The foal’s midfield strategist is looking forward to the Champions League duel with Real Madrid. But there is one thing he will miss on this special evening, he explains in a t-online interview.
Florian Neuhaus has had eventful weeks behind him: First the Gladbach midfield director celebrated his debut in the DFB jersey in the 3: 3 against Turkey – and he also scored his first international goal -, then he ran in the 2: 2 against Inter Milan for the first time in the Champions League.
In an interview with t-online Neuhaus talks about childhood dreams that have come true, the lack of fans in the stadiums, and what experiences he has had at the DFB.
t-online: Mr. Neuhaus, Gladbach is back in the premier class. How does it feel to be before your first Champions League game?
Florian Neuhaus (23): It will be something very special. But we worked hard for that last season. I’m looking forward to the games in this great group.
You said you had seen every game in the previous Champions League season. Was that already the case in your childhood?
The Champions League on Tuesdays and Wednesdays was a must. I was looking forward to the evening games at school early in the morning. I always had to negotiate a little with my parents so that I could stay up late, but luckily they almost always made an exception for the Champions League. As a child, it was very special for me to watch the games in front of the television with my parents in the evening. A huge dream is coming true that I can now be on the pitch in this competition.
Which Champions League experience on the couch at home do you remember particularly well?
The 2005 Champions League final between AC Milan and Liverpool FC. I was eight years old then. Milan went into halftime with a 3-0 lead, I thought the game was over and then Liverpool come back in the second half and even win the game. A special memory is also FC Bayern against Real Madrid in the round of 16 in 2007, when Roy Makaay took the Munich lead after just ten seconds.
The only 25-year-old Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard lifts the handle pot into the Istanbul night sky. The final against AC Milan is considered to be one of the best in European Cup history. (Source: Aflosport / imago images)
Last Wednesday it was in San Siro against Inter Milan, this Tuesday Real Madrid is visiting Borussia-Park – two of the biggest football clubs in the world. Two clubs that you dreamed of as a kid, maybe even had jerseys?
When I was on vacation, I used to buy one of these imitation jerseys for 10 or 15 euros at the market. These are simply two of the absolute top teams, the opponents you dreamed of as a child and with whom I now want to compete as a professional.
Then there are the unpleasant Ukrainians from Shakhtar Donetsk. How do you and Gladbach want to survive in this “death group”?
The fact that we cannot go into the games as favorites and surprise is a role that can suit us. You saw that in the last first half of the season against FC Bayern when we won 2-1.
The Champions League games are also played in front of almost empty grandstands. To what extent does the fan proximity suffer from the corona pandemic?
I miss the fans. It’s your emotions that make football what it is. However, we cannot change the current situation, we can only take care of our health.
How is Gladbach, but also the DFB, for example, counteracting this development?
We players, coaches and supervisors undergo regular corona tests in order to keep the game going. Therefore, personal contact with the fans is unfortunately not possible and would also be irresponsible. But these days, social media gives us great opportunities to connect with fans. This is also important to Borussia because the club sees itself as a very fan-like club.
Her next childhood wish came true with her Champions League debut. Before that, you reached a major milestone in your first international match against Turkey in early October – and scored a goal straight away. How do you remember that evening?
To be able to play for the national team at all and then to score a goal in the first game – that’s something very special. I will remember that evening with great joy all my life.
Florian Neuhaus celebrates his goal for the 2-1 win against Turkey. (Source: Uwe Kraft / imago images)
In the subsequent Nations League games against Ukraine and Switzerland, you were not used. How much did it bother you that you weren’t rewarded for your good performance against Turkey?
That wasn’t a big issue for me. Of course I would have liked to have played in those games too, but I know about the competition in my position. I absolutely understand that the national coach didn’t want to change his axis for the Nations League games and relied on it again after the Turkey game.
Did national coach Joachim Löw explain to you that you were not being considered?
He didn’t say it that directly now. But I am in regular contact with the national coach and can therefore understand his decisions very well. In general, he is a very communicative trainer where the players always know where they stand. Still, I think that through my commitment and my goal against Turkey, I took the first big step in the national team. Now it’s about recommending me for further nominations and offering myself for the future.
The EM is coming up in the near future. Do you already dare to play a leading role in the team there – or would you already be satisfied with a management position?
The nomination for the tournament would be a big deal for me. After all, that would mean that I would be among the 23 best footballers in the country.
With the farewells of Hummels, Müller and Boateng, the change was proclaimed at the DFB. How do you assess the current age structure of the national team?
I can only rate what I experienced with the national team. And that was that the mood was very good. The team I met has enormous potential – not only in terms of football, but also as a person. Nobody has to worry about leadership quality in the DFB-Elf.
Despite your professional status ‘, have you ever attended an amateur game, for example in your hometown of Kaufering?
It’s an absolute must when I’m at home. My best friend plays for VfL Kaufering, my big brother plays for FC Penzing, my little brother in the Kauferinger B-Jugend – there is always a game in the district that I watch. This is also important to me. I have a close bond with my home country and local sport is also part of that.
Are there things that professional football should learn from the grassroots?
I find it rather remarkable that – no matter what level you play at – each of us is crazy about football. That you can be just as enthusiastic about the district league as you are about the Bundesliga. When my brothers and my best friend talk about their games at the weekend, they don’t care if I play in the Bundesliga – the most important thing for them is their own experience on the pitch.