Interview: Raphael Guerreiro, FC Bayern München

Image Credit (Bundesliga Content Hub)

How strong do you think the Bundesliga has been this year?

“It’s true that I know the Bundesliga very well now. There are some very good players here, some of whom I didn’t know before coming here myself. But I can say now that there are a lot of teams on the rise. We have seen that this season in Leverkusen, for example, who are playing at an exceptional level. But yes, it’s a league that is very much on the up. Each season is a bit different. Bayern have dominated somewhat of late but there’s always been lots of teams competing hard to finish in second place.”

What are your objectives for the season, in light of your good run of results recently?

“It shows that we are capable of producing good results on the pitch. There have been some difficult games of late too. But we have to make sure we continue to build our confidence, as we did against Mainz. We didn’t let off, we kept pushing forward to score more goals. We need to make sure we do that in every game. And also ensure we don’t lose hope, even though we are ten points behind Leverkusen.”

Der Klassiker is just around the corner, your first in Bayern colours. How much are you looking forward to it?

“Yes, I am very excited about the game. I missed the first game against Dortmund with an injury, but I hope to be available for the second one. I should be. It is a very important match for me – Dortmund has been a big part of my life. I had some amazing moments there as well as some tough ones. That’s life. Today I am very happy in Munich so I will give my all for FC Bayern.”

It won’t be first against second though. How important is the game regardless?

“It’s still a very big game. Everyone wants to watch Der Klassiker. Even if we are not first and second in the league. When I was at Dortmund, we used to look forward to this fixture all year. And it was typically a bad experience for us whenever we played at the Allianz Arena. So I hope we continue in the same way this time and FC Bayern get a good result.”

You once scored a wonder goal for Dortmund against Bayern. Do you still remember the goal?

“Yes, I remember. It was a great goal. But we ended up losing 4-1. So it wasn’t a great feeling after the game. But I remember the goal fondly. I hope to score again this time but the win is the most important thing.”

Was that your best goal in the Bundesliga?

“No, I think my best goal in the Bundesliga was against Union Berlin for Dortmund, two seasons ago. It was a nice volley. But yes, the one in Der Klassiker was a good strike as well. That’s just my personal opinion anyway – others may disagree.”

Will you get in touch with any of your former teammates ahead of the game?
“Yes, I will send Marco a message before the game, for sure. I am still in touch with a number of the Dortmund players and will catch up with them afterwards in the changing room. But on the pitch, we will remain fully concentrated.”

So, you are still in regular contact with them?

“Yes, I am still in touch with Marco (Reus), Julian (Brandt), and Salih (Özcan) too sometimes. Those are guys I spent a lot of time with and who I admire greatly. So, we stay in touch with each other throughout the season. We don’t write all the time but now and again. That is sufficient.”

How would you describe BVB’s playing style this season?

“Dortmund have had a few issues this season with their build-up play. They have been looking to play directly, rather than build through the phases. They are not always able to retain possession up front and then recycle the ball. I think things have improved slightly in their last few games though. I watch them a lot, so I still have some ideas about how they play. I also know the individual players well and how they like to play. Whereas our style of play is more controlled, we like to keep hold of the ball. Though in some games we are happy to sit back and let the other team have more of the ball. For example, against Stuttgart, who we beat 3-0 at home. So slightly different styles but in essence, we try to maximise our time on the ball to show our qualities and score as many goals as possible.”

How would you describe BVB this season?

“I would say they have had lots of games in which they haven’t played particularly well but they have created lots of chances and been able to decide the game in their favour. But as I said, their style of play is different from ours. They don’t always look to play out from the back. They certainly have the players to do so but sometimes it doesn’t work out for them.”

But BVBs are always dangerous, right?

“Yes, of course. Donyell Malen is in great form at the moment. So, they offer a real threat and have lots of explosive players. I think we know some of their players very well as lots of us play together for our national teams. We were able to dominate the first game against them this season. Now they are coming to Munich so we will show them what we are about here at FC Bayern.”

How has your first season at FC Bayern gone?

“It was tough at the beginning because of my injury. It meant it took me slightly longer to adjust and to settle. But once I came back from injury, I was very happy to become part of the team and get to know my teammates. I feel very good at the moment. Some of my performances have been below my standards, for example against Bochum in the second half or against Bremen. But I always look to give my all and if I perform badly, my focus is on making that up in the next game. That’s how I operate.”

How difficult was the start of the season given the injury you picked up?

“Yes, it’s different, of course, when moving to a new club. You don’t know your teammates as well, you feel different out on the pitch. You need to make sure you adapt as quickly as possible. But when everyone can find their place in the team, that leads to strong performances on the pitch.”

How difficult was the start of the season given the injury you picked up?
“Yes, when you arrive at a new club, you always want to show what you can do as early as possible. So, it creates problems, especially psychologically if you get injured within a week. But I think since returning from injury, I have shown everyone what I am capable of and they are happy with me.”

What can FC Bayern achieve this season?

“We have advanced to the next round of the Champions League. That is the trophy we want to get this season. We are ten points behind in the league. We will remain focused on ourselves and ensure we win every single match. And then we’ll see what Leverkusen do. But the key thing is remaining focused on ourselves and our job out on the pitch. We have dropped points this season in games that we should have won. So, we know what we need to do from now until the end of the season. We need to win as many games as possible and see where we end up in the Bundesliga table.”

Will your winning mentality as a team prove crucial in this final phase of the season?
“Yes, certainly. The leaders here at the club who are used to winning, will show us the way over the next few games. They will show us how to behave out on the pitch and how to play with that winning mentality. We will keep going until the very end of the season.”

You are very versatile as a player. Where do you feel most comfortable?

“Honestly, that depends on the game. I like playing in midfield as we are a team that keeps hold of the ball. But I have also had some good games at left-back. My focus is contributing as much as I can for the team, be it from midfield, left back or as part of a back three. Whatever position I am played in, I will give my all.”

You have played with some excellent strikers in your career. Where does Harry Kane rate?
“To be honest, I didn’t know his style of play before he arrived at the club. I thought perhaps he might just stay up top and wait for the chances to score. But he offers a lot more than that. He can link the play up, he protects the ball well. When I was injured, I watched all the games and I saw what a great striker he is. He is the type of striker that I like. He helps the team out in difficult moments by protecting the ball and by winning fouls. He is not just an important goalscorer for us, he also makes a lot of key passes. He creates a lot of opportunities for his teammates. For example, that pass for Jamal in our last game was exceptional. So he is one of the best strikers, yes.”

What influence does Harry Kane have on the team?
“He is a very, very important part of the team. He has shown that this season. When he struggles, we all struggle. He needs to maintain this level until the end of the season so we can achieve our aims as a team.”

What would it mean to you to be part of the European Championships this summer in Germany?

“It would be incredible. To play here in Germany in the stadiums that I know well and have played in many times. We will be playing at the Dortmund stadium too. So it means a lot to me, especially as I missed the game in Dortmund earlier this season. It is a big opportunity to play in a European Championships in the country I live and play in. I have a good chance of being included, and I hope to be included, even though the squad list has yet to be finalised. I will give my all between now and the end of the season to increase my chances of making the squad.”

Does it feel like a home tournament?

“Yes, it’s true. It feels like home as I know these stadiums very well. It was a similar feeling in 2016 for the European Championships in France, as that’s where I was playing back then. So, it’s a great thing for me.”

Hopefully, you can recreate the success of 2016.

“Yes, that would be perfect.”

Raphaël Guerreiro during the Bundesliga match between FC Bayern München and 1. FC Union Berlin at Allianz Arena on 24 January 2024. Image Credit (Bundesliga Content Hub)