After joining from AS Roma in August 2014, FC Bayern München centre-back Medhi Benatia has been plagued by injuries that have restricted him to just 18 Bundesliga appearances to date.
Now, however, the 28-year-old Morocco international is fit again and fighting for a place in the Bavarians' starting line-up. In an exclusive interview with bundesliga.com, he speaks about his progress, how the team's newcomers are settling in and why Bayern are even more formidable than in 2014/15.
'We're never satisfied'
bundesliga.com: Medhi Benatia, after you scored against Hamburger SV on Matchday 1 you said that Bayern were stronger than last season. With a third of the campaign now gone, do you stand by that statement?
Medhi Benatia: Absolutely. We have more options than we did a couple of months ago, especially in one-on-one situations. When Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben were absent last season it wasn’t easy for us to get past opponents. But with Kingsley Coman and Douglas Costa (pictured) we now have more options and are even more unpredictable.
bundesliga.com: What would you say is Bayern's biggest strength?
Benatia: We stay focused right until the final whistle. That means that even if we have a big lead we still try to score more. We're never satisfied. For example, in the Champions League against Arsenal recently we kept relentlessly pushing forward until the 90th minute even though it was clear the game had been over as a contest for a while. That match sent out a statement to the rest of Europe that Bayern mean business in the competition. I only hope we don't have any injuries in the decisive spell in March and April, and that Franck [Ribery] and Mario [Götze] come back soon so that we have a good chance of going as far as possible. We can win the European crown if we keep playing at the level we're at. It'll be very difficult to beat us.
bundesliga.com: Would you say things are going perfectly for the team at the moment?
Benatia: I don't think perfection exists in football. There are always certain things you can improve. We're working hard on that and are on the right track.
'I’m gradually finding my rhythm'
bundesliga.com: And how are things going for you personally?
Benatia: The season started off ideally with my goal against Hamburg, but then I suffered a thigh injury. I was out of action for nine weeks overall and came on as a substitute against Arsenal and Stuttgart. I'm gradually finding my rhythm again though.
bundesliga.com: How would you assess Coman's first few weeks at Bayern?
Benatia: He's doing fantastically well despite his young age . He's very good on the ball and is an excellent addition for us. He's capable of deciding a game at any moment because he's quick and is an outstanding dribbler. He didn't really hesitate about coming to Munich – he's so carefree. The coach has put his faith in him and you have to say that Kingsley has repaid that trust.
bundesliga.com: You both come from the outskirts of Paris. Do you give him any tips as an older brother figure?
Benatia: He doesn't need any tips because he already knows what's what, despite his young age. He's very composed and plays close attention, he's very attentive. For that reason I'm convinced he’ll stay in Munich for a very long time..
bundesliga.com: And how is Ribery doing?
Benatia: He's improving and is on the right track. He can't wait to be involved again. He's still a very important player for us. I think the worst is behind him now.
Medhi Benatia was talking to Alexis Menuge.