Philipp Lahm, Thomas Müller and Jörg Butt led the way onto the training ground, followed in close order by Bastian Schweinsteiger, Miroslav Klose and Co. After fully ten weeks away from the Säbener Strasse, the final batch of Bayern’s World Cup participants began preparing for the new season at club level on Monday.
“They’ve all made a really good impression, and if we make good use of the time available, I believe we’ll be in excellent form for the Bundesliga restart. I also think we’ll start the season well,” enthused director of sport Christian Nerlinger, delighted to welcome the senior squad in its entirety for the first time since the end of last season.
Lahm pleased to be back
“I’m happy to be here again,” Mark van Bommel commented just a few minutes before taking to the practice ground. Ahead of the session, the club captain and Lahm faced the media for their first news conference of the new campaign. Both players appeared relaxed, happy, and buzzing with anticipation. “It doesn’t often happen that you’re away from the club for ten weeks,” said Van Bommel. “Seeing familiar faces is a good and trusted feeling. It all starts again now,” the Dutch midfielder continued.
Lahm was beaming as he addressed reporters. “It’s great to see the lads again,” said the defender, who married his long-term partner just after the World Cup, but admitted he had spent the first two weeks of his three-week summer vacation “doing nothing but sleep and eat.”
The stars now face an exceptionally demanding challenge. In the space of just two weeks, coach Louis van Gaal must somehow return his first-choice team to a competitive state. Fitness is arguably less of an issue than many fans might think. “You don’t lose so much in just three weeks,” Van Bommel noted. The World Cup participants’ mental strength could be much more of a problem. “It’s hard when you only have two weeks to rebuild what you’ve spent the last three weeks trying to rid yourself of,” Lahm remarked, pointing out that the process of recharging the players’ metaphorical batteries could take a while longer yet.
The first competitive fixture of the new season takes place in exactly two weeks, when the nation’s most successful club face Germania Windeck in the DFB Cup first round on 16 August. Four days later, the new Bundesliga season officially opens when Bayern face VfL Wolfsburg at the Allianz Arena. However, nothing like a normal re-season programme will be possible before then. “Other teams have maybe two or three World Cup players in their squads, but we have eleven, and that’s a problem,” acknowledged Van Bommel.
Müller looking for enjoyment
However, the captain and his deputy are confident about the new campaign. “It’s not something we need to over-dramatise,” said Van Bommel. On the plus side, and in complete contrast to last season, the squad is fundamentally unchanged and all the players understand what the coach wants from them. “We’ve already trained together for a year. We have a foundation. The job this season is to develop further,” said Lahm.
Müller, the top scorer and Best Young Player at the World Cup, was in characteristically chirpy form as he contemplated the days and weeks to come. “Three weeks is enough holiday for me. I’m fired up for football and hope it’s just as much fun as always, right from the off.”