Maxence Lacroix has been one of the stars of Wolfsburg's 10-match unbeaten start to the 2020/21 Bundesliga season, earning a November Rookie of the Month nomination for his efforts.
bundesliga.com checked in with the 20-year-old French defender to get his thoughts on life in the German top flight, Frenchmen in the Bundesliga, Friday's showdown with Eintracht Frankfurt and much more besides...
bundesliga.com: Maxence Lacroix, you have been a Wolfsburg player since August 2020. What are your impressions so far of your new club and the city of Wolfsburg?
Maxence Lacroix: "I'm very happy, very happy to be here. It's an excellent club with superb infrastructure. I've also managed to integrate myself quickly. There are other French players here which makes it much easier - Josuha [Guilavogui], Rousse [Jerome Roussillon], and French speakers such as Kevin [Mbabu]. In terms of the city, I've only been there briefly. It was very nice. I haven't explored the shops yet. Due to current circumstances, I haven't left my house that much. But the facilities are fantastic, everything is cool here."
bundesliga.com: What was the key factor in your decision to move to Wolfsburg and to the Bundesliga?
Lacroix: "I spoke to Jerome [Roussillon] a bit to find out more about the club. I didn't tell him I had been approached or anything, I simply asked him how it was and how he felt here. I received a very positive response from him. I wanted to move leagues. I had been in Ligue 2 for two years at that point. I wanted to see if I could play at first division level. When I heard that a Bundesliga club was interested in me, I said to myself 'I have to go there'. Lots of French players had made a similar move, even players from my own club like Ibrahima Konate [at RB Leipzig], and had succeeded in Germany. So I thought why not make the move myself. That was my chance."
bundesliga.com: There are lots of French players in the Bundesliga at the moment, and many of them are key players in their respective teams. Why do you think that is the case?
Lacroix: "Yes, there are lots of French players. Ibrahima Konate, Dayot Upamecano. They play the same position as I do, but there are also attacking players. More and more young players are choosing to come to the Bundesliga. There is also Matteo Guendouzi at Hertha Berlin. There are a growing number of young French players in this league."
bundesliga.com: Wolfsburg remain unbeaten this season. How would you sum up your start to the campaign?
Lacroix: "We've had a good start to the season. We haven't lost yet, which is positive. There are always little things we need to improve. In our last two games, we've conceded five goals. For a defender, that's not a great record for just two matches. We work hard every single day in training to work on these things. We've been winning games, which is the best feeling. It's good for us. We're all very happy."
bundesliga.com: A strong defence is certainly one of the main reasons…
Lacroix: "Because we defend as a team. It's not just one player who is responsible; the whole team wants to defend our goal. That's the reason for our good results. Everyone works hard for the team. These are the fruits of our collective efforts."
bundesliga.com: You have already established yourself as a regular starter in this highly competitive squad. Are you pleased with your personal performance?
Lacroix: "My own performances? I'm happy but also a bit frustrated at certain things. For example, the goal we conceded against Bremen. I made a mistake. There was also a goal at Gladbach. Lots of people in my family said, 'it's normal, he's a young player'. But I have a completely different point of view on this. Even though I'm young, I always need to be fully concentrated and to improve. I'm part of a very good team and we have our objectives in the league. You have to be consistent. I always try to erase these small details that could be a blot on my record."
bundesliga.com: What are your objectives with Wolfsburg?
Lacroix: "To finish as high as possible in the league. The best position possible. And to finish in the European spots would be perfect. In my opinion, a club like Wolfsburg has to play in Europe. We didn't manage to qualify this year. And I think that served as motivation for everyone at the club to get back into Europe. That's why everyone is working so hard - we want to be part of the competition."
bundesliga.com: Who first encouraged you to play football?
Lacroix: "It was my father; he was a football addict. He was a footballer himself when he was younger, at amateur level. He was actually a goalkeeper. So I started out as a goalkeeper myself when I was younger. I started at the age of four at a small club. My father was always involved in football, he was a coach, he played with the veterans too. So I watched him every single weekend, and I wanted to play myself. At the age of four, I started playing. I started as a goalkeeper, but at that young age you try every position. When I grew a bit bigger - I was big for my age group - my mother, who is a doctor, signed a medical certificate which allowed me to play in an older age group. So I often played with people bigger than me. I continued my development as a player, starting with a small club near where we lived, then I left for one of the best clubs in my region, namely Trélissac. After Trélissac, I joined a Pôle Espoir, a two-year football and educational programme for 15 players from the region. And after that I signed for Sochaux."
bundesliga.com: You have a very strong relationship with your mother. She even attended your first training session at Wolfsburg. Why is that?
Lacroix: "I have a very strong relationship with my mother because we have lived through a lot together. She gave me everything, I had a very good childhood. But there were certain moments which were difficult for her and for me. We had some problems in the family, the sort of thing that can happen to every family. It was complicated for us. I don't have any brothers or sisters so it was just me and my mum. We were very, very close. At the age of 13, people told me I needed to join the academy, and so that meant leaving my mum by herself. That was a key moment for me. I knew I was leaving her by herself. From that moment on, I prioritised my family, I didn't leave on holiday. That's how it has always been. Everything I do, I do for my mother. She gave me everything and it's thanks to her that I'm here."
bundesliga.com: At the age of 13, you moved out. At the age of 15, you moved to the football school at Sochaux and at 17, you signed your first professional contract. What was this important period like for you?
