Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola and club captain Philipp Lahm vowed Friday that the German champions would emerge from the shadow of Bastian Schweinsteiger as they prepared for their first game since his departure in Beijing.
Guardiola said it was “tough” for both the players and fans of the Bundesliga side, following the midfielder’s exit to Manchester United on Monday after 17 years at the club.
But Bayern were well prepared as they looked towards the new season, Guardiola said, ahead of a friendly match against Spanish side Valencia in the Chinese capital.
“Bastian was a legend at Bayern Munich. He spent 17 years playing here and won absolutely everything,” Guardiola told reporters at a press conference at Beijing’s iconic Bird’s Nest stadium.
“He is really, really loved by the fans, and the people (at the club),” he said. “It is normal that at the beginning it is tough,” he added, speaking about the impact on the dressing room and on the fans.
Lahm echoed the Spaniard’s praise for his teammate in Germany’s World Cup wining side last year, but said Bayern would look ahead. “We will look forward and move on,” he said, “Without him we will move on.”
Former Germany captain Lahm retired from international football at the end of the World Cup, and Schweinsteiger has worn the armband since.
According to both the German and British media, United will pay Bayern around 14m (19.47m euros, $21.72m) for Schweinsteiger, who has been a constant in the success of Bayern and the massive improvement of the German national side’s fortunes over the past decade.
Bayern face Valencia on Saturday at the Bird’s Nest — the main venue for the 2008 Olympic Games — at the start of a three game tour of China. They will then meet Italian side Internazionale in the commercial hub of Shanghai on Tuesday before heading into a clash with Chinese champions Guangzhou Evergrande in the country’s south on Thursday.
The team arrived in China without a handful of stars, including French winger Franck Ribery, Dutch midfielder Arjen Robben, and Brazilian defender Dante, who are all injured.
Guardiola said Bayern’s staff will work to maintain the fitness of players throughout the next season, but was upbeat when asked about the current condition of his squad.
“At the moment we are much, much better than the last few seasons,” he said.