Interview: Emre Can, Borussia Dortmund

Emre Can has taken on the captaincy at Borussia Dortmund and is now looking to lead the team’s resurgence. – © Alexander Scheuber/Bundesliga

Have you got any resolutions for the new year?

“I’m the sort of person who does that. Even if some people think it’s nonsense, I’m still someone who makes them.”

What are your goals then?

“First of all, to stay healthy, that my family stays healthy, and that I have a very good year in a footballing sense with my team.”

What are the goals as a team?

“That we perform better than we’ve maybe done so far. We know that as a team, and we’re not pleased with where we are in the Bundesliga table. But the good thing is we know there’s lots of room for improvement, and now we need to prove ourselves again.”

Things weren’t all bad in the first half of the season, were they?

“Not, we can’t forget that. It was just at the end, in the final few games, it just wasn’t good, but before that… In the Champions League, in the ‘Group of Death’, we’ve advanced. That’s no small achievement. But in the Bundesliga and in the DFB Cup, where we’re unfortunately already out, it’s not good. It doesn’t all start over now. We’re a few points behind, which we need to make up. We hopefully will make them up. We want to get off to a good start in the first games, and get results – that’s very important. And maybe we can get on a run like we did last year. That’d be very nice.”

You have new assistant coaches Nuri Sahin and Sven Bender. How involved are they in training?

“Very active. They’ve been very loud, which I think is good in training. They were actively coaching, which is important. They’ll help us more. I think a lot of both of them. They’ve already done a lot in their still-young coaching careers. They also did a lot for BVB, even if in another role. I think they’ll help us more.”

Did you know either of them beforehand?

“I know Nuri better. We never played together. It wasn’t firm contact, but we’d hear from each other now and then. I held him in really high esteem from a young age. It’s nice to be working together after so long. I’m excited about him because I believe he can help us go further as a team. I think he did an amazing job in his young coaching career at Antalyaspor. He exudes good energy. As for Sven, I don’t know him that well, but I’ve just heard he’s a great guy. That’s been confirmed in the first few days. Loud out on the pitch, which is good. And off the pitch, just a relaxed guy who’s always good for a laugh. That’s how things should be.”

Is this a big chance for head coach Edin Terzic?

“Of course, you can’t do everything alone. It’s always important to have good assistants. We’ve now brought in some great assistant coaches. You also can’t forget Geppi [Sebastian Geppert], who’s also here. It’ll make Edin better as a coach. That’s how it has to be. It’s a team job. They’re all young and will all help each other. At the end of the day, Edin is the head coach. At the end of the day, he takes responsibility and makes the decisions.”

How have your first months as captain been?

“It’s different as captain. The level of focus is different from the media. You may maybe criticised more than before, but I’ll stand up, take responsibility and lead from the front. I’ve always said that. I think it’s a huge honour to be captain of such a huge club. I try to enjoy it every day. It’s great fun to hold the position of captain.”

What’s it like to deal with criticism?

“It’s okay. I’ve been doing this for a while and can handle it.”

How important are the other leaders in the squad?

“Very important. Just because I’ve got the armband doesn’t mean I’m the big boss in the team. Others have been here several years, some longer than me, such as Mats [Hummels], and Marco [Reus]. You can only do it as a team. Everyone has to bear and take responsibility on the pitch. I think we do that well within our team.”

Do you all get together as a team at the camp in Marbella?

“We’ve done it this season as well… I don’t know if we’ll sit down only as players. I also don’t know if it’s necessary because everyone knows what the deal is, and what we need to do better. I don’t know if we’ll have a team evening here because we’ve got two matches and not a lot of time, but it’d be important and good if we could get out and do something as a team.”

Is UEFA Euro 2024 a big goal this year?

“It’s a very big subject. I want to perform well here at Dortmund, and obviously, my goal is to be there. I’ll do and give everything to make it an impossibility not to call me up. We’ll see in the end if I manage it or not.”

What are the official goals for this new year?

“I think we need to take things one game at a time. We want to be in the Champions League next year. That has to be our goal as Dortmund. And we want to progress another round in this year’s Champions League. I think making a good start and getting results in the first games will be important. Maybe we can get on a run like we did last year. Why not?”

How important would a good run be for confidence?

“It makes everything feel easier and a shot maybe goes in where you don’t expect it, or Greg [Kobel] makes another save. That’s how it should be.”

Borussia Dortmund’s all-action midfielder against Xavi Simons of RB Leipzig during the Bundesliga match between Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig at Signal Iduna Park on 9 December 2023.