Having won the 2013/14 U19 Bundesliga title and become a first-team staple under Julian Nagelsmann, Nadiem Amiri will miss the Hoffenheim coach more than most when his long-time mentor leaves the club for RB Leipzig at the end of the season.
bundesliga.com: Nadiem Amiri, you and Julian Nagelsmann have experienced a lot together. How do you feel about his impending departure?
Nadiem Amiri: "For me personally, it’s sad, because I’ve known him for a long time, six years, and when a coach moves with you from the youth teams to the first team, he was living my dream with me, and his dream too. And we’ve experienced things together that not every player gets to experience – we won the title, the first one for Hoffenheim in the youth teams, then we went to the Champions League, Europa League, Champions League qualifiers, these are things I’ve experienced with him. So obviously it’s not easy when they leave, but that’s football – I’m not a small child who hides behind the coach. Obviously I’m sad, but very thankful that he brought me along with him for so long, and brought me where I am. Now other coaches can make me better."
bundesliga.com: How would you describe your relationship with him?
Amiri: "He knows me better than others, that’s it really. Obviously we had some bad times together, that’s normal when you spend so much time together! Obviously we argued at times, sometimes I didn’t understand his decision or he didn’t understand mine, but then also there are moments like the ones I mentioned, the successes we shared together, goals like against Schalke where I went to him and thanked him. It’s a special relationship and it’ll stay that way."
bundesliga.com: Does he know that you once thought about leaving Hoffenheim before turning pro?
Amiri: "I’m not sure if he knows it himself. But a while back I was thinking about leaving the club, or I think I was angry that I didn’t play in some tournament. Then he wrote to me afterwards, he said 'You just keep working hard, then make money!' And after that I became a pro!"
bundesliga.com: You missed the first half of the season through injury. How are you feeling now?
Amiri: It was my first big injury. Everyone knows I’m not really injury-prone at all. It really hurt. To be out for so long, to be in rehab every day, it’s really hard psychologically. But then when you come back from the injury you’re even stronger, and I think I matured a lot mentally and personally. I now know even more just how much it means to be out on the pitch training every day, not to be alone in the gym and being able to do things with the team. I’m just enjoying every moment, every game, and I’m very thankful."
bundesliga.com: You scored your third goal in four games against Borussia Mönchengladbach on Matchday 33...
Amiri: "Yeah, at the time it felt great! I thought 'Ok, we’re back in front and we’ll win now'. I think there were about ten minutes left, so it was really tough to concede again. But of course I was really happy to score again, and things are just going really well for me personally. However, I would prefer it if things were going better for the whole team. I’d prefer not to score and we win!"
bundesliga.com: You're coming to the end of your fourth full season of Bundesliga football, and have made over 100 appearances. Where can you still improve?
Amiri: "Everywhere. I’ve always said I can improve in every way. You can always improve on your strengths, and I think I have a lot of unfulfilled potential. But I think with age and experience, I’ll get stronger and show that potential."
Watch: The story of Nadiem Amiri
bundesliga.com: With two games to go, Hoffenheim are one point outside the European places and three adrift of fourth place, despite dropping 26 points from winning positions this season...
Amiri: "We’d be up in the Champions League places but for that. You can see we’re not having quite as good a year as last year, but we’re still up there and we can be right back in it with two wins. It’s hard to say what’s lacking – sometimes it’s taking chances, sometimes we don’t defend well, but we dominate almost every team we play and the team just needs that bit of luck. We just want to give our all in these last two games to try to get six points to hopefully get back into Europe."
bundesliga.com: What are you expecting from Hoffenheim's penultimate game of the season against Werder Bremen?
Amiri: "We’ll dominate them on Saturday, we’ll play our game, but Bremen are a very tough opponent who are having a great season and who have troubled the big sides, Dortmund and Bayern. We have a lot of respect for Bremen. We have to give our all and take our chances because we can only afford to keeping winning until the end now."
bundesliga.com: What are your thoughts on the appointment of Alfred Schreuder, a former Hoffenheim assistant coach, as Julian Nagelsmann's successor?
Amiri: "I don’t think there’ll be a huge difference to Julian, because Alfred has worked very closely with Julian. What he’s doing at Ajax at the moment is crazy, and Alfred was never a typical assistant coach. We essentially had two head coaches. He’ll be very good for the club, and for the team, too, of course."