In an exclusive interview with bundesliga.com, the 38-year-old looks ahead to Bayern's upcoming European clash with FC Porto and gives his thoughts on what it's like to play in the season run-in...
bundesliga.com: Hasan Salihamidzic, Bayern only had four players on the bench against Eintracht Frankfurt at the weekend. Did Pep Guardiola give you a call and try to convince you to play?
Hasan Salihamidzic:[Laughs] No, unfortunately I wouldn’t be able to help out anymore. I watched the game with my son at home. Bayern deserved to win; they were superior, just like they have been all season. The guys that played did very well. It’s not easy when there are so many injuries in the squad.
bundesliga.com: How much of a loss are the absences of players like and ?
Salihamidzic: Those two are the players that really make the difference. Bayern have compensated for their absences superbly in the Bundesliga but it’s important that both of them return in the Champions League.
bundesliga.com: To what extent can be a key player in the business end of the season after such a long injury break?
Salihamidzic: I know what it’s like to come back from a long injury. The first five games or so are good, but then comes a period when you’re tired and you don’t have the same kind of freshness. We’ll have to wait and see how Thiago deals with that. He’s got outstanding qualities. It’s not easy to hit your best form after a long injury break. In the past you generally needed the same amount of time [to recover form] as you needed to recover from the injury. Both for his sake and for Bayern’s, I hope he can get back to his best quickly, but he needs time.
'Bayern have learned from last year'bundesliga.com: The season is entering its decisive phase. When you were a player, what was your experience of this time of year?
Salihamidzic: They’re the best weeks of the year. Coming up we’ve got the Champions League quarter-final, the DFB Cup semi-final and the last few games in the Bundesliga of course. That’s when you want to be hitting your best form. They’re the best weeks of the season and the most important ones. As a player you really look forward to it.
bundesliga.com: After winning the Bundesliga at the earliest juncture ever last season, Bayern had trouble maintaining their level. What lessons do you think the team has learned from that?
Salihamidzic: One the one hand you want to sew up the championship as quickly as possible because then it’s a weight off your shoulders. On the other hand, it doesn’t help if you only have to give 90 or 95 per cent at the weekend and then have to play against Barcelona, Real Madrid or Porto in Europe. When you’re used to a rhythm it’s better if you need to maintain your focus every three days. Last year that wasn’t the case and they’ve learned from that. But it’s difficult, because once you’ve won the Bundesliga title then that’s always at the back of your mind. And then you don’t give 120 per cent when you go into tackles in order to protect yourself. Bayern will have to do that better this year.
bundesliga.com: Things were different when you won the Champions League with Bayern in 2001, as the Bundesliga title was only decided on the final day of the season in dramatic fashion. Was that advantageous?
Salihamidzic: It was ideal. That result put the wind in our sails and we rode a wave of adrenaline into the final in Milan. We managed to maintain the level of tension for four days. It might be different situation this year and Bayern have to find a way around that.
'Bayern clear favourites against Porto'bundesliga.com: You were involved the last time Bayern played Porto back in 2000. What can Pep Guardiola's men expect to face on Wednesday?
Salihamidzic: A lot of people see Porto as a so-called easier opponent but once you get to the quarter-finals there are no easy teams left. The small details are decisive and it’s always difficult to reach the next round. I preferred playing against the really big sides because you had nothing to lose. It’s tough in Portugal. The teams over there have great technique and they’re strong too. Nevertheless, Bayern are still the clear favourites.
bundesliga.com: Do you believe Bayern can win the Champions League, despite their current injury concerns?
Salihamidzic: If Robben and Ribery were in top form I’d say yes straight away. For me, Bayern are always the favourites to win the Champions League. The decisive thing is for players like Robben, Ribery and to be fit. You need them when you face Lionel Messi’s Barcelona or Cristiano Ronaldo’s Real Madrid.
Hasan Salihamidzic was speaking to Maximilian Lotz