Robben: I'm used to new Netherlands system

The Bayern Munich star says he is used to the role he is currently playing for Louis van Gaal thanks to the tactics he has been working under at club level in Germany

Arjen Robben has insisted that he is ready to cope with Netherlands boss Louis van Gaal’s new 5-3-2 system as he became accustomed to a similar role at Bayern Munich.

With Kevin Strootman set to miss the World Cup, the former Bayern coach has been tinkering with his system to make the most of the talent available to him.

However, Robben is not concerned that he might be playing a different position.

“The way we’re playing with the national team isn’t new for me,” he told Voetbal International.

“At Bayern, I’ve played in a system like this several times. This season I’ve played as a second striker, or behind the strikers.

“And when I play on the right wing, I’m allowed to go inside, of course. Eventually it depends on which situations you create on the pitch.

“We need to play the ball from the back in a way we reach the attackers. It would be perfect if we can create one-on-one situations.”

Bayern boss Guardiola delighted by Pizarro renewal

The Peru international, who hit 10 goals in 17 Bundesliga appearances last term, put pen to paper on a one-year contract extension on Tuesday

Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola has expressed his delight at Claudio Pizarro’s decision to commit to the club for another season.

The Peru international’s previous contract had been set to expire this summer and the striker had been expected to leave the Allianz Arena.

However, Pizarro penned a one-year extension on Tuesday, much to the relief of Guardiola, who believes that the 35-year-old attacker still has much to offer the German champions.

“It was the desire of both myself and the club to keep Claudio,” the Bayern boss told FCB.tv.

“I am very, very happy because he is a special player with a lot of experience.

“Claudio knows the Bundesliga inside out, is a great guy and has great quality.

“In the last two or three months, he played outstandingly well.”

Reflecting on his first season in charge, Guardiola argued that his players deserve great credit for retaining their hunger after winning a treble under previous boss Jupp Heynckes.

“It was not an easy season, especially mentally,” the former Spain international said of Bayern’s double-winning campaign.

“If you have won everything that you want as a player, it can sometimes be difficult to continue giving everything the following season.

“To focus each week on a football game is difficult. So, I am very proud of my players.”

Guardiola also revealed that he is considering travelling to Brazil for this summer’s World Cup to cheer on some of his charges.

“I hope my players can enjoy this experience,” the ex-Barca boss enthused. “Maybe I’ll watch a game or two on the ground.”

Guardiola is happy at Bayern Munich, insists Nadal

The ex-Spain international has no doubts that his former team-mate is enjoying life at the Bundesliga champions

Former Barcelona defender Miguel Angel Nadal has laughed off suggestions that Pep Guardiola is unhappy at Bayern Munich.

A number of recent reports suggested that Guardiola could be on his way out of Bayern this summer after he received criticism following the Bavarians’ Champions League exit at the hands of Real Madrid in the semi-finals.

Nevertheless, Nadal – who played alongside Guardiola at Barca between 1991 and 1999 – has insisted his former team-mate is happy with life at his current club.

“Is Guardiola happy at Bayern? Absolutely,” Nadal was quoted as saying by the official Bundesliga website.

“After leaving Barcelona, it was very important to Pep to join the right club. One that matched his own standards and aspirations. And Bayern are one of the best football addresses in the world game.

“I got to know Pep as a fairly straightforward kind of guy. He always demanded a lot of himself, especially at work. Although football isn’t just his job, he loves it and he’ll leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of success.

“We’re close friends, he’s a good bloke, tapped into his emotions and a family man. For all the success he’s had, he’s remained human.”

Guardiola guided Bayern to the domestic double in his first season at the Allianz Arena.
 

What does the summer hold for Mario Mandzukic?

The Croatia international is surplus to requirements at Bayern Munich with the impending arrival of Robert Lewandowski and his attitude has played a big role in his decline

COMMENT
By Peter Staunton

One year on from scoring the opening goal in a Champions League final at Wembley, Mario Mandzukic is contemplating life away from Bayern Munich. There are not going to be any fond farewells for the Croatian who is now likely to have played his last game for the club. It has been a sudden and irreversible decline.

While his team-mates partied in Munich’s Marienplatz after winning the domestic double this season, Mandzukic was some 700 kilometres away, being pictured with flood victims in his hometown of Slavonski Brod in Croatia. It was an illustration of just how far his status has fallen in Munich and how detached he had become from life at a club where, just weeks earlier, he had been a key player. A fruitful spell at Bayern brought a haul of 48 goals and eight trophies but almost overnight he became persona non grata.

It seems that two elements contributed to Mandzukic’s indignant end to life at the Allianz Arena. First, the signing of Robert Lewandowski put the forward’s nose out of joint and, secondly, his occasionally difficult attitude left him vulnerable to the whims of coach Pep Guardiola.

Now there is no hope of redemption at Bayern, where even his staunch supporter, CEO Karl Heinz Rummenigge, who personally oversaw his signing from Wolfsburg, admitted that the time had come to say goodbye.

Once news of Lewandowski’s signing from Borussia Dortmund broke in January, Mandzukic was said to be determined to fight for his place. It has become apparent over the past few weeks, though, that he would be bound for the scrapheap. Over the course of a successful season at domestic level, he did not do an awful lot wrong. However, off-field issues with Guardiola, combined with the Lewandowski transfer, have all but brought Mandzukic’s two-year stay in Bavaria to an abrupt end.

