Interview: Dani Olmo, RB Leipzig

Dani, you were on holiday with Benny Henrichs, right? Where did you go?

“We were in Greece. In Mykonos. For a week. Well, he stayed a little bit longer but I had only one week because I had my training camp in Spain afterwards. We had a lot of fun there with friends.”

What did you do?

“We were chilling. We are really good friends. We were already talking about spending some time together on a holiday last year and finally this year we could make it and it was really good.”

You mentioned your Training Camp. What exactly was that?

“Yes, it is a training camp for kids. Normally from the ages of five to sixteen years. This year was the fourth year that we could make it. Everything is about solidarity for an organisation that raises money for research into kids’ cancer. We are really happy every year that we can make it and see the boys and girls who come and enjoy playing football and sports with us. It is really nice.”

So you raise money to help children?

“Yes, all the money we make at the camp is for them. The organisation is called AFANOC. They have a house in Barcelona – La casa dels Xuklis – for the families who have kids with cancer and cannot afford to rent a house while their child has to be in the hospital in Barcelona.”

What was the motivation to fund such an organisation?

“A long time ago I wanted to start and now it is the fourth year that we are doing it. I was already collaborating with AFANOC before we started the training camp but I wanted to connect it with the city – with my city Terrassa and make it something for society as well. To connect it with my training camp and AFANOC was a good way to do it I think.”

When did you start playing football?

“I have an older brother. Two years older. He started playing before me, of course. When I was little he used to put me into the goal and shoot at me. I started playing when I was two, three years old.”

Was your brother strict and did he push you?

“He wanted to play football and I couldn’t even walk. He was putting me into the goal and shooting at me but as soon as I started walking, I was shooting the ball. Also with my father who was a football player and then a football coach. I have a real football family so that is how I started.”

Was it always fun playing with your older brother?

“It was fun. When you are young you want to have fun and enjoy playing football. If you like it, then you enjoy it. The other things don’t matter. In the end, when you have fun, the other things are zero.”

And how was it with your father?

“The same. My father always liked football and when he saw that we also liked it, he was enjoying it. Of course, he was not trying to force us to play football but he liked it. He was playing with us. We liked it as well so we were also enjoying it.”

So the Olmo family is very sporty?

“Yes, we have a really sporty family. Also, my aunties play basketball and my uncles are football coaches so we are a really sporty family. Now, with my father and because of me, a lot of people recognize us and know the Olmo family as a football family.”

What has influenced you the most in your career so far?

“I think when you are young you improve a lot. You have to learn and the one year I was at Espanyol Barcelona and the six years I spent with FC Barcelona helped me a lot to improve. I was in Barcelona from ten to sixteen and then I moved to Dynamo Zagreb and then I improved a lot again, of course. The time at the academy is always important.”

What was your reasoning for joining Dinamo Zagreb as a young footballer?

“The project. The project the president had for me. Dynamo has always been recognized as a factory for young players. I was motivated to go. I was playing with the first team at the youngest possible age. When I was sixteen I was already training with them, without playing too much. The first season I only played five games which was already a lot, but I was training with professional players at a very young age, which helped me to improve my football.”

Did you go there alone or did someone come with you?

“First I moved there alone. For one or two months I was at a hotel in Dynamo and then my mother came to stay with me.”

Was that your mother’s wish?

“Both, I would say.”

What memories do you have of Zagreb?

“I have a lot of good moments and a lot of not-so-good moments. Of course, the first season was good but the second season was not the best. I was playing for the second team most of the time. I wasn’t getting many opportunities. Of course, there were hard moments, but everything contributed to the journey. In the end, at the age of seventeen or eighteen I was often playing with the first team and we won titles, we played the Europa League, and we played in the Champions League. It was a big improvement for me to play there.”

Where did you get that strength back then?

“I think the process. The whole process. When I started and I moved there, I didn’t know anybody, and I was really young. Of course, the players who were there helped me a lot. I was lucky that I met some players who spoke Spanish as well and they helped me, at least in the first years. Then when I learned the language, everything was a little bit easier. I have really nice memories of Croatia. I still go back there when I can. During the summer or winter break – whenever I can. I have special memories from Zagreb.”

Now you’ve extended your contract until 2027. How did that come about?

“I am happy that I signed and that I am staying. I trust in the project this season and in the coach as well. I think we have a really good group and we want to have a good year together.”

What convinced you to stay?

“Max (Eberl) and his ideas. Also the coach (Marco Rose) and his way of playing. I really like it. The ideas he has and the winning mentality and ambition he has motivated me to stay and sign a new contract and stay this season. This is why we are here now.”

How has 2023 been for you so far?

“It has been a really good year. I finished with two titles. With the DFB Pokal and the Nations League. Personally, it could have been better. I missed a few games because of some issues but now we are good. We are ready for the season. We are doing good work. I am feeling good. Next season we are going for more.”

What other goals do you have?

“To repeat it, of course. We have to defend, I think we have the team for this. Last season we made it so this season we are not going to do less.”

Are Bayern struggling after last season?

“I don’t think so. They are always strong, Bayern, has really good players, world-class with a lot of experience. They will be there every season for sure. Now again we have a chance to win a title in the first game. That is what we are preparing for. We have had nice pre-season days and will be ready.”

Last season, RBL was 6 points behind Dortmund and Bayern. What does it take to be at the top?

“To be consistent throughout the whole season. Last season we didn’t start so well but afterwards had good dynamics. We won a lot of games in a row. This is the goal, to keep winning. Of course, you can make mistakes and lose some points at any point but the goal is just to keep going forward all the time. This season it is our goal again to keep going and to try to win every game.”

You start this season against Bayer Leverkusen. Is Xabi Alonso still as big in Spain?

“He is, of course. He is a big legend. Not only for Real Madrid but also for his national team. He won absolutely everything. He is also doing a good job at Leverkusen and for us, it is going to be a tough game to start with but that will also show our quality and where we want to be. We will take it as an opportunity to show where we will be.”

What changes in the dressing room after the departure of Szoboszlai, Nkunku and Laimer?

“Yes, of course, it is tough. I had a really good relationship with them. Especially with Domi [Dominik Szoboszlai]. This is football. One day you are here and the next day you leave for some reason. Everything happens so fast but we have to adapt. Of course, they were really important players for us last season, and this season they are not here any more. We cannot count on them. We just have to move forward.”

What changes for you?

“Nothing, new players have arrived with a lot of quality and ambition so for me it is the same. I will try to give my best to help the team as always.”