Bested by Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga in the last two seasons, and pipped to European club football's ultimate prize in two of the last three UEFA Champions League finals, FC Bayern München have endured some unusually frustrating and barren years. The Bavarian giants' response has been to strengthen coach Jupp Heynckes' hand with arrivals such as Switzerland winger Xherdan Shaqiri and Spanish international Javi Martínez, the latter's Bundesliga record price tag of €40m testimony to the determination that Dante Bonfim can perceive within the club.
"It's like there's something stuck in your throat, saying, 'We haven't been champions for two years, that's enough! We have to work at the limit, work on attaining perfection.' We know perfection does not exist, but we know that a club with the name and size of Bayern cannot remain without titles any longer," said the Brazilian centre-back, himself snapped up from VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach this summer. "We are not frustrated. We are sad of course, but it is also a source of motivation to say, 'Let's unite the team, let's grab this chance to become champions again!' This is very important."
First Bayern must negotiate a Group F featuring LOSC Lille, FC BATE Borisov and Valencia CF, the side vanquished on penalties when Bayern last lifted the UEFA Champions League trophy 11 years ago. "We have to treat all these teams with a serious mindset, lots of concentration, and knowing that each one will be trying to beat Bayern Munich, a great club, a club with a name. They respect Bayern, it will be a big game for them to play Bayern," said Dante, who will renew acquaintances with Lille, the club which first brought him to Europe in 2003. "I'll be very happy to see some friends that are still there, there are a few of them. But, of course, I hope Bayern emerge as winners from that game."
Dante may have found it difficult to adapt to life in northern France after his transfer from EC Juventude. Yet, after developing in Belgium with R. Charleroi SC and R. Standard de Liège, he forged his reputation during a three-year stint at Mönchengladbach, culminating in last season's fourth-place finish. His former side missed out on the group stage after slipping up in the play-offs, depriving his ex-team-mates of the chance Dante now fully intends to seize.
"Everyone in Brazil knows the Champions League, every player dreams of playing in it. It does not matter which player, whether they became champions or just participated in the Champions League, it is an indescribable moment," said the 28-year-old, the latest in a line of Brazilians to sport Bayern's colours. "I would like to leave my name in history here as well. Whenever a club has a history of Brazilian players, it is always gratifying to know we are well thought of. It is also important to succeed and give continuity to the success Brazilians have had. I don't think it will be any different with me."
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