RB Leipzig midfielder Diego Demme doesn't just play EA Sports' FIFA 20 for kicks - he does so as part of the club's official e-Sports team.
bundesliga.com caught up with the 27-year-old to discuss his sporting ambitions, on the field with Leipzig and in the 2019/20 Virtual Bundesliga...
bundesliga.com: You played in your 200th game against Leverkusen on Matchday 7. How did that feel and, looking back, what are the highlights of that time?
Diego Demme: "I hadn’t realised that was going to be my 200th game, I only realised afterwards. It makes me proud to have been here for so long and to have played so many games for the club. There have been a lot of highlights, starting with promotion to the second division, and then to the first division. Then the first Champions League game, here at home. There have been some real highlights. It's been very nice to be a part of the promotion celebrations with this club, and to grow with the club."
bundesliga.com: You made your debut against Wacker Burghausen in Germany's third tier in January 2014. Did you ever think then that you might someday play in the Champions League?
Demme: "I can remember, I think we lost 1-0 at home. We lost the following game too and then things improved drastically. I met Ralf Rangnick [Leipzig's sporting director at the time] and decided to make the move, and for everything to happen so quickly and for us to go from the third division to the Champions League was the dream scenario."
bundesliga.com: What does this club mean to you? How's your connection to them grown?
Demme: "When you play for a club for 6 years, of course it means a lot to you. The club made me into what I am today and brought me to where I am, so I have a lot to thank them for."
bundesliga.com: How has Leipzig’s game changed under Julian Nagelsmann?
Demme: "We've changed our possession game a little and have more options now. We also try to create more pressure going forward. Our pressing and the philosophy of transitioning quickly has changed too. I'm very happy because I am playing a lot more than I did in the last three months of last season. I met with [Nagelsmann] and the sporting director too. He told me the coach was going to build around me and rely on me, which convinced me to stay here."
Watch: Julian Nagelsmann brewing a Bundesliga storm with Leipzig
bundesliga.com: What goal would you like to reach this season?
Demme: "I hope we can finish in a Champions League [top four] place again and get as far as we did last year in the cup, just with a better result in the final."
bundesliga.com: What targets did you set yourself before the season started?
Demme: "Firstly, to get as many games and as much game time as possible. That's always the primary goal; to be a starter, to get through the season uninjured and to achieve the team's aims."
bundesliga.com: You won one Germany cap in 2017. When can Leipzig fans next expect to you see you wearing a Germany kit again?
Demme: "The national team coach is the only person who can answer that, I don’t know. I'll just try to keep working hard, and if that happens I'll be very happy, but if it doesn’t then that isn’t something I'll dwell on. I look forward to playing my part again."
bundesliga.com: You're a top division player in two ways. Firstly in the Bundesliga, and secondly in eSports. How does that feel?
Demme: "It's a cool feeling to be in the Bundesliga in two different sports, but my primary focus is obviously still football. I do enjoy playing on my console though. I enjoy playing in my free time and was asked one time if I could stand in for [Leipzig's regular eSports player] Cihan. When he needs me to replace him I hope I can get good results, but I also hope he doesn’t need to take too many breaks!"
bundesliga.com: You're apparently the best in your team. What can you do better than others?
Demme: "I'm on a similar level to [Marcel] Halstenberg and Timo Werner, but it comes down to practice; the more you play the better you get. I started playing again when FIFA 20 came out, and when friends are over I play 1-on-1 sometimes. I try to play for an hour to one-and-a-half hours, three times a week."
bundesliga.com: What's your greatest strength on the console?
Demme: "That’s hard to say. Of course, when someone is sat with you, a teammate or something, you can always play mind games, but that isn't so possible online. I do think I’m quite good on the console though. I don't just sit back, I play quite attacking. As many one-twos as possible, and attacking down the middle is what I do; I’m not very successful with crosses from wide. I try to get wins with a short passing game."
bundesliga.com: How does it feel to use yourself in the game? Are you happy with your rating?
Demme: "I am happy with my ratings, I think they are quite accurate. When I was on FIFA for the first time and could use myself, which was great, of course. These days it feels quite normal, but when the new game comes out you do look straight away to see what rating you have."
bundesliga.com: Which of you teammates do you use most when playing with Leipzig on the console?
Demme: "I always use Yussuf [Poulsen], because height has its advantages. [Dayot] Upamecano and [Ibrahima] Konate always start at the back for me, and I play myself, too, because it would be stupid if I benched myself."
bundesliga.com: What do your teammates and the coach have to say about you joining the eSports team?
Demme: "My teammates think it’s cool and have put a bit of pressure on me. They don’t want me to embarrass myself and want me to win. The coach hasn’t said anything about it yet. He hasn’t spoken to me or give me any tactical tips. Joshua Kimmich messaged me asking if it was true and if I was really playing, so I told him I would play if the pieces fall right. I'm excited, maybe someday there’ll be an event where multiple Bundesliga players play FIFA against each other."
bundesliga.com: You're vegan, right?
Demme: "I was vegan for about six months, but I'm not anymore. Though I do try to eat primarily plant-based foods. I felt very good, particularly when I left out a lot of dairy products. I recovered better and had less muscle fatigue when I did that. If you do that sort of thing you learn about a lot more food options and about alternatives to meat, fish, eggs and milk."