The Dutch dynamo speaks to Uli Hesse about topping the treble, playing for Pep and how Bayern are different to Dortmund...
You scored the winner in the Champions League final — not to mention setting up the opening goal. How much have the events of that Saturday evening changed you and your club?
Something like that will never leave you — neither you nor your club. It was a dream for me. You only have to look back to understand what it meant for the club and for myself. The year before we had lost the final at home. We couldn't repair that, but it felt good to win the following year.
What targets are left for a team that's coming off the back of a treble-winning season?
Well, there was the European Super Cup and the Club World Cup, of course, which we won. Then nobody's been able to defend the Champions League title and we want to try and be the first team to do it. We also want to win the Bundesliga again, this is very important to us. Dortmund have won the league twice in the past three years, so we have still room for improvement there. As strange as it may sound, you always start with nothing all over again.
Where do you see Bayern on the international stage?
If a club reaches the Champions League final three times in four years, that tells you a lot. We've left a lasting impression with winning 7-0 on aggregate against Barcelona and also against Juventus.
We want to dominate the game even more and enjoy our football even more...
Some would say Bayern represent a sober, no-nonsense style, while Borussia Dortmund are considered innovative and wild, and are popular because of their passionate football. Do Bayern still have to make up some ground there?
Bayern have their own style, and that's a good thing. I like it sober and calculating. In this case, austerity is a positive thing. We receive a lot of respect and recognition. What the team shows is very good, it's football of the highest order which we still want to improve upon.
In recent months, you've had quite a few offers from other big club, but you declined them all. Why?
I have the feeling I'm in the right place. Bayern are among the biggest and best clubs in the world. This is the best club for me. And, like I said, there are new targets — with new coach Pep Guardiola.
What is there for Guardiola to change or improve, following a season that brought three trophies?
It's about many small things we want to — and have to — improve. I think it's good that we have a new coach who brings new impulses. We want to dominate the game even more and enjoy our football even more. There's no doubt that this is a special project. It's not just about defence but about more pressing to get where we want to be. And that's attacking, scoring goals. Simple goals as well as special goals, that's what we all want to do more than anything else.
What's it like working under Guardiola?
I've gained a lot of experience in my time as a professional, but with him I have the strong feeling there's a lot I can still learn. That's a great incentive. For me, for every player, for the club. Guardiola gives the impression that he is here with everything he's got to give. I was at Real Madrid and played a few times against his famous Barcelona team. He was a perfectionist then and he's the same now. He leaves no stone unturned.
Portrait by Shamil Tanna.
The new issue of FourFourTwo includes an 18-page Inside Bayern feature. Read all about it...