With 125 goals in 335 appearances for four clubs in the Bundesliga, Vedad Ibisevic is one of the German top-flight's best-ever strikers. And even now, at 35, the former Bosnian international is making an impact on the league with Hertha Berlin.
The Old Lady's captain sat down with bundesliga.com to discuss his incredible career so far, which young strikers he sees as the next-best coming through the Bundesliga and how Hertha have turned things around under Bruno Labbadia since the league's restart...
bundesliga.com: First of all, what is Hertha Berlin's secret at the moment? You are doing pretty well since the restart…
Vedad Ibisevic: "We used the break very well. The first important thing that happened for us was the change of coach. The new coaching team came in with new ideas and new ways of playing football. They've been very well informed about our team and what our problems were before, so we started working on them right away. The second thing was that we did very good preparation. We used the first three or four weeks to get into good physical shape and to train a lot. Then we started to play in the way the coaches wanted and all of the players gave their maximum and were ready to work with these ideas. We got a little bit lucky for sure, but there was a lot of work behind it and everybody was involved."
bundesliga.com: Talking about Hertha's new coach, Bruno Labbadia, what did he change in such a short period – in practice and also in a tactical way?
Ibisevic: "We have more options offensively but, more importantly, we're working more as a team. We're also defending more as a team and are attacking higher up the pitch together. As players on the pitch, we see that it's easy when we do it all together. Of course, this isn't easy, but we've been working on it in the last couple of weeks. We need to understand that if everybody is doing it at the same time, it's harder for the opponent and easier for us. These were some of the most important things to realise, including the timing of when to attack as a team. These are very small things, but they were important to us."
bundesliga.com: You are also doing really well again under Bruno Labbadia. How did he turn you into a real hunter again so quickly? What did he tell you?
Ibisevic: "We had a conversation when he came. I know him from our time in Stuttgart and I know the way he likes to play football. I used to work with him back in the day, so I was happy that he came. We had a very good conversation about my physical shape because I wasn't in good shape at the beginning of the break. I used this break personally to get in better shape and I wasn't even given any training off as I had expected. But it was important for me to get in shape again as it isn't only important for my game, but also the game he wants to play as a coach. I'm happy that the work paid off on the pitch."
bundesliga.com: You have known Bruno Labbadia as a person and as a coach for quite a while. How much did he develop his skills as a coach from your time in Stuttgart to now?
Ibisevic: "I was also excited to see what was going to happen because it's been a few years since our time in Stuttgart. I'm now here and can see how he and his team have developed. They're better as a coaching team and it's almost impossible for them not to have developed because they've been in the game for a long time. They now know much more and have much more experience. They have their way that they want to play football and it makes sense when we watch the videos. Of course, it's more important that we realise it on the pitch and that it works. They have more options and solutions for the players both with and without the ball and defensively. They've gotten a lot better since we were working together in Stuttgart."
bundesliga.com: You have scored 125 goals in the Bundesliga so far - more than your current coach Bruno Labbadia, and Michael Preetz. Only four goals are missing to make it into the top 25 Bundesliga scorers of all time! Achieving these numbers – what does it mean to you?
Ibisevic: "They're unbelievable numbers and I never dreamed of a career like this in the Bundesliga. Of course, I'm very proud of it and I worked very hard to do it. I'm delighted, but I'm hoping for a couple more goals to finish as well as possible. The numbers are just a result of hard work and dedication for many years. When I see or hear these things, I can just be proud of myself and of the work I did."
bundesliga.com: Is there any special landmark you still would like to achieve? I have heard you would like to overtake Giovanne Elber someday…is that true?
Ibisevic: "I just want to enjoy my time left in the Bundesliga and enjoy my footballing days. It would be nice if I could score some more goals and it would also be nice to get more goals than Elber, but it doesn't have to happen. I'm already proud that I'm amongst these people because they're true legends of the Bundesliga. I would be happy if I managed to score some more goals on the way but, if not, I'm already very proud."
bundesliga.com: You've been a real striker idol to many fans out there for so many years. Looking back to the start of your Bundesliga career in Aachen, how would you judge the young Vedad Ibisevic, looking at him fourteen years later?
