Josko Gvardiol (l.) can only get better, according to RB Leipzig teammate Dani Olmo (r.). - © Imago
Josko Gvardiol (l.) can only get better, according to RB Leipzig teammate Dani Olmo (r.). - © Imago

RB Leipzig's Dani Olmo on Josko Gvardiol, Bayern Munich, Manchester City and more


Dani Olmo has told that 2022 World Cup star Josko Gvardiol will only improve as RB Leipzig target scalps against the likes of Bayern Munich and Manchester City in the months ahead.

There were mixed fortunes for Olmo and Gvardiol at the finals as Spain exited the competition in the round of 16, while Croatia finished third. Reunited domestically at Leipzig, the duo will be key to the club's hopes of catching Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich, toppling Pep Guardiola's Man City in the UEFA Champions League knockouts and defending their DFB Cup title... How's the training camp going after the World Cup?

Dani Olmo: "It's good. We've just started. Today is the third day of the start here, in Abu Dhabi. I had time to rest and to process the World Cup. In the end, it was a big experience that I have to take with me and I'm ready. I'm happy to be back with the team." How disappointing was the World Cup for you as a Spaniard?

Olmo: "Of course, 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're a young team. Now with some changes – with the coach and also [Sergio] Busquets not continuing with the team. We learned a lot with them, but we have to move forward. As I said, we're a young team and if everything goes well, we'll have a lot more competitions ahead."

Olmo (l.) and Bayern Munich's Leon Goretzka (r.) will renew acquaintances on Bundesliga Matchday 16, after facing off at the World Cup. - Julian Finney/Getty Images How was it for you personally as an experience? It was your first World Cup and you scored Spain's 100th World Cup goal in the 7-0 win over Costa Rica...

Olmo: "It was a big moment. I remember this first game. To play – to make my debut in the World Cup and that I could score the first goal for us and also the 100th it was really special. The World Cup, all four games we played, I really enjoyed it a lot with the teammates, with the staff, with everything that was there. Everything was only for us. It was like a dream. Playing at a World Cup is, I think, the pinnacle for a player. It's a big experience." Josko Gvardiol was one of 11 Bundesliga-based World Cup semi-finalists. Did you follow his performances? What makes him so special as a player?

Olmo: "It's not a surprise for me. I know what he can do. Croatia is also 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 guy is he?

Olmo: "He's quiet. Sometimes kind of funny. He likes to joke, but he's calm. He likes to work. He's clever as well. He knows what he has to do to achieve – to keep working, to keep moving. He's still young. There's still a lot to improve because he has no limit right now."

Gvardiol (l.) and Olmo (r.) were key for a resurgent Leipzig during the latter part of 2022. - Imago Your relationship must be special because you speak Croatian?

Olmo: "Yes, I know it. I knew it from the time I was at Dinamo [Zagreb]. We didn't play a lot together because he was too young. I also use him to improve my skills in Croatian. He's my friend." Could you already see at Dinamo that he has great potential? 

Olmo: "Yes, you could already see what kind of player he was, but he was still 17 or 18. He was training with us, playing a few games, but still not in the full dynamic. After I left, his time arrived and he started to play all the season, and after that we bought him." How satisfied were you with your Hinrunde? Despite your knee injury, you made 10 appearances, registering a goal and two assists...

Olmo: "It was not lucky for me, let's say – that I had to live one of the worst things a football player can live: an injury. I learned a lot from this. I worked hard to come back and to achieve my goals, like to play in the World Cup. Afterwards it was really good. The team made a lot of progress during this first part of the season and we're in a good spot now. We have to keep going on like this." When you say you learned a lot, what is it exactly that you learn when you're out injured like that?

Olmo: "To know what my body needs in every situation. To know 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's still hard, but from everything you learn a lot and when you are injured you also learn a lot." You had a change of coach during the first half of the season. How do you like the ideas of Marco Rose?

Olmo: "Yes, it's a really clear idea. He likes the offensive players to create. To be creative. To surprise. To move – mobility. Of course with some basics like every coach has, but he gives us a lot of freedom. He's really good. He is really communicative with us – with the players. I think you can see on the pitch that things are working." Where do you see yourself in the team and what's the coach's plan for you?

Olmo: "I've always felt important in the team, and I just try to help with what I can do - off and on the pitch." We've seen what's possible with five Bundesliga wins from six at the end of the first half of the season. Is even better to come?

Olmo: "Yes, for sure, we have very good players. We have a very good team. Altogether we have been doing good things. We finished the year well and also in a Champions League spot. We didn't start like this. We have to keep going now. Six more months. The most important part of the season with the Bundesliga, the cup and Champions League. We have to be ready for all of this." What's your personal objective, with three trophies to play for?

Olmo: "We want to compete in all competitions. We know the Champions League is going to be hard because we'll face one of the favourites. It's Manchester City, but we have to keep going and believe, because we can do it. We have already showed how we can play against big teams, like Real Madrid. We beat them at home. Also in the league and the cup, anything is possible 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?

Olmo: "We know Manchester City and how they play. I think they show the world their philosophy every week, every game they play. Of course, it's hard to play against them, but we'll play to our strengths. We also have our things they have to worry about, so we'll focus on ourselves." Eighty percent of kicker readers do not believe that Leipzig will challenge Bayern for the title in the second half of the season. Do you belong to the 80 percent or the 20 percent?

Olmo: "No, I'm going with the 20 [percent] of course. We're optimistic. Of course we know that Bayern have already 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, like we have done in the last part of the first half of the season. Now we have to keep going. We have the players."

Watch: Dani Olmo helped RB Leipzig end 2022 in flying form Playing Bayern in the first game back could be an advantage. What do you expect?

Olmo: "We don’t care about that. We have to get ready now. It'll be the same for them. It will be the first match for us and for them. We just have to focus on ourselves." Does playing Bayern first have a bearing on the rest of the season, though? If you lose, you're nine points behind - but only three if you win...

Olmo: "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 bury our heads in the sand. We have to keep going." What about your contract situation? It's up in 2024, and there are always rumours. You're in talks with the club. What does Dani Olmo want?

Olmo: "Yes, we're talking. I'm open to talks. My contract expires in 2024. But I have always said I'm happy here. We'll see what will happen." What do you like and appreciate most about the Bundesliga ?

Olmo: "I think the rhythm, the intensity. The games are very direct, with a lot of emotion. I think the fans like that. The stadiums as well. Everywhere you go – also for us, we're lucky. Our stadium's almost always full, which is an extra motivation. When we go away to see the away fans as well. That's football. This is why we play. It's very nice."