Mario manages to catch Manuel alone in his hotel room after the match. Hey, what's up, Manuel asks, surprise evident in his voice, and Mario closes the door behind him.
I'm not here for you to prove whatever you think you need to prove, Mario says, and Manuel looks puzzled. After a long moment, he finally says, That's not why I did it. I'm genuinely happy for you. And Mario doesn't doubt this, but he had been a big-name transfer to Bayern once, too, not so long ago, and he can still remember what that was like.
The national team isn't like Bayern, Mario says, and though Manuel says that he knows, Mario also knows that Manuel won't really understand until he steps into the training camp. Mario remembers stepping into Säbener Straße as a Bayern player for the first time and realizing that everyone he thought he knew from the national team was different in some way when wearing Bayern red. Only recently has he begun to understand it, red seeping into his veins, mia san mia becoming more than just a slogan. Even Bastian, whom he had been closest to on the national team even then, had became someone Mario could not completely recognize when he was in Bayern colours, a different edge to his smile, a different set to his shoulders, a different declaration in the line of his back.
He had thought that knowing a few of the key Bayern players through the national team would make for a smooth, easy transfer, and Manuel must, too, especially when so many Bayern players currently play for the national team. But Mario has worked too hard to just accept being a substitute for anyone, and the eagle on his chest proclaiming the black, red, and gold of his spirit does not speak in the same voice as the Bayern crest that's been slowly bleeding into his heart.
This is something that Manuel will learn.
You should hang out with Höwedes while you have the chance, Mario says. He doesn't say, Because you'll be changed, or you'll be chewed up and spit out. Like Podolski, or even Hummels. Love's not enough in this profession; they've got to want it enough, too.
And if Manuel wants it enough (and Mario's sure that he does), then he'll find them all waiting for him at Bayern, Mario and Bastian and Philipp and Thomas and everyone else, too.
What's that supposed to mean, Manuel says with something akin to challenge, and Mario smiles, says, You'll know when you're at Bayern. He turns to leave and tosses over his shoulder before he goes, And if you still want to do it then, I won't complain.