How was it going into the training camp after the World Cup?
"I also had time to rest and disconnect from the World Cup. In the end, it was a big experience that I have to take with me, and I am ready for the rest of the season. I am happy to be back with the team."
How disappointing was the World Cup for you as a Spaniard?
"It was a big disappointment. Our goal was to play the seven games. In the end, we didn’t reach that goal. We have to learn from this. We are a young team and there are a few changes now, like the coach and [Sergio] Busquets retiring. We learned a lot with them, but we have to move forward. As I said, we are a young team and if everything goes well, we will have a lot more competitions ahead."
How was it for you personally as an experience because it was your first World Cup, and you scored the 100th World Cup goal for the Spanish team in the 7-0 game against Costa Rica?
"It was a big moment. I remember this first game. To play and to make my debut in the World Cup and to score our first goal and the 100th in a World Cup for Spain was really special. I really enjoyed playing in the World Cup and all four games that we played, Being with my teammates, with the staff, and everything that was there - it was like a dream. Playing at a World Cup is, I think, the best thing a player can play in. It is a great experience."
How did you follow Gvardiol’s performances? What makes him so special as a player?
"I know what he can do. Croatia have a very good national team, and he showed the world what he has been doing here in the Bundesliga. It was good for him."
What kind of person is he?
"He is quiet and sometimes kind of funny. He likes to joke but he's always relaxed. He likes to work and he’s clever as well. He knows what he has to do to achieve – to keep working, to keep moving. He is still young. There is still a lot to improve and he needs to keep going because there is no limit for him right now."
Your relationship must be special because you can also speak Croatian?
"Yes, I speak it. I knew it from the when I was at Dinamo [Zagreb]. We didn’t play a lot together because he was younger. I also use him to improve my skills in Croatian. He's a good friend."
Could you already see at Dinamo that he has great potential?
"Yes, you could already see what kind of player he was, but he was still seventeen or eighteen years old. He was training with us and playing a few games but he still wasn't a part of the first-team squad. After I left, his time came and he started to play all season and after that, we bought him."
How satisfied were you with your first half despite your knee injury? In 10 games this season, you have one goal and two assists.
"I had some back luck; an injury is one of the worst things that can happen to you as a footballer. I learned a lot from it and I worked hard to come back and to achieve my goals, like playing in the World Cup. The team made a lot of progress during the first part of the season and we are in a good place now. We have to keep going on like this."
When you say you learned a lot, what is it exactly that you learnt?
"I learnt to know what my body needs in every situation; to know how to control the loads a little bit more. To listen to my body and my muscles. To realise, to recognise every situation how it is. Of course, it is still hard but you can learn something from everything and when you are injured, you also learn a lot."
You had a change of coach in the first half of the season. How do you like the football ideas of Marco Rose?
"He has a really clear idea. He likes the attacking players to be creative. He wants us to be capable of surprises and to move. Of course, there are some basics, like every coach has, but he gives us a lot of freedom. He is really good. He is really communicative with the players. I think you can see on the pitch that things are working."
Where do you see yourself in the team and how does the coach plan with you?
"I have always felt important in the team and I just try to help with what I can do, both on and off the pitch."
We have seen what is possible at the end of the first half of the season. Is that the true strength of RB or is there more to come?
"We definitely have very good players and a very good team. Altogether, we've been able to do good things. We finished the year well and we're also in the Champions League positions. We didn’t start that way and we have to keep going now for the next six months. This is the most important part of the season with the Bundesliga, the DFB-Pokal and the Champions League - we have to be ready for it all."
What are your objectives – you are still in the race for titles in three competitions: Bundesliga, the Champions League and the DFB-Pokal?
"We want to compete in all the competitions. We know the Champions League is going to be hard because we will face one of the favourites in Manchester City, but we have to believe because we are capable. We have already shown that we can play against big teams like Real Madrid. We beat them at home. Anything is possible in the league and the cup, too, and we have to compete for everything."
How big is the respect for a team like Man City considering that they have a coach whose style of play you know very well from Barcelona, but also knowing that you have already beaten Real Madrid?
"We know Manchester City and how they play. I think they show the world their philosophy every week, in every game they play. Of course it is very hard to play against them, but we will play with our weapons. We also have our threats that they have to worry about so we will focus on ourselves."
80% of readers of the German football magazine kicker readers, for example, do not believe that RB will be dangerous enough to challenge Bayern as serious title contenders in the second half of the season. Do you belong to the 80% or to the 20%?
"No, I am going with the 20% of course. We are optimistic. Of course, we know that Bayern have won a lot of Bundesliga titles in a row but I think we have the team to compete. We have to be stable. We have good dynamics, as we have done in the final part of the first half of the season. Now we have to keep going and we have the players for that."
The first game against Bayern could be an advantage because both teams do not yet know where they stand. What can you expect?
"That doesn't really matter. We have to be ready now. After the mid-season break, it will be the same for them. It will be the first competitive match for us and for them. I think it will be equal for both teams and that’s it. We have to focus on ourselves."
Is this first game against the Bavarians nevertheless somehow directional for you? If you lose you're 9 points behind, if you win you're only 3 points behind.
"Yes, it’s always good to start the second part of the season with a win but I think that one game will not change anything. Of course, we want to win all the games but if we do not win the first game we will not look down. We have to keep going."
What do you like most about the Bundesliga?
"I think the rhythm, the intensity. There are a lot of very direct games, with a lot of emotion. I think that's something that the fans enjoy. I like the stadiums as well. We're very lucky that our stadium is almost always full and that gives us extra motivation. It's nice to see the fans follow us away, too. That is football. That's why we play."