EXCLUSIVE: The 23-year-old midfielder says that the Spaniard’s record commands respect from all around him, and that coach Pep Guardiola has “solutions for everything”
By Christoph Kockeis
Sebastian Rode has acknowledged that the signing of Xabi Alonso has just made competition for places at Bayern Munich even “fiercer” but revealed that he is already enjoying learning from a pass master.
The Bavarians responded to the loss of the versatile Javi Martinez to injury by signing his fellow Spain international from Real Madrid, as well as defender Mehdi Benatia from Roma.
Rode only arrived at the Allianz Arena himself in July and was well aware that he would have a tough task on his hands forcing his way into Pep Guardiola’s starting line-up.
However, while he know knows that his job has just got even more difficult, the 23-year-old insists that he’s viewing Alonso’s arrival as a positive for his own development, rather than a negative.
“You can immediately see the class he possesses,” the former Eintracht Frankfurt man told Goal. “I can only learn from him; from his calmness on the ball, the passes that he plays, especially the long ones.
“Against Schalke [just before the international break] he covered my back so I was able to attack.
“You can feel his aura and it demands respect from the opponents. He has won everything and achieved everything you can achieve.
“Plus he has lots of experience. This gives you security. Against Schalke his job was to coordinate the game, get the balls and bring them to the attack properly. I would rely on him blindly.
“Competition got fiercer with Xabi Alonso, sure, but I am up for the competition.”
Rode, who has represented Germany at various youth levels, is also in no doubt that working under former Barcelona playmaker Guardiola on a daily basis will improve him as a player.
“Pep demands very, very complex stuff from you,” he explained. “I am trying to find my way and manage every task the best way possible.
“I think I have done quite well until now. He gives you a lot of advice on how things work. It is not like he gives us the ball and has no solutions. He has solutions for everything.
“Paying attention is everything in these training sessions and he tells us that all the time. Everybody has to be there 100 per cent and always play full throttle. And if you pay attention, you can learn a lot.”
However, Rode freely admits that he also wants to play as much as possible, particularly in the Champions League, as Bayern haven been landed in a mouth-watering group with Manchester City, Roma and CSKA Moscow.
“That is why I chose to make the step up to Bayern Munich,” he enthused. “I wanted to play in the Champions League.
“I hope my dream will come true against Manchester City. That would be really awesome. A good start to the competition is very important. At home we have to get three points against City.
“After that, there will be Roma and Francesco Totti. He is one of the players you admire when you were young. And despite being 37 now, he has not lost his quality.”
Bayern, of course, will also be looking to defend their Bundesliga crown. The Bavarians wrapped up the title in March last season but Rode is not expecting a much more competitive battle this time around.
“The Bundesliga is never easy,” he argued. “Bayern was marching alone up front last year. And they can do this again and again and that is what world-class teams are all about. Bayern is a constant.
“But Bayer Leverkusen have strengthened their squad very well and coach Roger Schmidt has a clear idea of how his football should look.
“Dortmund are well-equipped, too. Jurgen Klopp is good at including new players into his team. Let’s see how well he does with Shinji Kagawa, after his return from Manchester United. BVB are a different team now.”
Bayern have a fierce rivalry with Dortmund and it has threatened to spill over this summer because of the Bavarians’ public pursuit of Signal Iduna Park favourite Marco Reus.
However, Rode says that he finds the war of words between the two clubs more amusing than anything else.
“You read about it but internally you don’t notice it, only via media,” he revealed. “It makes you smile. When you know how football works, you do not overestimate these things.
“They are part of the rivalry. It is a special motivation to play against Dortmund. But these duels are not about the fights, but about prestige.“