in the Bundesliga, it is little wonder that the 39-year-old has well-thought-out views on the league and his own record in Germany.
“You have to be in perfect physical condition to play in the Bundesliga because you're made to work very, very hard. But I’m really happy with what I’ve achieved here so far. I can’t complain. I’m really proud of what I’ve been able to do in the Bundesliga.”
For a man who prides himself on his physical condition, one further year of hard work should prove little problem for the legendary Peruvian. Indeed, wherever we see Pizarro next, it is safe to say that – 192 goals later – he and the Bundesliga will forever be synonymous.