Borussia Mönchengladbach's Florian Neuhaus may only be 23 years old, but he's already a full Germany international and even scored on his senior debut.
Sitting down with bundesliga.com before making his debut for his country, Neuhaus discusses his journey from 1860 Munich to Gladbach via Fortuna Düsseldorf, the art of scoring long-range goals and how Marco Rose is helping to improve him as a player.
bundesliga.com: When and how did you discover your love for football?
Florian Neuhaus: "When I was a small child, I played football because I thought it was a lot of fun. I started playing in a club at five or five, with the bambinis and kept going from there. I played for five years with VfL Kaufering's youth teams with my father as the coach. There you noticed we had a particularly good team, we got out of our region towards Munich. I always played with the age group above me with all my friends who I still have contact with, then eventually the call came from 1860 and then I thought 'Okay, this is something cool and special to be contacted by a club from Munich'."
bundesliga.com: Your father was your coach as a kid. Was he a harsh critic?
Neuhaus: "Yeah, that’s how it was but I think at the time it was very good and important for me. Even today, I contact my parents and brother after a game, their opinion is very important to me. That was also the case when I was young, when a game didn't go well, the question on the way home was always what happened?"
bundesliga.com: How did you distinguish yourself as a youth player? What were your strengths?
Neuhaus: "My technical ability, that was a particularly important building block in my development, with my father then and later with 1860, a strong passing game with both feet, control of the ball, the fundamental things when going into the professional game, which I was strong at from an early age and alongside that my game intelligence helped me distinguish myself."
bundesliga.com: Did you play football at every opportunity in your family?
Neuhaus: "Exactly. At home, we had two football goals in a relatively large garden, although part of it was our grandmother's, who didn't enjoy having her flowers trampled on. At ours, it was a part of every weekend, every day and it was a great time."
bundesliga.com: You began your professional career with 1860 Munich. What was it like trying to make your way at this level at what is, generally speaking, a turbulent club?
Neuhaus: "It's like two different clubs, you get to the youth teams, where you're coached very well and can develop in a calm environment without scandals or stress, the growth of individual players is placed at the forefront. Then you get to the professional team where it is constant unrest, stress because the coach is being replaced, you got a feeling for the chaos happening at the club. It's no optimal situation and then relegation, which was not good for the club. I tried to make the best of the situation and signed a long-term deal with Borussia Mönchengladbach, which was a stroke of luck for me."
bundesliga.com: After only half a year you found yourself in a relegation battle with 1860. How was that for you?
Neuhaus: "That was a weird time because at the same time was the U20 World Cup and coach Guido Streichsbier wanted me in the team but it didn't work out because of the relegation play-off. I came in for the away leg and scored, we drew the game 1-1, not an ideal result but we thought 'okay, we'll get through it'. But then we lost at home against Regensburg and were relegated. Of course, it was a very difficult time, the week afterwards was very uncomfortable but you have to make the best of it. I tried to put it behind me and look forward. I had talks about how to go ahead as I was basically without a club and chose Borussia Mönchengladbach with a loan move to Fortuna Düsseldorf and it was a very positive thing for me."
bundesliga.com: How did your contact with Borussia Mönchengladbach come about?
Neuhaus: "We were in contact at a fairly early stage, when it was not certain we would be relegated, in March or April I think, and they totally convinced me. At that point, I had a long-term contract with 1860 Munich and they had scouted me in some U20 national team matches as well as youth team matches, which was another reason I chose them as they showed me stats of how much they had paid attention to me in under 16 or 17, which is special and shows the extent of the club's scouting."
bundesliga.com: With your move to Rheinland, you properly moved away from home for the first time. Was it difficult for you?
Neuhaus: "I already had an apartment in Munich but of course this was the first time I really moved away, 600km. It was ideal for me that I started very well with Fortuna Düsseldorf, I played right away, we won and I scored a couple of goals, which made settling in a lot easier. When things go well on the pitch, everything is easier, it did me very well in the early stages."
bundesliga.com: You continue to develop your game. What do you make of your steps forward from the second division?
Neuhaus: "Yeah, I'm moving forward step by step, surviving each one, not moving too quickly forward then having to go backwards again. Of course, there are setbacks, that's completely normal in football, but for me it is always important to continuously develop and not set myself any limits, I try to always reach the required level and produce performances, then see where it leads to. I think my strength is adapting and acclimatising to what is required of the level I'm playing."
bundesliga.com: Could you have even dreamt of being brought into the national team?
Neuhaus: "Back in my youth team days that way far, far away from me but that is something that holds true for me, developing step by step and take the great moments as they come. Of course, it will be amazing to make my debut for the senior national team and then the Champions League is on the horizon, they are special games and I'm really looking forward to them."
bundesliga.com: Who is an important advisor for you?
Neuhaus: "My family, my parents, but also my agent Christian Nerlinger. He is my only consultant so far, I took my time deciding on one when I was 15/16 and the topic came into focus, my parents blocked a lot of approaches as they felt it was too soon. Then in my second year at under 19 as professional football became a reality, we realised that now it would make sense to bring someone in and we did that with Christian Nerlinger and it worked really well, we took every step together, thinking and planning everything and to date everything has gone to plan."
bundesliga.com: Your agent Christian Nerlinger played a long time with Bayern Munich and is an introvert, much like you. How well do the two of you fit together?
Neuhaus: "I noticed already in our first conversation that we get on well, feel the same way about many things and that he is not a total extrovert, rather he thinks everything through and that's why I am satisfied."
bundesliga.com: In your eyes, what standing does Borussia Mönchengladbach have in the Bundesliga?
Neuhaus: "Borussia is a really big club and everyone can see the steps forward we have taken in the past two years. We have great players here and we've managed to hold on to our key players, a signal of intent from Borussia Mönchengladbach. You can see that we have a good mix in the squad between young hungry players and players who are experienced and have many Bundesliga seasons and international games behind them, all in all I think that makes us strong. We have a good mix in the team, plus a good coach and management who we can work in peace with and that says a lot about Borussia Mönchengladbach."
Watch: Neuhaus' incredible long-range goal wins January Goal of the Month
bundesliga.com: What are your team's strengths?
Neuhaus: "We have many facets to our game, we have a fast-paced counter-attack as well as a patient build-up and in the last game we also showed we have a very good possession-based approach. For me, I like to have the ball at my feet and Marco Rose has helped a lot with realising that there is a game to be played without the ball, he gave me some tips and I believe the development over the past year is there to be seen."
bundesliga.com: You consistently surprise us with your spectacular long-range goals. Is there a particular reason behind it?
Neuhaus: "I don't know, it's a part of my game, I like it. It's nice to strike one in from long-range, I got one in from the halfway line once and one from the middle of the opposition's half. It's great when the ball goes in, it's always uncomfortable for the goalkeeper when he is backpedalling and sees the ball flying towards the goal. I think it's a good facet of my game to try score from distance every now and then."