The Hertha Berlin project is continuing to take shape and Dodi Lukebakio - the club's top scorer and assister in 2019/20 - can't wait to see what comes in time with the talent that has been brought to the German capital.
Sitting down with bundesliga.com, Lukebakio discusses his recent maiden call-up for the Belgium national team, the need for patience at the Olympiastadion with so many new faces at Hertha and the fun he has in facing his toughest Bundesliga opponent: Dayot Upamecano.
bundesliga.com: In an interview, you said that you prefer the Bundesliga rather than the Premier League. Why exactly? Is it only because here you had your breakthrough, or are there other aspects which make the Bundesliga special for you?
Dodi Lukebakio: "First of all, I didn't really play there, so I don't know how it is, now it's normal. And of course, when you have a great experience here in Germany, you choose directly for Germany, but also I really like here, so that's also why."
bundesliga.com: You've been part of the Bundesliga for more than two years now. And you've been in Berlin for more than a year now. How did you settle in so far and what aspects of the city and the people do you like?
Lukebakio: "I've had a really good experience here in Berlin, the city is very nice and you have a lot to do, even when the family comes we can do a lot of things because it's big. So, I'm good here and just hope that the situation of the club will be better because we expect better. It's about time, we don't exactly know how it'll go but we do everything to make it good."
bundesliga.com: This season you're hoping to play with fans in the stadium again. It was just a few, but how did the recent number of fans in the stadium change the atmosphere?
Lukebakio: "The difference is so big, you know. When you see a big stadium with only 1,000 people, it's nothing. For us, of course, it's something different to play with fans because it's what makes football nice, so without them, it's really sad. Hopefully the situation will be better because the most important thing is to be healthy and hopefully the situation will change."
bundesliga.com: Is there maybe also something positive playing with less fans than usual?
Lukebakio: "No, it's not positive for me, really. I like to give joy to people and it's something nice to play with fans. Of course, there are positive things like you say, when you speak you can hear clearly who speaks but if I can choose, I choose the fans."
Watch: Lukebakio's incredible hat-trick at the Allianz Arena!
bundesliga.com: What has been your proudest moment in the Bundesliga so far?
Lukebakio: "I would say my hat-trick against Bayern, this is something I can never forget. I think it's something really special for me."
bundesliga.com: Last season you not only scored the most goals at Hertha, but also provided the most assists (seven apiece). Where do you see your biggest strengths and why?
Lukebakio: "You know my speed, I can also dribble, these are my really big strengths. Also, I can shoot, I can score, so these are the things I think I can bring to my team. But like I said, we need to improve a couple of things and if we get these things, I think I will be able to give more to the team."
bundesliga.com: In which detail do you need to improve the most?
Lukebakio: "Myself to improve? Oh, a lot of things. I think I can be even faster than I am today. I can, of course, finish better, when I have situations to shoot or against the goalkeeper one against one. I have to improve in a lot of things and I know I try to improve myself in these things every day when we have training and doing extra when it's possible."
bundesliga.com: What do you like most about Bruno Labbadia's approach to coaching and how has he made you a better player?
Lukebakio: "Ok, good question. I'm not a striker but when the team needs me there, I think I can bring something with my speed and when Bruno, our coach, came he directly brought another way to work and he was very clear about the way he wanted to work. He taught me how to stand on the pitch, he taught me how to ask for the ball, how to run deep and these are some things I have to improve, like the other things I told you, and I think it's really good to have a coach who can teach me to improve in other things."
bundesliga.com: You've won more duels than you've lost this season, but which defender would you say was your toughest opponent so far?
Lukebakio: "I think I would say at Leipzig, Upamecano is my friend but he's a guy who always makes so much fouls and he's always telling me after the game 'of course, I have to make fouls on you, you're so fast', so for me, it's not nice to play against him and I like it, for sure I like it."
bundesliga.com: What makes you confident that the situation at Hertha is going to improve?
Lukebakio: "I think, in my opinion, we just need to play more together. Like I said, there are so many new players so things can't come together in one or two days - we need time. We have really great players and in time it will come that we play together, we'll do such great things and I'm really looking forward to that, but it needs some time."
Lukebakio: "We have to improve in all aspects, defensively and offensively. We have to score more but also keep clean sheets. For the team, it's important you know because we concede, not even like nice goals, only corners or free-kicks. So we have to improve in these things and then it will come automatically that we'll score ."
bundesliga.com: What is your aim with the club this season?
Lukebakio: "The aim of the club? What I can say is to win as many games as possible. Let's be focused first of all on these things, then we see what happens."
bundesliga.com: What is your personal aim for the season?
Lukebakio: "For me it's simple, to improve in all the things and then to score goals. It's important for me to score goals, give assists and to bring my team as high as possible. I think that's also a responsibility for me and the reason the club bought me. But of course, I'm not alone on the pitch. We're a team and we really try to understand each other and to be good on the pitch. So winning games, but you play and you win if you're lucky, so we need to provoke this luck and hopefully, it will be on our side in the coming weeks."
Watch: Lukebakio's overhead kick in 2019/20
bundesliga.com: Who are your best buddies in the team and why?
Lukebakio: "Best buddies? I'm a guy who speaks with everybody, I don't really have any best buddies. Yes, you can say the Belgian guy Dedryck [Boyata] and the French guys. Of course, it's normal because we speak the same language, but I'm a guy who is really good with everybody."
What does your recent maiden nomination for the Belgian national team mean to you?
Lukebakio: "It means a lot, because I was waiting a long time for it. In the end, for me, it was like 'just keep on going, give everything you have and your time will come'. I always said to everybody, my time will come if I continue to perform and in the end I was so proud, I almost couldn't believe it because I was waiting for it. I couldn't be prouder to see what happened, so I really hope it's just the beginning and I'll have the chance to go more than once."
Lukebakio: "He's a good guy because I was with him on the table and we spoke a lot. He is really a good guy, very calm, humble and on the pitch and he's also a really good player. I don't have to say that, everybody knows it. I had a really good conversation with him and I like the person."
bundesliga.com: Has he given you some good tips?
Lukebakio: "When I played against him, we spoke after the game and he said to me 'come to Dortmund,' it was like when I was in Düsseldorf and we were just laughing, you know, and he said also 'when will you come to the national team,' and I said I don't know, I don't decide that. So we had some funny conversations and as I say, he's a really great guy, that's it."
bundesliga.com: What kind of guy is Matheus Cunha? What makes him dangerous as a striker?
Lukebakio: "He's very funny, he has really big potential and he can bring us a lot. Like I said, the day we can really combine and bring all of those qualities in the team, it will be really amazing. We're in this process of trying to find the balance and the way we can use it, it's not that easy because we're all so young, so we have to learn a lot. But as I said, he has really big potential and can make a lot of great things in his career."