Willi, how have you found the last few weeks looking forward to the new season?
Because of the international games again we didn’t really have a proper summer break.
Still, I really looked forward to coming back to Cottaweg and seeing the boys again. Then we got underway straight after that with the training camp in Austria, the friendlies and the Supercup.
You are always really focussed on diet and discipline. Is that the same during the holidays or was the return to training at the beginning of July a bit of a change?
My lifestyle also doesn’t change while on holiday. It has become a habit to look after my diet and to have a good sleep cycle. I also take part in regular training, especially strength training, during the summer break. As a result, I didn’t find it difficult coming back to regular training at Leipzig.
Despite all this, do you also see holiday as something very important?
Holiday is extremely important – even more mentally than physically. Even more so after a really emotional season like ours last year, with lots of highs and lows, and our first cup win. It was good to take a step back and be able to reflect on all that.
So was there a moment in which you were able to quietly reflect on the cup win?
Yes, with the relentlessness of a season you cannot truly enjoy everything as you should. When you then understand looking back that you have won the first big title for RB Leipzig and the prestige that this trophy has – it makes you want more.
With two friendlies against Southampton and Liverpool as well as the Supercup behind you – how is the team feeling currently?
Physically, we are at a good level and we showed this in the second half against Bayern. It is important that we lift everyone in the team to a really high level individually as well. We know that with Joško and Yussi we have two lads that will be out for a short while still, so it is even more important that the rest of the team is in good form as well.
How do you see our squad in comparison to last season?
We have a strong squad but one that can definitely be improved. It is important that we bring in players that strengthen the team, as was the case with David Raum and Xaver Schlager, because in terms of depth we are already well set.
With Tyler Adams and Nordi Mukiele two long-serving teammates left us – how do you say goodbye in that situation?
Transfers like these are often got over the line very quickly. Unfortunately it is normal these days that there is often hardly any time to properly say goodbye. But it will still be possible to see them again in various ways.
On the other hand with Xaver Schlager and David Raum we need to welcome two new players into the team. What is your role as vice-captain in making new teammates feel welcome?
Xaver and David are both players of a high standard who have played international football. You also know them a little bit from different encounters. That makes integration really easy, which is also helped by them being German speakers so they can be understood perfectly. As players in positions of leadership, we are obviously always available and help where we can. In any case, the two of them have made a great impression.
Talking of leaders, Christo Nkunku is now a part of the team council. Tell us how that came about.
First of all, it was a great sign from Christo that he decided to stay in Leipzig despite a number of offers from top clubs – we’re all really happy about that.
This should be the next step for him personally as he takes more responsibility both on and off the pitch. He developed incredibly last season. He has always been very mature. The idea was also presumably to get a French speaking player on board who can represent those guys in the squad.
This season is a bit different to a normal one due to the World Cup in Qatar in mid-November. What are your thoughts ahead of the new campaign?
We haven’t had a normal schedule for the last two seasons due to the pandemic, so I don’t think it’ll be that bad. We’ll obviously have a number of midweek games, but we had plenty last year too. The two-month break could even be a benefit. A good World Cup for our lads involved could give them a real boost.
Let’s discuss the first Bundesliga game of the season in Stuttgart on Sunday.
We need to get the basics right in defence. That’s important in every training session and will be even more vital during competitive games. We’re expecting a completely different game to the two against Liverpool and Bayern simply because they both have so much quality.
Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that the game in Stuttgart will be a walk in the park. Although VfB had a tough season last year, they still have quality in their squad. I’m going there full of confidence because we have always performed well there and have only ever conceded one goal from a penalty.
We felt the fans support from the pitch.
You got to experience the support of our fans once again against Liverpool and Bayern. How much of a boost will that give the team for the start of the season?
The fans were really loud against Bayern and we could really feel their support from the pitch. I once again noticed how much of an impact the fans behind the goal can have – it just makes you even more excited for the new season and our first Bundesliga home game.
How good is our stadium now it’s all red?
It’s amazing. You won’t find anybody that’s a RB Leipzig fan that doesn’t like it. We’ve had to wait a while for it and that just makes it even better now.
To finish off, I’d like to talk about our aims for this season. We want to start well and ensure that we build up some momentum. That will also mean we are not playing catch up with the other teams during the busier parts of the season. We obviously want to make the Champions League once again.
I’m really looking forward to our home games and I hope that we can be really strong at home again. I want us to once again have one of the best defences in the league – defence wins titles, as the saying goes.