It is approaching six years since he left Bavaria's foremost capital club, but Mark van Bommel is still a revered figure at FC Bayern München.
The Dutchman, who was the first non-German to be named club captain, played almost 200 times for the Reds, winning two domestic doubles and reaching the UEFA Champions League final in 2010. After retiring in 2013, he now works as the youth coordinator at PSV Eindhoven and is the assistant to former Borussia Dortmund and Hamburger SV coach Bert van Marwijk at Saudi Arabia.
In part one of an exclusive interview with bundesliga.com, van Bommel analyses the development of his former side, reveals whom he sees as his heir in the record titleholders’ midfield and why he believes the current squad is stronger than that under former coach Pep Guardiola.
bundesliga.com: Mark van Bommel, you left FC Bayern in January 2011. How do you assess the development of the club since then?
Mark van Bommel: Bayern are always among the most successful clubs, both domestically and in Europe, and it's been that way since the 1970s. Since 2012 they've established a real consistency, though. There were always good years and bad years in the Champions League, but in the last five years, they've reached the semi-finals every year. They're a stable team as most of the squad has remained the same, but the most important thing is that the players have remained hungry.
bundesliga.com: What do you think Bayern’s biggest strength is?
Van Bommel: They have superb characters in the team that all fit together perfectly. Their big success is not only signing world-class players but also good characters that complement each other in order to achieve the highest targets. Bayern are a great example of a club that works well in that regard.
Van Bommel: I hear that every year. In my opinion, the best squad is the one that wins the most trophies. In 2012/13, Bayern won the treble of the league, DFB Cup and Champions League. In 2009/10, we almost won the treble…
bundesliga.com: Would you like to play in the current Bayern team?
Van Bommel: I'd obviously like to play in this team, also because I know how the club works and the processes that go on. Playing for a club like that is always fun. Bayern are a top club. There aren't many clubs in Europe where you can really enjoy playing like that, and Bayern are definitely one of them.
bundesliga.com: Is Carlo Ancelotti the perfect coach for Bayern München?
Van Bommel: It's hard to say if he's 'the perfect coach', but I only hear positive things about him, from everyone I meet. Whether it's from his time at AC Milan or now at Bayern, people can only speak positively about him. He seems to be able to keep his entire squad happy, which is certainly not easy. That's the biggest compliment you can pay a coach. He has an open and style of management and he seems an honest guy. He reminds me of Ottmar Hitzfeld and Jupp Heynckes.
bundesliga.com: Is this Bayern team stronger than under Pep Guardiola?
Van Bommel: I definitely think the quality of the squad has improved, but there's no guarantee that they'll achieve their ambitions. For that to happen, you need everything to come together.
Interview by Alexis Menuge