Lars Stindl may be 32, but as he pointed out after hitting a hat-trick for Borussia Mönchengladbach against Eintracht Frankfurt on Tuesday, he is still committed to improving his game.
The Foals' skipper opened the scoring with a brilliant 25-yard direct free-kick in the Matchday 12 encounter, only to see his side concede three times in a 10-minute spell to go 3-1 down at the break.
Gladbach refused to give up, however, and Stindl held his nerve to reduce the deficit in the 90th minute from the penalty spot, before snatching a draw for his side with a towering header in the fifth minute of stoppage time, leaping above Makoto Hasebe and Stefan Ilsanker to head in on the rebound after his initial effort had been saved.
Watch: Highlights of Gladbach's 3-3 draw with Frankfurt
"The last time I scored a hat-trick away from home was in February 2017 in the Europa League against Fiorentina," Stindl said afterwards. "It's definitely something special to get a hat-trick in the Bundesliga too. We forced the equaliser and got the reward for our hard work."
His last goal was also the reward for extra shifts he has been putting in on the training ground. "I have to say that heading is something we work on a lot during the week, even if we don't have much time," he told bundesliga.com after the final whistle.
"I'm still trying to improve my heading, even at my age. I'm happy that that hard work has paid off."
Furthermore, despite having never previously scored from a direct free-kick in the Bundesliga, Stindl was not afraid to keep trying. His strike in the 14th minute in Frankfurt was his first such goal from his 16th attempt overall.
Watch: Stindl: "I'm glad my heading practice is paying off"
Not only that, but the former Germany international, who scored four goals in 11 caps for Die Mannschaft, including the winner in the 2017 Confederations Cup final, is the experienced head in an otherwise distinctly youthful attacking department.
Marcus Thuram (23), Breel Embolo (23), Alasanne Plea (27) and Hannes Wolf (21) are his chief competitors for a place in Marco Rose’s side. Yet Stindl has played more Bundesliga minutes (727) than all of them this season, and is just one of five players to have featured in all 12 league assignments.
"Competition for places is completely normal in football," he said earlier this season. "Every player should have that motivation to assert themselves. Personally, I find it very positive because it pushes everyone to play to their limits. And the competition is very healthy here with us."
Stindl has certainly led his younger teammates by example this season and is the team’s most potent attacking outlet in the Bundesliga with seven goals and one assist. By way of comparison, Embolo, Thuram, Plea and Wolf all have two goals, while the former trio each have an assist too.
"Lars is in top form right now and is an important player for us," praised Rose after Stindl's Frankfurt heroics. "He's a proper captain who always leads the way. He has demonstrated that here again in impressive fashion."
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