A decade after signing for Borussia Dortmund for the first time in summer 2009, centre-back Mats Hummels reflects on BVB's back-to-back Bundesliga titles under Jürgen Klopp in 2011 and 2012.
In an exclusive interview with bundesliga.com, the 2014 FIFA World Cup winner also discusses the coaches who have shaped him during his glittering career, analyses Die Schwarzgelben's current campaign, and delivers his verdict on the best players currently plying their trade in the German top flight.
Read on as the 30-year-old takes a trip down Bundesliga memory lane…
bundesliga.com: Mats Hummels, how well do you remember your first German title?
Mats Hummels: If I'm not mistaken, Bayer Leverkusen were second that year – yeah, because their loss in Cologne handed us the title. We realised early on that we were really good, that we could handle most opponents on the pitch, that we were well set in a footballing sense, we had a good system. Looking back at it, the first game of the second half of the season was key. We were away at Leverkusen, who were right behind us, and beat them 3-1, scoring all three goals in the space of five minutes. It was a special feeling afterwards. It was at that point that we felt we were genuinely ready to win the title.
bundesliga.com: How were you as a team in 2011?
Hummels: We were so young, most of us, we had a very young team at BVB then. We had two, three, maximum four older players in the team. The 1988 age group was very strong with Neven [Subotic], Schmelle [Marcel Schmelzer], Nuri [Sahin], we also had Sven Bender born in 1989, it was really a young and lively team which had a lot of fun. We were motivated to work and play, that was the atmosphere in the team.
bundesliga.com: Were you different as a young player 10 years ago?
Hummels: I think so, yeah. I think it's totally normal that someone is different at 21 to how they are at 30. A lot has happened, you know more and you've experienced more as a person, it's totally normal. At the core, I'm the same person, but some things have changed.
bundesliga.com: You've worked with a number of coaches, what have they given you?
Hummels: Absolutely, I think I've had six coaches, two in Dortmund, three at Bayern Munich and now with Lucien Favre a third in Dortmund and yeah, I've experienced a lot. It's very exciting to work with different coaches. Under Klopp it was amazing, very successful and emotional, but also very nice in other ways. He had different ideas on how to play the game, there was a lot I experienced off the pitch. It was very interesting and I'm glad I got to work with him during this time. Before that there was Thomas Doll, who was the quasi-seventh coach I didn't mention before.
Watch: Hummels on his return to Dortmund
bundesliga.com: Looking at BVB's results this season, is the term mixed bag applicable?
Hummels: Yeah, it's been up and down this season. Before the game against Munich we had a good period with three important victories, we progressed in the DFB Cup and won in the UEFA Champions League. The Bayern match knocked us back, but you have to say the weeks before that were actually pretty good. We haven't been strong enough away from home. I think that's been the biggest difference so far, our performances at home and away.
bundesliga.com: What's the trouble on the road?
Hummels: We just have to be much better away from home. If we continue to play like this then we won't be champions, full stop. I think you can say that without knowing much about football. There are things that can be done, but it doesn't just happen, you have to work hard and I think we know that. But knowing isn't enough, you have to show it in training and in matches, and know when to resist in those tough periods.
bundesliga.com: How can you turn things around?
Hummels: When things aren't going well, first and foremost you have to give everything you have. And secondly, you have to give more in the challenges. That's simply how it goes in world football. When teams play against each other, you have to put everything into your tackles. When you have three, four, five players who are holding back, then you fall short.
bundesliga.com: How was it for you playing against Bayern?
Hummels: It was normal, as I expected. I know this match like the back of my hand, Bayern versus Dortmund. As we regularly meet in the Bundesliga, DFB Cup and Champions League, it's probably the game I've played the most in my career. So of course it's special, there's excitement there, but when you've played it 25 or 30 times in your career, then you get quite used to it.
Watch: Hummels had a tough homecoming as Bayern won Der Klassiker 4-0
bundesliga.com: Who is the most talented player in the Bundesliga?
Hummels: At the moment, [Robert] Lewandowski is the best, there are very few differing opinions. When it comes to talent, Jadon Sancho is unbelievably talented, Thiago Alcantara as well. When you look at the technical aspects and defending, there are those who are very talented, but not as it is classically defined, with ball control, dribbling and so on. In that sense I'd name those two, but there are many others. Kingsley Coman, Serge Gnabry, there's also Kai Havertz, who can become an incredibly good player and hopefully he will. There are certainly plenty of stars in our league!
bundesliga.com: What makes Lewandowski so special?
Hummels: He delivers year after year, and he's difficult to keep up with. He's always healthy, fit and very professional.
bundesliga.com: What do you think of BVB's Belgian duo, Axel Witsel and Thorgan Hazard?
Hummels: They're both super footballers, very good players and important for us. Belgian footballers in general have become unbelievably strong in the last five to eight years, and they have an impressive national team. For such a small country, it's remarkable how many outstanding players they have at the moment.
bundesliga.com: How has the Bundesliga changed over the past 10 years?
Hummels: It is much more dynamic than before, definitely. When I think of 2010, 2011 with Dortmund, we were dynamic and simply ran over teams. There wasn't much resistance back then, but now there are more sides who play that way. That's one area where I've thought 'it doesn't work in the league any more'. There are fewer teams who could be branded as lazy. Now players are very well drilled and can give it their all for 90 minutes.
bundesliga.com: What is your personal highlight of the past decade?
Hummels: There are so many. There's the World Cup, which is an obvious choice, but also things such as that first German title. There was the moment in the stadium when Cologne went 2-0 up against Leverkusen, something which nobody in the stadium will forget. It was the 85th minute, I believe, we were leading 2-0 at home to Nuremberg. Then word spread through the stadium that it was 2-0 to Cologne, and we knew we had done it. That was one of the most special moments in my career. I still get goosebumps talking about it!