Lacroix: "It all went very quickly, looking back now. When I left for the first time, at the age of 13, to live in Bordeaux, it was a big shock. I had always been with my mum, I didn't know how to live alone, it was difficult for me. But I saw that everyone there was in the same position as me so I just worked hard. The first year at the academy was difficult - I needed to adjust to the level and adjust to living by myself. We were expected to be autonomous, so that was difficult. But in the second year I was able to fully adapt. In turn, this experience allowed me to make a smooth transition to the academy at Sochaux. I was used to living away from my family. Between the ages of 13 and 15, I was an attacker. When I went to Sochaux, I moved back to attacking midfield, and then back again to defensive midfield, and finally became a defender. The director of the academy at Sochaux, Éric Hély, was a defender himself. He played me as a central defender and told me that it was in that position that I would be able to go furthest as a professional. I listened to him and ultimately I consider centre-back to be my best position. I played with the youth teams at Sochaux and then signed a professional contract at the age of 17. It all went very quickly."
bundesliga.com: You took on a lot of responsibility as a young player and were even named captain...
Lacroix: "That was a great source of pride. The five years I spent at Sochaux allowed me to become a man. I developed not just as a footballer, but also as a person off the pitch. I became a man. It was a big gesture to name me captain - I was moved. I think I'm someone who likes to push other people and to share my positivity with those around me. And I'm someone who always wants to give more. Even though I was only 20, my teammates, who were all my friends, respected the choice of the coach. It was very good for me."
bundesliga.com: How did you feel when you were first called up to play for France at youth level?
Lacroix: "The first time was against Germany. I was playing for the U16s. I came off the bench and played at right back. When you are selected to represent France, especially at that young age, it is incredible. I also had the opportunity to play in a World Cup and a European Championship with France. That's another level. At that age, you're used to playing for local clubs. So to play for your country is very special."
bundesliga.com: During the Corona lockdown, you requested a video of all the goals Wolfsburg had conceded this season, as you wanted to learn from your mistakes. Did it help?
Lacroix: "I had nothing to do during the lockdown. So I said to myself, 'why not continue working on my performances as a player?' I wanted to see what mistakes I had made so that I could work on these once we started training again. I watched all of the goals that we had conceded, to see where I was positioned, what I could have done better. My old coach, Omar Daf, used to say that playing at a high level is all about the small details. Sometimes it's just a case of one metre. If you look at our match against Cologne from last weekend, there wouldn't have been a second goal had the defence pushed up just a little bit more. Those are the small details. Those are the small things we can work on to improve our performances."
bundesliga.com: According to Patrick Guillou, you have huge potential, are very grounded and give your all in terms of football. How proud do these words make you?
Lacroix: "Yes, of course that makes me very proud. It's true that I give everything in football. I know where I've come from, I know why I'm here, and I know who got me here. So I'm obliged to give my all. It's my life, I spent my entire childhood playing football. Footballers don't really have a normal childhood. We don't go out with our friends; we spend all our time training. We have to recover well; we need to look after our bodies. We can't eat whatever we want. We have to sacrifice our youth. For that reason, you have to give your all now. I sacrificed a lot, I didn't see my parents for long periods, I was away from my family. I'm not going to make all of these sacrifices to then not work hard and give my all."
bundesliga.com: What kind of player are you on the pitch and what do you consider to be your strengths?
Lacroix: "I think I'm quite mature on the pitch. I try to be more and more concentrated all the time. I'm also very positive out on the pitch, which I think is important for the team. This positivity gives us a little boost in games. In terms of my strengths, I think I'm quite athletic, I'm quick, I'm strong. I'm not bad with the ball at my feet, I'm able to do everything the coach asks of me. That’s the most important thing."
bundesliga.com: And off the pitch?
Lacroix: "I like to laugh. I'm able to separate my professional and my private lives. In private, I laugh a lot. I like to relax. I like lots of things. I like learning new things, I always look things up to find out what they mean. I like to inform myself. I may have lots of qualities, but I also have plenty of flaws in private."
bundesliga.com: How does the Bundesliga compare to other European leagues, particularly Ligue 1?
Lacroix: "The Bundesliga is certainly among the best leagues in Europe. The main difference between the Bundesliga and Ligue 1 is the intensity. I've never played in Ligue 1, but I played against PSG with Sochaux, and it was not the same level of intensity that I'm used to here in the Bundesliga. Admittedly it was not a full-strength PSG side, but there were lots of good players in any case. The level of intensity in the Bundesliga is very high. We have to learn our set-up beforehand, the game is very fast, very precise. You have to be highly concentrated. The level of concentration is the difference. Here, if you lose concentration for a second against one of the big teams, you pay for it."
bundesliga.com: What are your personal objectives and what do you hope to achieve in the future?
Lacroix: "My objective at the moment is to perform as well as I can for my club. And to give everything for the club. Put the club where it belongs. In a personal sense, I hope to get called up to the national teams of France. I don’t think about it every single day but it's a level I always hope to reach. And to be the best defender I can possibly be. And to take in as much as possible and to always push myself to be better."
bundesliga.com: You face Eintracht Frankfurt on Friday. What are you expecting from this match?
Lacroix: "The three points. To win the match and leave with three points. To concede as few chances as possible and to perform well. The most important thing is the three points."