What impact do the returning players who were injured have on the team?
“They bring an added level of quality. Marco Reus, our captain, was injured for a long time. He was very consistent and fit before the injury; he was pivotal for our offensive game. Mahmoud Dahoud played with Jamie Bynoe-Gittens in our first few games, which gave us a bit more stability, and we accumulated more points with them on the side. Sebastian [Haller] has not even played for us yet but I see him in training, and he looks fit and really eager to help the team. It was a difficult time for him and he is just happy he can finally play with us. As for the others, whether it be Marius [Wolf] or Thomas [Meunier], we are just happy that everyone is back fit because it increases the competition for places in the squad. Everybody has to perform at their highest level if they want to make the first eleven.”
How emotional was the return of Sebastien Haller for you?
“Absolutely. Sebastian was with us a couple of times during his difficult period, including one time at the stadium before a match, which gave us goosebumps. I also got to know him for a two-week period in the summer, where he made a fantastic impression on the squad; he was very friendly and had a great relationship with everyone. I am just really happy that he is with us now. You can tell he missed playing football these last months, so I am happy, the team is happy, and most importantly, he is happy to be joining us again.
How would you rate the first half of the season in retrospect?
“I thought we played a lot of good games in the Champions League. We did not have the easiest of groups, but we did well to get through comfortably. We were also quite solid in the league at the start, conceding very few goals. In the end, our squad was diminished by a lot of injuries and overworked players. We were not as compact anymore and didn’t score as many goals either. We started to lose our consistency and lost a bit of our flow. We need to stick together now and keep the team compact. Everyone has to be there for each other, and we have to work on our offensive play so that we can start scoring more than we concede.”
How did you see your performance?
“I think I started quite well, very solid. There was a really good feeling at the club. I was quite consistent for the first half of the season. I then started to make some mistakes – I still played some good games but they were often followed by some bad ones. I lost a bit of the consistency in my game, but I am still very happy that I came here. I am very happy with my choice to move here in the summer, and I think it will prove to have been the right step for me, in the years to come.”
The highlight was certainly the late equaliser in the 2:2 game against FC Bayern München. Do you still think about your assistance?
“I do not like to talk about myself when I think back on that goal because it was Anthony’s Modeste moment. The emotions that are evoked when the stadium erupted were amazing. Who scores\assists in these moments doesn’t matter in the end. It was an amazing feeling at the moment, for the players, the club and the fans. I think the stadium was shaking; it was incredibly loud. I think I can compare it to when our keeper saved the penalty against Manchester City – those were the two moments when our stadium shook. We need to make sure the stadium shakes more than twice, in the second half of the season to come.”
SC Freiburg, your former club are currently second in the league table, is that surprising to you?
“It is not surprising at all. I am the only one that left last year and I was replaced with the incredibly fit and solid Matthias Ginter – he is having a fantastic season, similar to my last one. They also recruited more quality options in attack, which gives them more width. It is impressive that they are doing well in all the competitions (Europa League, Domestic Cup, Bundesliga), but I think the hard work of the staff and members of the club over the years is now starting to pay off. You need to acknowledge the good work they are doing and admit they are doing a good job over there.”
What do you think of when you hear the name, Christian Streich?
“I would say there are two sides to it. In my first spell at Freiburg, before I moved to Union [Berlin], I did not have an easy time. I was young and I rarely got selected due to the strong competition in my position at the time. When I moved back for my second spell after Union, I was a lot more solid and stayed injury-free for a long time. The coach gave me the trust to play and it just started to flow for us as a team and for me individually. He did not have to speak to me too much, he just let me do my thing, but he is extremely important to the club; there is no question about that. He has been at the helm for ten years which is no easy feat in modern management. He is doing a fantastic job; he always creates a competitive team every year. He is good at keeping the squad joined up with the other sporting elements. You have to acknowledge the good work and respect it.”
What do you think about your current coach Edin Terzic?
“Edin is a fantastic human being and tactically also very sound. We have not repaid him for his hard work in the Bundesliga yet. He is diligent and wants to do a lot with us. We will try to be more solid in the second half of the season and follow his match plan – if we do this, we can look forward to a very positive run-in.”
How did your move to Borussia Dortmund come about?
“The first point of contact was with your advisors and representatives. I then got invited to Dortmund and listened to what they had to say. The head coach was there for the first conversation, along with Sebastian [Kehl], Hans-Joachim [Watzke] and Michael Zorg. I listened for one or two hours, and then answered the questions they had for me; I, of course, also had a few questions myself. It didn’t take too long for me to give the green light – they made me eager to join the club. Everything moved quickly from there, and I am really happy to be here.”
What is it like to sit at the same table with the BVB officials?
“They are individuals who have been working in football for many years. You used to see them on television as players or spoke to them in interviews after matches. I already had a lot of respect for them before I met them. My parents and advisors were with me at the time, and they overtook some responsibilities from me because sometimes you can’t find the right words on your own. I had a lot of respect for everyone who was there. I must have made a good impression because they decided that we would make a good fit and proceeded to recruit me.”
Why were your parents there?
“My parents were there because my father always wants to be there with me.”
Don’t you have any problems with that?
“No, not at all. He knows a lot about football and has a good relationship with me. My brother was also there with me when I signed the contract. The whole family was somewhat involved.”