VfB Stuttgart left-back Borna Sosa has been one of the Bundesliga’s breakthrough players this season, his consistent and attack-minded displays helping keep the promoted side out of relegation danger and in European qualifying contention.
bundesliga.com: Everyone is talking about and praising the attractive football VfB Stuttgart are playing. What do you think of it?
Borna Sosa: “We've often received praise for our play from many opposing players after the game. They say that we play very well. We even got a compliment from the Bayern Munich players that we are playing very well and that we should keep it up.
"When you hear that first-hand from the opponents, then you know that you're doing a good job and are playing really well. Maybe it's surprising for some people, players, coaches, because nobody expected that from us, especially because we came from the second division. We play very aggressively, with a lot of risk and stay back in one-on-one situations.
"For me, it’s a style of football that is very modern at this time. I think we're on the right track and at the end of the day the results are the best evidence of that.”
bundesliga.com: What are the reasons for your success straight after promotion?
Sosa: “One of the reasons is certainly that nobody expected it. I don’t want to say that a lot of teams underestimated us in the first half of the season, but they thought that it would certainly not be as difficult with us as it actually was.
"And then we beat Dortmund 5-1, which I don't think would happen now if we play against them anytime soon. Those are certainly reasons why we got off to a good start to the season. Because we have a lot of young players who don't have a lot of respect for anyone and who just went for it as if they were let off the leash, because they have a lot of energy, they want to prove themselves, they want to show themselves.
"Add all that together, plus a young trainer who wants to prove himself, who wants to transfer all his ideas to us. And all of that has come together so well and turned out to be what we have now.”
bundesliga.com: How happy are you with your development within this team?
Sosa: “I can't think of anything right now that I shouldn't be happy with. Especially for me in the 3-5-2 system, which I'd never played before. But now two years have passed and it's no longer a problem for me.
"Overall, I think that I've reached a level at this club where I've become an important part of the team. There are players in every team who are regularly in the starting line-up and that's very nice when you have achieved such a status at the club. And that's definitely a big step forward. That was the case at [former club] Dinamo Zagreb and then I didn't have it for two years, but now I'm enjoying the situation here.”
Watch: Stuttgart's 5-1 thrashing of Dortmund
bundesliga.com: With eight assists you’re among the best in the league. You’ve even had seven in the last 10 matches. Have you surprised yourself with these numbers and your dominance?
Sosa: “I’d say I wasn't exactly surprised by the assists because they've been an important part of my game throughout my career. I had it last season and this season too, although you could say that I could have had more this season, but I wasn't as lucky in the first half of the season as I am now.
"Often the ball hit the crossbar or the goalkeeper did well, et cetera. It was really very unfortunate that I didn't have more assists. But now in the second half of the season, the dam has broken and suddenly I had seven in the last nine games. I'm definitely happy about that and it is always a goal that I set myself to have as many assists as possible to help the team.”
bundesliga.com: The way you and Sasa Kalajdzic combine is remarkable. Why does it work so well?
Sosa: “I think Sasa is a very intelligent guy and last season he saw how Mario Gomez and I combined or how Nicolas Gonzalez and I did and he learned from it and found a way for himself to adapt. He and I talked about it very often, because in the beginning it is not so easy to create this interaction. That comes with time, you have to get used to a teammate and that's why it took us a while to get used to each other. But now we have noticed how well we have done and that we have given the team a lot of points, that is the most important thing for us. I think it all worked out as well as we wanted it to.”
bundesliga.com: What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Sosa: “As far as I can remember, my strengths have always been my speed and a good left foot. Not just crosses but in general. Passing, shooting, free kicks, corners, et cetera. Regardless of which team I played in, I was the fastest in testing. This is also the case here in Stuttgart. So I would single out these things as my strengths.
"What you might call a weakness, I wouldn't call it a weakness, but because I've not done so much of it, is defending. Because I grew up playing football at Dinamo and we always played offensively, always to win, in every game. And so you automatically have less defensive tasks. But I've been here three years now, where it's completely different and I've certainly developed myself further in this area, which is also very important to me. But if you were to ask me about my characteristics: speed and my left foot.”
bundesliga.com: Stuttgart sporting director Sven Mislintat recently compared you to David Beckham. Are you on board with that?
Sosa: “It's hard for me now to say if I agree because David Beckham had an incredible career, and the way he did it, it's hard to compare yourself to a football legend. But is it nice to hear something like that? Naturally. And do we have anything in common in our crosses? We do. It's not easy to learn. You either have it or you don't. I like to hear it, yes, but I wouldn't want to compare myself with him yet because he's a football legend after all, and I still have a long way to go. But it's good for me to hear something like that.”
bundesliga.com: Who was your football idol growing up?
Sosa: “Idol? When I was little, David Alaba was my idol. I said that in the interviews I gave 10 years ago, that David Alaba was my favorite player in my position. Because back then he played left-back, today he plays as a centre-back. He was really my favourite player in my position, but overall my idol was Leo Messi.”
bundesliga.com: When you face Robert Lewandowski as an opponent, what goes through your mind? Why is it so difficult to defend against him?
Sosa: “In all honesty, it's not as difficult to defend, as good as he is. Every player has a chance or a half-chance or less than a half-chance in a game, which he does not use. The thing is, he takes every chance and you have no control over that. Opportunities are always there. There is no game without scoring chances.
Watch: Robert Lewandowski's scored a perfect hat-trick against Bayern on Matchday 26
"But he just uses every chance he gets. If not every, then a high percentage of the opportunities. Therefore, it is impossible to keep him out because he has too good a chance to convert. And when he's having his day, as was said earlier about Leo Messi, all you can do is pray that it won't be his day. Because if it's his day, then there is absolutely nothing we can do.
"And it is the same with Lewandowski. If he's on form, there's nothing we can do. And I stand behind it and I think it's the truth, because when I look at [Bayern's] game against Dortmund, he also scores the half-chances. That's the difference between him and other strikers and why he's number one and others aren't.”
bundesliga.com: How do you feel about VfB’s current situation? As a newly promoted club, you distanced yourself from the relegation battle very early on and are within striking distance of the European places. What is possible? Is there a goal?
Sosa: “Certainly most people did not expect that we would find ourselves in this situation at this moment. And it's definitely a surprise to a lot of people. I think that no one would not have even dreamed that we would be talking about Europe, which we can really talk about now.
"I can say that it's not a priority for us and that we have no pressure because of it, but we are all very happy that we are in a position to fight for a European place at all. Because we have pretty tough games ahead of us now against teams that are in front of us in the table [Dortmund, Union Berlin, Wolfsburg and Leipzig]. Every point becomes meaningful for us but it will all be a bonus on top of what we have achieved so far.
"I'm not saying that we can't get points against these teams, but in real terms, there is a chance that we don't get any. That is why it is not a priority for us that we have to play Europe at all costs because sometimes you shouldn't be looking for bread when you already have a pastry. Six months ago we wanted to stay up and now Europe? Then we would be hypocritical. I think we're all happy that we're in this situation, but it certainly doesn't put us under any pressure.”