Bayern new-boy Benatia relishing Roma return

The Morocco international only completed his move to the Allianz Arena on Thursday but he is now set to face his old side

New Bayern Munich signing Mehdia Benatia has expressed his joy after the Champions League handed him an immediate return to Roma.

The Morocco international only sealed a reported €28 million move to the Allianz Arena on Thursday and was overjoyed when his new club came out in the same group as his former employers just over 24 hours later.

“I am so happy with the draw,” Benatia enthused. “I wished for us to play Roma so badly so I could see my friends again. Those will be wonderful matches.”

Bayern and Roma will also have Manchester City and CSKA Moscow to contend with in Group E and Philipp Lahm was quick to point out that Pep Guardiola’s men will have their work cut out in reaching the last 16.

“That is not an easy group,” the Bavarians’ skipper stated. “We play three very good teams, including the English champions, Manchester City.

“These are tough tasks, especially away from home.”

However, Bayern attacking midfielder Thomas Muller is optimistic that the German titleholders have enough quality to progress to the knockout stage.

“This is a challenging group,” the Germany international staged. “This will be no walk in the park, but we are optimistic we will go through.“

Bayern winger Arjen Robben is also looking forward to some mouth-watering match-ups in Group E.

“We got wonderful opponents,” the Dutchman added. “Of course it will be difficult again. But there are great nights ahead of us and we are looking forward to them.”

Robben: I don't know who Benatia is!

The Netherlands internaional has confessed that he was unfamiliar with the Morocco international before the centre-half joined the Bavarian club

Arjen Robben has admitted that he has never heard of new Bayern Munich team-mate Mehdi Benatia.

After losing Javi Martinez to a serious knee injury, the German champions agreed to pay Roma a reported €37 million transfer fee for the Morocco international.

However, even though Benatia established himself as one of the best centre-halves in Serie A last season, Robben has now confessed that he is unfamiliar with the 27-year-old defender.

“Honestly, I do not know him,” the Netherlands international told reporters. “I only know that he comes from the Roma

“But the club will know why they got him. Javi is a great loss, so we needed a replacement.”

Meanwhile, former Chelsea and Real Madrid winger Robben admitted that joining Bayern was the key moment in his career.

“For me, it was a very important decision to come to Munich,” he mused.

“I was previously at top clubs such as Real Madrid or Chelsea and obviously also had good times there.

“But I’ve only reached my top level in Munich. I have developed myself over the years as a player and as a person. I am very happy.”

Ronaldo named Uefa's Best Player in Europe

The Real Madrid star has been voted as the top performer in 2013-14 ahead of Bayern Munich pair and fellow nominees Manuel Neuer and Arjen Robben

Cristiano Ronaldo has been named as Uefa’s Best Player in Europe for his Champions League-winning heroics with Real Madrid in 2013-14.

The Portuguese, 29, scored a remarkable 17 goals in 11 European games as Carlo Ancelotti’s stormed to the Decima and struck three times en route to Copa del Rey glory as Madrid completed the cup double.

Though the Santiago Bernabeu side were less successful in La Liga, Ronaldo still averaged more than a goal a game (31 efforts in 30 matches) as they finished third behind Atletico Madrid and Barcelona.

The former Manchester United forward was voted as the best player ahead of Bayern Munich duo Manuel Neuer and Arjen Robben, who starred as Pep Guardiola’s men lifted four of a possible six trophies last season.

“I’m really, really happy,” Ronaldo said upon being presented the award following the draw for the 2014-15 Champions League group stage on Thursday.

“I have to say thank you to my team-mates, to my family, my friends. I don’t have this trophy in my museum – I’ll put it there straight away.”

Ronaldo has already begun the new campaign in superb fashion, scoring three goals in four games including his double as Real Madrid defeated Sevilla to win the Uefa Super Cup earlier in August.

More to follow…

Champions League draw in full: Real Madrid face Liverpool, Barcelona versus PSG

The reigning champions discovered who they will face in the early stages on Thursday, with Bayern Munich, Man City, Roma and CSKA Moscow the best candidate as the Group of Death

Reigning European champions Real Madrid have been drawn with five-time winners Liverpool in the Champions League group stage draw held in Monaco on Thursday.

Carlo Ancelotti’s men achieved la Decima in May with a final win over Atletico Madrid and they will also face Swiss side Basel and Bulgarian champions Ludogorets in Group B as they try to become to first team in Champions League history to win back-to-back titles.

Bayern Munich, coached by former winner Pep Guardiola, will aim for their fourth final in six years but have arguably been handed the Group of Death as they will need to overcome Premier League winners Manchester City, Russian side CSKA Moscow and Serie A runners-up Roma to get out of Group E.

Barcelona will need to navigate their way past Paris Saint-Germain – led by former striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Dutch champions Ajax and Cyprus minnows APOEL.

Chelsea, Champions League victors in 2011-12, were given a relatively straightforward draw as they face out-of-sorts Schalke, Portuguese opposition Sporting and Slovenian side Maribor.

Arsenal are still without a Champions League title to their name and they will have a bumpy ride just reaching the last 16 as 2012-13 finalists Borussia Dortmund, Galatasaray and Belgian champions Anderlecht provide competition.

Atletico Madrid, runners up last season after taking Real Madrid to extra time, will be confident they can share one of the top two spots with Scudetto holders Juventus, Olympiakos and outsiders Malmo.

Last season’s Europa League runners-up Benfica, Bundesliga big-hitters Bayer Leverkusen, Andre Villas-Boas’ Zenit St-Petersburg and Ligue 1 runners-up Monaco make Group C one of the most competitive sections.

Contrastingly, Porto will be confident of making amends for failing to reach the knockout stages in 2013-14 after being drawn alongside Shakhtar Donetsk, Athletic Bilbao and BATE.

Each of the top two teams will qualify for the last 16 draw in December. The 2013-14 final, the 60th organised by Uefa, will be held at the Olympiastadion in Berlin on June 6.

Bayern are the best in the world, says Benatia

The Morocco international, bought in a €30 million deal from Roma, is looking forward to playing in the Bundesliga and feels he has joined a top team

New Bayern Munich signing Mehdi Benatia believes the Bundesliga champions are arguably the best team in the world.

The 27-year-old defender signed a five-year deal at the Allianz Arena on Wednesday to complete his €26 million deal – potentially rising to €30m – from Roma and he cannot wait to get started at his new team.

“Bayern are the best club in the world. I am really happy to be here,” the Morocco international said at a press conference.

“I am looking forward to playing in the Bundesliga, the fans and the packed stadiums.

“I want to make the team even stronger than it already is and do my utmost to support the team.”

Bayern sporting director Matthias Sammer, meanwhile, believes Benatia is exactly what Pep Guardiola’s side needed.

“Benatia is strong, fast, very good in the air and quite good with the ball at his feet as well.”

The centre-back is Bayern’s fifth major signing of the summer transfer window after the previous arrivals of Robert Lewandowski, Juan Bernat, Pepe Reina and Sebastian Rode.

Additionally, Real Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso is expected to complete his move to Bavaria before the weekend is finished.