The shadow of Lewandowski has loomed large over Mandzukic all season long. To some extent, it did not matter if he scored three goals or 30 because the Pole was always going to be first choice for Bayern next season.

The tone from coach and boardroom changed over the course of the campaign. It was not that long ago that Pep was hailing Mandzukic as the best penalty-box striker in the world and Rummenigge’s support and admiration for him has evaporated. As for honorary president Franz Beckenbauer, he could not have been clearer when he suggested that Mandzukic should “pack his bags” in anticipation of Lewandowski’s arrival. The latest message from Pep, meanwhile, was reported to be “good luck with your new club.”

Mandzukic is currently in Austria, preparing to lead his nation’s charge at the World Cup, and his imminent transfer has caused such a furore that his national-team manager, Niko Kovac, has banned all agents from the team’s base lest it be a distraction with Brazil on the horizon.

“I’d be delighted to have it off the table [before the first match],” Kovac said this week, “but I can’t influence it. It’s great to have such world-class players in our small country. He can play everywhere in Europe. I am not worried about Mario.”

Mandzukic is certain to line up in the second Group A match in Brazil – he is suspended for the first game against the hosts – and a strong showing at the World Cup would put him in the shop window.

Strong international performances at Euro 2012, after all, preceded his move to the Allianz Arena, where he has been a huge success on the field.

Mandzukic’s agent, Ivan Cvjetkovic, fended off links with Juventus earlier in the season when his Bayern future looked a little more secure but things have changed considerably since then.

Chelsea are currently among the favourites to land the striker, whose contract expires in 2016, in this transfer window. Jose Mourinho spent last season lamenting his forward options and will attract Diego Costa to Stamford Bridge this summer. To go along with the purchase of the Spain international, Mandzukic would provide good foil.

As well as being capable of putting away his fair share of chances, Mandzukic is strong with his back to goal and would give Mourinho relentless energy in closing down and pressing from the front. Also said to be at the head of the queue are Arsenal, seeking more mobility in their attack, and Manchester United, who will shake up their playing staff under Louis van Gaal.

In the end it seems to have come down to a question of attitude. German newspaper reports following Real Madrid’s defeat of Bayern in the Champions League semi-finals suggested that Pep’s apology to the squad for his part in the defeat was met with sneering indifference by Mandzukic. TZ also reported that the Croatian’s behaviour in training was a problem as he responded to Pep’s tactical instructions with disdain. Problems in their relationship first appeared after the winter break. Guardiola made it known that Mandzukic had not worked hard enough in training and omitted him from the team which defeated Borussia Monchengladbach 2-0.

The rift grew and, by the time that the DFB-Pokal final rolled around, it was apparent that Mandzukic had played his last game for the Bavarians despite being an integral component of the team. The pre-match press conference was dominated by talk of the centre forward’s exclusion, which Guardiola explained was discipline-related. “He would have been able to play but it is my decision and that’s it,” the Spaniard said at the time before Bayern won the cup in extra time against Dortmund.

Mandzukic flew to his homeland as his team-mates celebrated. He was, very quickly, airbrushed from the Bayern picture. “It was his decision to travel to the national team,” Rummenigge said. “I regret this a bit but this can not be changed. This might fit a bit in the landscape of the past few weeks.”

There was implicit criticism from the captain, Philipp Lahm, who praised Holger Badstuber for attending the celebrations despite not playing a part over the course of the season and lamented Mandzukic’s absence by the same token.

The 28-year-old’s work-rate and enviable scoring record have not provided enough evidence to Guardiola and general manager Matthias Sammer that he can fill the role any better than the incoming Pole. Were he to be judged solely on his output on the field, however, there is a chance that Mandzukic could have been kept on. Bayern are light on numbers in the striking department but the decision to retain Claudio Pizarro for another season can be seen as the clearest indicator yet that Mandzukic is for the scrapheap.

Guardiola got everything right, insists Rummenigge

The Bayern chief disagrees with those who have criticised the Spaniard following the club’s Champions League exit

Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge feels head coach Pep Guardiola got all his major decisions and changes right this season.

The former Barcelona coach received his fair share of criticism after Bayern’s Champions League semi-final exit at the hands of Real Madrid, but Rummenigge believes the 43-year-old did not go wrong anywhere.

“After winning the treble you might tend to think you don’t need to change anything and all changes are wrong. But Pep has changed quite a few things. And all the changes he made were right,” Rummenigge told the official Bayern website.

“He got rid of the two defensive midfielders, he put Philipp Lahm in the holding role, the team played higher up the pitch and they pressed more than in the previous season. He set the team new challenges.”

Rummenigge then went on to stress that Guardiola has been performing at the same level as during his time at Barcelona and has hailed his ambition to win it all.

“He hasn’t surprised me at all. He’s shown the same level of quality as he did at Barcelona. Pep is a wonderful coach with a clear philosophy, a clear plan – and, as you saw in the cup final, he’s a coach capable of springing a tactical surprise that causes the opposition problems. We’re really happy with him.

“He had to get used to a different culture in Germany and here at Bayern Munich, and he also had to learn a new language. You can’t forget that. But I think the only thing that annoys him is not winning the Champions League. He’s incredibly ambitious.”

Guardiola guided Bayern to the domestic double in his first season in charge of Bayern.