So this is it. After 18 years, more than 800 matches, 13 major trophies and a billion effortlessly tidy passes, it’s time for Xabi Alonso to hit the road.
“It was a decision I thought long and hard about for a while,” Alonso tells FFT from the Bayern Munich training ground he’s called home for the past three years. “I’d reached the point where it felt right. “You never know how you will feel after that last game, as football becomes your life. But I just feel happy with everything I’ve experienced, with all of the clubs I’ve played for, with every game I’ve played. Of course, there is a part of me that feels sad it’s all over, but everything must end one day and I’d rather fi nish at the top.”
He has certainly done that. In the days before FFT’s visit, Die Roten clinched their fourth Bundesliga title in as many years. The Spaniard was a key figure in the most recent three wins, which came hot on the heels of helping Real Madrid finally win ‘La Decima’ and, prior to that, scoring the crucial third goal in Liverpool’s famous comeback in Istanbul. And then there’s an international career that brought him one World Cup and two European Championship medals.
Perhaps his biggest achievement, however, is less tangible – near universal respect and popularity. His easy-on-the-eye playing style, combined with a humble, gentlemanly disposition have helped to make the 35-year-old a contemporary cult hero.
He’s hung up his boots for the final time alongside another icon and World Cup winner: Bayern team-mate Philipp Lahm. “It is an honour to finish by his side,” the Spaniard proudly says. “It was just meant to be – it’s like we’re the last rock stars.”
Now, if only there was something really cool he could do next…
FC Bayern München celebrate their Bundesliga title after winning 3:0 against FC Augsburg on May 11, 2013. Bayern were confirmed German league champions back on April 6, when they won the Bundesliga with a -then- record six games left to play.
Mats Hummels has said that he is not tempted to move to Manchester United or any other club, adding that what he has at Borussia Dortmund “is truly unique”. The defender, who joined the Bundesliga club on loan from Bayern Munich in 2008 and then permanently the following year, added that if he moves abroad at one stage of his career, it will not be because of money.
Speaking to Bundesliga Magazin International, out this week, he was asked whether he was tempted by interest from Manchester United, Real Madrid or Barcelona. “It’s nice to hear that big clubs like that are interested in you,” he said. “I take that as a compliment. But it doesn’t influence me in any way, otherwise. We earn enough here in Dortmund.
“There will always be someone who can pay more than BVB. But Dortmund have made a lot of progress during my time here. In any case: I believe that it’s enough for me. If one day I start thinking about playing abroad, money won’t be the reason. But I don’t even think about that at the moment. We still have so much further to go here.”
Hummels, who won the World Cup with Germany in Brazil last summer, was linked with a move to Manchester United in the summer, but makes it clear that he sees himself staying at Dortmund for the rest of his career, citing the examples of Paolo Maldini and Steven Gerrard as players who have had successful careers at one club.
“There are some [who stay at one club for their whole careers], and they are all really great players. Paolo Maldini of Milan, for example, or Steven Gerrard. I would have been so happy for him if he had won the championship with Liverpool. [Lionel] Messi always plays for Barcelona. Bastian Schweinsteiger and Thomas Müller, too, will perhaps play in Munich for ever.”
The 25-year-old added that any player from the team that won the Bundesliga title in 2012 could have joined clubs who pay more but the fact that most of them stayed has ensured that they have created a special atmosphere at the club.
“People often speak about the Dortmund ‘project’ in that context but I don’t really like that word,” Hummels said. “It’s too unemotional and sounds so technical. I’ve been here for six and a half years and it’s simply more exciting and more difficult to win trophies as an underdog.
“Everybody can win things with 25 superstars in the squad. At BVB, every single player has more responsibility but also more opportunity. It’s difficult to win trophies with Dortmund, but it’s always possible. And when it happens, the feeling is simply indescribable.
“When we won the championship for a second time in 2012, each one of us could have gone wherever we wanted. But I thought: ‘No, what we have here is something truly unique.’ I’m happy that I felt this way. You don’t often find a team where people are really friends with each other. If you’ve got the chance to play at such a high level with your mates you have to hold on to that for as long as possible.”
“It was one of the rare love affairs where a club truly loved a coach, and the coach truly loved the club.”
Talking about Borussia Dortmund, you could always tell how much Jürgen Klopp truly loved the club.
In 2008, Klopp came to Dortmund and loosened the tight grasp on the German game that Bayern Munich had. He took Dortmund to earning back-to-back Bundesliga titles (2011 and 2012), and the UEFAS Champions League final the following year.
Borussia Dortmund didn’t have the Bavarians budget or wallet, rather a knack for revealing hidden talent instead, but he found success by playing some of the most arrestingly beautiful football ever seen. After these accomplishments things died down slightly, but unlike a typical coach, Klopp decided he’d stick around.
Now its 2015, and Dortmund sits low in the Bundesliga table, and has been in the relegation zone twice over the season. But he is happy at the club still. When they were sitting at the relegation zone, Klopp said he wouldn’t give up, wouldn’t stop trying and did just that - at times, he’d blame himself for the bad performances.
While Klopp, without a doubt, has a love for Borussia Dortmund unmeasurably great, he’s announced his departure, taking place in the summer. And breaking the news, he’d say it in the way so fondly about Dortmund like he always did: “I realized I am no longer the perfect coach for the club.”
But its not right to think of this as Klopp jumping off the sinking ship, but rather jumping off the ship in fear he might end up sinking it. Jürgen Klopp will always care for BVB, and as the they loom low on the table, he hasn’t give up on them just yet, not this season - or any season in the past.
So, danke, Papa Bee. Your time here was a golden age. Some may see you as that crazy guy who lunged at a linesman out of anger, but we of Borussia Dortmund will always see you as a helping hand, wonderful personality, and a father-like figure to Die Schwarzgelben.
fc bayern’s success is no accident; the four stars on their chest are the marks of over one hundred years of great history, of a team that combines hard work, perseverance and discipline. the club’s remote past is as full of trophies as their recent history, and we have their stunning achievements as proof: they are the holders of 24 bundesliga titles and 17 dfb-pokal trophies, they were by 5 times champions league winners and once world champions, and the list will only continue to grow bigger. their biggest triumph, however, was never conquered on the pitch, because fc bayern is not only a captivating club; they are, first and foremost, a family.
7 years. 130 caps. 13 goals. 3 bundesliga titles. 3 dfb pokal titles. 2 dlf supercup titles. 1 uefa super cup title. 1 fifa club world cup title. 1 uefa champions leauge title. thank you for everything toni, and good luck!
fc bayern reached the semi final of DFB pokal, the semi final of CHAMPIONS LEAGUE and WON BUNDESLIGA with a dead squad this year. half of our players were walking around with castes and special shoes and whatever while rest of the team destroyed one team after another to defend the bundesliga title and reach the semis of the other two competitions. trebles arent fucking cotton candy at a carnival. no one likes losing 4 games in a row but please show the players some respect for what they’ve done for us this year. and we are fc bayern. we always come back stronger!
I can perhaps understand Mourinho not seeing a future for him in the first team, but the way he’s treating him is ridiculous. A world cup winner, multiple Bundesliga titles, captain of the national team and he can’t even play with the reserves!? I understand Mourinho is ruthless and demanding, but Schweini has been frozen out since he came back from holiday. If you don’t want him fine, get rid of him, but don’t let this drag on. Schweini does not deserve this!!!