Ibisevic: "It was a great time and I had fun everywhere I went. In the early stages of my career, I was very motivated as always and hungry for more because I loved playing in front of Bundesliga crowds. I immediately loved the way football was played in Germany, but I was missing a lot of things and I was ready to work on them. I wanted to score more goals, but I was lacking a lot of experience and I was missing a lot of work, which I then did in the following years. For me, it was clear that the Bundesliga was my favourite."
Watch: Ibisevic's long road to the top!
bundesliga.com: Do you still remember the feeling of scoring your first Bundesliga goal? Can you still describe it?
Ibisevic: "My first goal was against Stuttgart at home. We lost 4-2 and I think I scored the second goal. I wanted to just run out of the stadium, but it wasn't so important for the fans because we were 4-2 behind. It didn't mean a lot, but for me, it was a beautiful feeling. I had to hide my emotions, but it was a very important goal for me. From that moment, I just wanted to feel these emotions as much as possible."
bundesliga.com: In Hoffenheim, you really made it into the Bundesliga spotlight. What are your best memories of these days? Are there any special moments you remember?
Ibisevic: "The first six months of being in the Bundesliga were special for me and for all of the players and the club. Even today when I see some of the guys, we remember these unbelievable times and how we played. Coming out of the second division, it was obviously a big story everywhere and it was just a good, crazy time. It was just too bad that we didn't really make it to the end of the season and that I got injured and the season was over for me. The six months were very special."
bundesliga.com: Which Vedad Ibisevic would you consider to be more valuable - the one with 18 goals in the first half of the season at Hoffenheim or the strong captain nowadays in Berlin?
Ibisevic: "I'd say now because today I can maybe give much more than just goals. Of course, strikers live through their goals, but the team wins through wins and points and this is more important. Back in the day, I concentrated more on scoring goals and I didn't have the experience that I have today, so I would prefer the guy right now."
bundesliga.com: Which player was the one you really loved to play with - or you maybe even still love to play with at the moment?
Ibisevic: "I like to play with all good players and with the guys that understand the game. There are no particularly special guys and we have many on our team who understand the game and the movement, which makes playing with them much easier. There have been many players in my career and we have many good, skilful guys on our team now."
bundesliga.com: Are there any young Bundesliga striker out there who really impress you, someone you really enjoy watching?
Ibisevic: "The young guy coming through at Borussia Dortmund, [Erling] Haaland, is one of the guys who has a bright future. He's a striker with a lot of potential and with pretty much everything that a good striker needs. We'll see what he can offer, but he has offered more than enough so far. On top of that, he also has speed, so I think he's one of the guys who'll be very good in the future."
bundesliga.com: Do you enjoy football now maybe even more so than at the beginning of your career and if so, why is that?
Ibisevic: "As the years go by, you realise that the end of your career could come soon and, of course, you think about it at this age. You then realise that you maybe didn't enjoy it at the beginning like you should've done, so you try to take time for yourself and to enjoy every moment of the time that is left. I try to do that and to enjoy every training session and every game. I give it all that I have right now because, from talking to my old teammates, these are pretty much the best times for us football players. I'll try to enjoy it as long as I can."
bundesliga.com: Five more games to go. What is possible this season after finally quitting the fight against relegation? Is Europe still in mind? What are the goals Hertha Berlin is fighting for in the last games?
Ibisevic: "We're fighting for every point and we're on a great run now. We have a great feeling and have realised that it pays off when you work hard as a team. Things are working out for us at the moment, so we just want to keep this going. We don't really have any pressure on where we're going to end up because, before the corona situation, we couldn't even count on ourselves having ten points. Right now, we just want to do the best that we can and see where it leads. It would be unbelievable if we ended up in the Europa League, but we cannot say that it's the only thing we want to do."
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