After long negotiations, midfielder Ze Roberto signed a two year contract to play soccer for Bayern Munich. The Brazilian talked with DW-WORLD.DE about his departure, his return to Germany and his hopes for Bayern.
Midfielder Ze Roberto fights for the ball
DW-WORLD.DE: After a successful year in Brazil with FC Santos, why did you decide to return to Bayern Munich?
Bayern is a club that I know very well. During the years that I played for Bayern, I lived and learned a lot of positive things, among them the most important lesson of my professional career: to always have a winning mentality.
You have said that your personal friendship with trainer Ottmar Hitzfeld was the most important factor in returning to Germany. Is that true?
Hitzfeld was certainly a decisive reason to accept Bayern's offer. I'm immensely happy to be able to return and work with him. We have mutual confidence in each other. I respect him as a coach and consider him to be a great person.
Ze Roberto is happy to be coming back to Munich
Bayern wasn't your only offer in Europe. What other clubs were trying to get you?
I got two attractive invitations from Italy, one from Milan and the other from Rome. I had to think very conscientiously which of these would be best for me and my family. In the end, I opted for Munich since, with the contracts offered to Klose, Ribery, Luca Toni and other new guys, Bayern is constructing a team to return to dominance and win European soccer titles.
Aren't you worried that in the next season you will only play internationally in the UEFA Cup?
No. When I made the decision to return to Bayern, I knew that we would not play in the Champions League. Seen from this perspective, the other offers were more interesting. But for me, the most important was to be part of a process whose objective is to return the past glory of the club and I have no doubt that we can be the champions of both the UEFA Cup and the Bundesliga.
Roberto's return feels like a homecoming
The media has reported that one of the reasons you left Brazil was the insecurity in that country. Was it dangerous for you there?
No. That's not true at all! The German media reported statements along those lines that were supposedly mine, but the truth is that I never said that to any journalist. It would be a lie to not recognize that Brazil, like all of Latin America, has very grave social problems, but we never felt insecure or in danger, not my family and not me. The last year in my homeland was beautiful and I will return to Brazil, where I have left my loved ones, friends and my heart. I'm returning to Munich because it's good for my professional career, not because of fear.
Why do you consider the decision to return to Bayern good for your career?
Let's be honest. I'm 32. At my age, few soccer players receive the opportunity to return to a big club in Europe to help out in building a new soccer project like the one that is starting in Bayern. Additionally, it will be nice to end my professional career in Europe.
Bayern Munich has landed several important players
Do you expect to end your career in Munich?
Most likely. I signed a contract for two years with Bayern. Once I'm finished, I'll be 35 years old and if everything goes well there won't be anything to prevent us from renewing it. My project in Europe is, in the long run, also a decision that involves my family. My children go to school and I can't move them each year from one country to another. What's more, they were born in Germany and for them it'll be like returning home.
Did it take a lot of convincing to get your family to return to Munich?
No. They were agreeable from the beginning and they're all very happy to return to Germany. My wife, for example, has a large circle of friends in Munich and is very happy to meet up with them again and do things together. Going to Italy was a temptation until the last moment, but when we evaluated Germany, we all arrived at the conclusion that Munich is our home, and neither Milan nor Rome could compete against that feeling.
You're returning to Munich through the front door, but just one year ago, you left the same club through the back door. What happened?
I don't see it that way or agree with this opinion that I left through the back door. I actually could have renewed my contract but I didn't want to do it because coach Felix Magath didn't want to keep me in Munich.
Roberto had problems with former Bayern Munich coach Felix Magath
Did you have problems with Magath?
I didn't have problems with him, but he did with me. We were never able to understand each other. He didn't trust me and he didn't let me play and under those conditions it's best to leave the team and that's what I did.
So you're saying it was Magath's fault you left Europe?
Yes, that's right. Felix Magath robbed me of the joy of playing soccer. The time I played under his direction was one of the saddest and most difficult of my career. I have been under the direction of some of the most important and successful coaches in the world and they have always talked to me about what things are good or bad. Felix Magath never talked with me, never came close to me and evaded my attempts to get close to him. He simply ignored me. I was very unhappy during this time.
Ze Roberto is looking forward to playing with his friend and countryman Lucio
What is it that you're most happy about your return?
To see Lucio again, he's been my friend, countryman and companion through many experiences, with the Brazilian national team and in Germany; also to see the fans of Bayern who can expect many great things from the team during the next season. It will be a joy to return to the Allianz Arena.