Borussia Dortmund midfielder Julian Brandt has high hopes for his side this weekend. The 25-year-old talks about his relationship with the Bundesliga’s record champions, about Julian Nagelsmann, and his own development in recent years.
How would you describe the season so far?
If you compare it with the last year or two, definitely better. We have certainly improved, we’re a lot more efficient. At the moment it’s all or nothing, either win or lose – we haven’t drawn in the Bundesliga yet. That’s good because we have won a lot, which is good for our points total. There have been some soft defeats this season, but we have to stay focussed. We’ve created a good position for ourselves and we need to maintain this in the run up to Christmas.
How would you describe the relationship with Bayern?
Given the last few years have been dominated to an extent by Bayern, even if that has been sobering for BVB, a rivalry has developed in recent years. Even in the media you can see that. It’s a special game. Of course we had the Super Cup, but going against Bayern in the league, there’ll be a lot to take in. You saw that against Stuttgart, the fans are excited about the game. I’m looking forward to it. It can also be a really entertaining game for neutral fans.
Do you remember your only goal against Bayern in the Bundesliga (matchday 31 in 2015)?
Yes, I can remember it. Prior to that I had only scored against them in the Super Cup, but this was the only one in the Bundesliga.
How would you describe Bayern’s season?
Good, very good. They are playing unbelievably well this season. Of course, people will always talk about certain setbacks. That is normal at Bayern – if you lose then the criticism comes fast. At the end of the day though, they are just people too. Everyone makes mistakes or loses a game, nobody does it deliberately, whether that’s at Bayern or Dortmund. That shows that we are all human, but they are playing excellent football. They are very efficient, scoring a lot of goals both in the Champions League as well as the Bundesliga. They went out of the DFB Cup, but you can’t judge them based on things like that.
Can you see Julian Nagelsmann’s stamp on the club?
It’s hard to say. I think first of all that Julian Nagelsmann is a top coach. He seems to be getting on really well with the team, from the outside looking in anyway, but I’m not in the camp. To be honest, I haven’t seen too much on the TV because my focus is on myself and my team, but what you can see and judge is that the football he wants to play and that he’s developing, he has got the players for it. They are extremely successful, extremely efficient. Bayern have always played good football of course, but they have improved. Just like us, they have to deal with things that don’t make life easy, uch as injured players or having to change things around regularly. It’s the same for us and that can unsettle a team for a game, but what they do, they do really well.
After a disappointing season last time around how are things going for you now?
Good. Of course things can always be better; I hope I can contribute more to the goal tally in the coming games. Generally speaking though, I’m playing a lot – every game actually. I have a good feeling on and off the pitch, with my teammates as well as the coaching staff. I’m in a place now where I can say that I must keep going like this. I don’t have the feeling anymore that things aren’t right. That was the case last season, when I had the feeling that I wasn’t quite reaching my limits. It’s going well. It can definitely be even better because you’re never satisfied, but it will get there. At the end of the day, what’s important is how much you can help the team and I think that’s going well, but it can get better in the next few months.
Was it an important experience to get out of that hole?
It was essentially the best thing that could have happened to me. There have been periods in my life when I’ve been knocked back or when things didn’t go well for a few weeks. However, that was really a tough season, and I’d never experienced that before. I’ll learn from it, for my life as well. To take so many hits for a year and, as it felt, to be side-lined for so long, it did me good. The last seven or eight years all headed in an upwards direction, so this brings you back down to earth. Of course, it’s not easy, and you don’t enjoy it, you have to be honest, but it can teach you a lot for the rest of your career or the coming seasons. It helped me a lot. I developed a lot in that time. Everything else, I don’t really give too much weight to, it happened, you move on.
Is Der Klassiker a huge chance for you to put things right after your Champions League exit?
Every game is a chance to do that. It won’t bring us into the next round of the Champions League, but football works on a day-to-day basis and people remember your last game. You notice that a lot in a city like Dortmund, where people live for football. We exited the Champions League, but if we win against Bayern, you will see on Sunday that people are happy again. That’s the hard part and the great part of football, nobody carries these things with them for a long time. Of course it’s always there to see in the papers and the media because it’s a talking point, but otherwise it moves on so fast, and things can look so differently after two weeks. The disappointment is then gone and is replaced by a certain confidence about the upcoming weeks and months. Of course, this week has a lot of potential and we have to make the most of it.