After scoring two goals and providing four assists in an electrifying month for both himself and his club, Bayer Leverkusen's Julian Brandt has been named February's Bundesliga Player of the Month. The converted central midfielder speaks exclusively to bundesliga.com about his performances in February, playing in his new role and his partner-in-crime Kai Havertz.
The converted central midfielder speaks exclusively to bundesliga.com about his performances in February, playing in his new role and his partner-in-crime Kai Havertz.
bundesliga.com: What does it mean to you to get the “Player of the Month” award for February?
Julian Brandt: "My little brother plays more FIFA than I do. I used to play Ultimate Team for many years, so I know how it works with the players’ attributes getting boosted. If you are a serious Ultimate Team player, then it’s not a bad thing. I played a lot when I was younger, but I don’t play as much now. I’m more of a Fortnite fan now, so I opted for that over FIFA. I play a lot with Kai and the boys, so I haven’t played FIFA as much recently. But it’s tempting to start playing again when you get an award like this.”
Watch: Brandt collects his February Player of the Month award!
bundesliga.com: How was the last month for you personally?
Brandt: "It was a very good month for me personally. I have never experienced a game like the one in Mainz where I scored two goals and got two assists. It was a personal highlight for me, but the last few months have been good for us all. We have had a reversal in fortunes in February and it’s great how we have been able to turn things around in such a short space of time. We are now in a great position in the Bundesliga.”
bundesliga.com: What impact has the change of coach had on the team and on your performance?
Brandt: "We picked up a lot of points at the end of last year so that we always stayed in touch with the teams at the top, and this was very important for us. A lot of things happened after the change of coach and it could have gone one of two ways. Things have obviously taken a turn for the better, but success was not guaranteed overnight, and we could have still found ourselves in mid-table. It was a 50/50 situation, but the boys grew together and the fact that we have won six of the last eight games shows the quality that we have in the team.”
bundesliga.com: Are you pleased to have been given the award and does it give you extra motivation?
Brandt: "These awards always reflect your performance, so I can’t have done too much wrong in February! It’s a nice feeling and it gives you an extra push for the coming months. I’m not entirely sure who votes for it, but I heard that team captains, the media, and fans are all involved. Thank you to all the fans and people who voted for me. I am very pleased with the award and it gives me strength for the remaining games. Marco Reus has won the award quite a few times, so not many other players have had a chance yet!”
Watch: Tactical analysis of Havertz and Brandt!
bundesliga.com: You are the first Leverkusen player to win the award. Do you think this is also an incentive for your friend, Kai Havertz?
Brandt: "I will definitely rub his nose in it and tell him that he has to step up his game in the next few months!”
bundesliga.com: What is your playing relationship like with Kai Havertz and Kevin Volland?
Brandt: "It’s good fun playing up front, especially when you are in good form and are scoring goals. It is a lot of fun to play with the team as a whole. I have changed my position slightly so that I am more central, meaning that I am connected to almost all the other players. It’s fun to just play with the lads and I became a footballer because it brings me a lot of joy. I always enjoyed it when I was younger, and I think you can see this on the pitch at the moment, too. All the lads are currently in good form and we often have 70-80 per cent possession in games. It’s enjoyable to play up front, and to just keep possession of the ball as a team.”
bundesliga.com: You played on the wing under Herrlich and, under Bosz, you play in central midfield. How are you finding this?
Brandt: "I played this position in the youth teams so it’s not completely new. You can’t really compare youth football to first team football, but I knew what to expect. I still had to adjust because when you play out wide, you have to stick to the line and you often don’t have as much space as you’d like. You can’t afford to make as many mistakes in the middle, but it is still a lot of fun in this position. Charles Aránguiz is in unbelievable form and it’s fantastic to be able to play with him and Kai in the middle.”
Watch: Brandt scored two goals and claimed two assists against Mainz!
bundesliga.com: You have played 156 Bundesliga games, play in the national team, have won the Confederations Cup, and you are still only 22. Do you still see yourself as a rising star?
Brandt: "I think I still have a lot of potential and I have not reached my ultimate aims in the last few months. I still have room to grow, but I don’t think you can call me a rising star anymore at my age. I have been playing in the Bundesliga for almost five and a half years, but I am still young and can still learn a lot. As I have been here for such a long time, I have automatically taken on some responsibility. You mature over time, so although I am no longer a rising star, you cannot forget that I am still young.”
bundesliga.com: You have only received one yellow card in your career so far. Do you avoid going into tackles or are you simply always quicker to the ball?
Brandt: "I am definitely not an aggressive player off the ball. I have never been like that and it’s not my style of play. It might be better for my game if I start picking up a few yellow cards to stop a passage of play which might become dangerous for us. I used to play a lot on the wing and there you are usually the first player to press high and then the ball gets played around you, so you don’t get involved in too many tackles. I can remember exactly when I got my yellow card. It was one of my first games, so I am a little surprised that I have gone so long without another card. I’m not the kind of player to go into unnecessary tackles. Sometimes I get to the ball first, and otherwise I’m not the player to take someone else’s legs from under them. I’d rather let the game continue and try to get the ball back another way. I try to get it back in a clever way.”
bundesliga.com: How were your first few years at Bayer? Did you ever think then that you would one day be Player of the Month?
Brandt: "A lot of things have happened in my time here. I made my debut in the Bundesliga and the Champions League in January and February and so much happened that I didn’t have time to be homesick or to miss my family or friends. You are in a bubble where you are experiencing new things every day. When you are 17, everything is a new experience, such as playing in front of 50,000 fans. You are living your dream and you just try to play as many Bundesliga games as possible in order to one day possibly get the Player of the Month award!”