Did you need to rest mentally after Madrid?
Mentally, no. Football doesn’t put me under pressure. I like what I do and I’ll continue being active (in the game) for as long as it’s that way. I could have gone to Milan, but that didn’t seem like a good option.
What have you found in Munich?
A great club, a great atmosphere, a well organised entity…nothing that surprised me.
Do you miss Madrid?
We spent some fantastic years there. The people were always really nice. But now it’s time to experience something else, a new culture, a new language…
How’s the German?
I’m finding it really difficult (smiles). That’s why I was studying it in Vancouver.
Is life as a coach more difficult without having Cristiano?
I got on really well with Cristiano. He helped a lot in winning the Champions League, as everyone did. But now he’s at Madrid and he’s an adversary. Every squad has its characters. Madrid had Cristiano, Ramos, Kroos, Modric, Benzema…really strong players. Now I have another squad, and my work is the same. My goal is to have a good relationship with players, be it Cristiano or Lewandowski.
Did Florentino ask if you wanted to sell Xabio Alonso?
Yes, yes, yes, he asked me, of course. It was more a personal case than a football one. He had asked to leave. He wanted to experience something new. With us having Kroos I was in agreement, 100%.
How do you explain Zidane’s success at Madrid?
When one starts [as a coach], charisma is very important; the fact that you are respected for what you have done in the past. This is what it was like with Zidane. After that, every day is an exam as a coach. The players look at you, listen to what you say, and if they like you, fine, and if they don’t, you lose a little [respect]. Zidane has charisma, but he also has the knowledge. He’s doing really well.
Is charisma or knowledge more important for a coach?
For me, what’s most important is communication with the players.
Was Madrid your most difficult experience in that sense?
No, not at all. I always had a lot of collaboration from the players. That was the best thing. Everything we did, we achieved together. The most complicated thing is when you’re not able to communicate your idea to the players or they don’t like your idea.
You arrived at a Madrid that had had a very tense relationship with Mourinho…
In general, a coach only has a cycle of about two or three years at a top club. I’m a different character to him (Mourinho), but I was at Chelsea for two years, PSG for two years, two years in Madrid. In a top club, which always wants to win, the cycle isn’t very long.
Do you talk a lot to Zidane?
Not a lot, no. We send the odd message, but I’ve a good relationship with him. He helped me a lot at Madrid. He knows the place very well.
Tactics and James Rodríguez
Was Zizou’s courage to swap James for Casemiro in the side his wisest decision yet?
His best move was winning the Champions League! If that happens, it’s because he’s done something well.
Benitez started playing Casemiro, then when El Clásico came around, he took him out of the team and lost 4-0….
Don’t ask me. I played a season with Modric, James, and Kroos, and the majority of that 22 game winning streak was with those three. It depends on the dynamic of the players. Look at Guardiola at City, where he plays with four attacking midfielders and one striker and he’s won every game. I won the Champions League with Modric, Di Maria, Bale, Cristiano and Benzema in the 11.
Was it Florentino who suggested selling Di Maria?
No, everything we did, we did together. The club never imposed anything on me.
Has James’s turn for the worse surprised you?
It’s has surprised me a little. But he’s very young. Sometimes not everything goes well for you. One year you can have some problems. The important thing is to keep fighting if you are not playing every game. To play at Madrid is not easy because there’s lots of competition.
On his sacking from Madrid
Why did Florentino let you go?
Because the second half of the season didn’t go well.
What did he say to you?
That’s personal, but he was very sincere with me. I don’t want to talk about it as I don’t want to get into any controversies. When I came to Madrid I knew that one day I’d have to leave. For a coach, the experience of managing Madrid is unique, and for that I have to give thanks to Florentino. He signed me and we won La Décima. I learned some time ago that being let go is part of the job. I have good memories of Madrid, from the president down to the people who worked there.
Will there be a second part to this story or is the door closed?
After Madrid my dream was to manage Bayern, and that’s what I’m doing.