Our style was very quick transitions. Not that much collaboration whereas we were more
attacking with quick actions but we scored so many goals. The potential we had to score
goals. The goals came from nothing almost.
With Rafa (Benitez), my years in Liverpool,
most of them we used to play in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Of course, I used to play in this
position as a left double-six. I had to adapt depending on who my partner here, I had to
change a little bit my style or my role in the team depending on who used to play alongside
myself or as a number 10. Of course, if I used to play with Steve (Gerrard) here and
another player in the hole, I knew I had to be more positional and he was going to make
the offensive runs or try to have the triangle which will be the other way around. Whereas,
when I had to play with Mascherano in the last years, Javier (Mascherano) was a lot
more positional, very competitive, very good runs but more in the position and not that
offensive. I had to play a little bit further and get closer to normally Stevie (Gerrard)
and Torres and try to connect with them. That was offensively my role, connecting with the
wings. I used to play short and long. Not just looking for the players who were 20 metres.
We were always trying to find the space because we were always quite direct, very intense
and that was working pretty well because Stevie's (Gerrard) and Torres' connection was really
good. My partnership with Mascherano was good. Carragher and Agger used to work very well.
We used to have very competitive full-backs with Arbeloa and Fabio (Aurelio). Riera and
Dirk (Kuyt) was very intense here. It was a very balanced team. We could beat anyone.
If I was getting close, I would attract this player so this space, we could play straight
into Stevie (Gerrard) and he could get the ball. He would make the run or action and
the last pass to Torres. It's all about the space and who is the free man. If I am the
free man, he comes to me, I won't be free but he will be free. Try to have that reading
of the game. It's important. Where is the space and who is the free player? That is the
game understanding and the game intelligence of the great players. The better you do, the
better you play normally.
Most of the years, especially under Jose (Mourinho) we used to
play with two midfielders: myself and Sami Khedira. And Sami (Khedira) has a lot of energy.
He will start from this position but he will make a lot of runs. Mesut (Ozil) between the
lines was perfect player to play there because he wanted to play here in the hole and that
is the toughest position to play where there is no space, where all the defence try to
squeeze but I always tried to look for him to find an intense pass because with the touch
and control he had, with a good control he was straight into attacking the last line.
We had a very good connection. With Cristiano (Ronaldo), he used to play on the left-wing;
Di Maria on the right and Cristiano (Ronaldo) made everything easy. I used to get the ball,
find him and he would do his own individual action. This was, in Madrid, most of our style
was quick transitions. Not that much collaboration whereas we was more attacking with quick actions.
We scored so many goals. The potential we had to score goals. We could score goals from nothing.
With Messi, of course, it wasn't easy to defend against him. He used to play
in this false nine role - it's been spoken about so much, this false nine role. Xavi
used to come here to get the ball and when I used to go and press him, this space would
then be occupied by Messi to this position behind me. They used to do two against one
against me and Ramos would come to press Messi where this big space used to be created. When
Messi got the ball, he would play for Villa or Pedro in that position. When we would control
this position better, Ramos used to tell me Messi was coming and I didn't go to press
Xavi where I was staying more with Messi. They used to have more control but they were
not that dangerous. When we control that situation a bit better, we were closer to competing
Most of the time in Bayern, I would play as a number six. I was on my own with
two offensive midfielders. You know that in that position, you have to connect well with
the centre-backs to do our proper build-up and know what is happening. The number ten
is with you, you know that you're starting the game and have to create space for the
centre-backs to start the build-up. Whereas, if they were playing two strikers on the two
centre-backs you need to help them or even to drop into the middle. Reading those positions
of the game. I learned a lot in three years at Bayern. I was 32, I had made a lot of my
career but in two, three years I learned so, so much.
We try to be an attacking team.
A team that has an initiative of the game, that wants the ball, that the players know how
to connect with each other, to have a good amount of distance. Most of the time we will
play a 4-3-3 but sometimes we can play with three at the back, two midfielders - like
a 3-2-2-3 with three strikers because I want the players to have different stimulus and
not just to know what to do in one situation, in different situations. Whereas, you start
the build-up with two centre backs and it is different. The ones have to commit and
have to attack like the centre-backs. Whereas with two it is completely different so. In
the end, they understand quite well and for me that has been very satisfying.
quicker than I thought. I thought it was going to take longer but once you repeat, once you
insist and once you show them that they are doing well, they start feeling and believing
in it and they follow. You will have everything as a coach.