Nico Schlotterbeck is looking forward to learning from two of his role models, as he gets set to join Mats Hummels and Niklas Süle in the Borussia Dortmund squad next season.
Schlotterbeck's impressive form with Freiburg not only earned him his first Germany caps last season, but it secured him a move to Dortmund. Ahead of pre-season training, he told his new club's website exactly why it was a no-brainer to join BVB.
"I had some great discussions with Sebastian [Kehl], with the coach, with [sporting director Michael] Zorc and with [CEO Joachim] Watzke. They made clear that this is where I can take the next step in my career," he said. "I've heard so much about the club, and I've seen so much about the fans and the stadium. It's impressive, it made me want to be part of it, and that's why I decided to join Borussia. I can't wait to get started!"
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Schlotterbeck ranked sixth across the Bundesliga last season for duels won, coming out on top 394 times – the most for a central defender. He took the same position for aerial duels won, with 128, underlining precisely why Dortmund were so keen on adding him to their stable of strong central defenders.
That includes Manuel Akanji, whose 92.35 per cent pass success rate was second only to Borussia Mönchengladbach's Nico Elvedi, and the aforementioned Hummels, while Süle also arrives this summer from Bayern Munich. Joining such a calibre of defenders was another significant reason to make the move for Schlotterbeck.
"One of the deciding factors was that when I was young, Mats was one of the best centre-backs in Germany and worldwide," he said. "I looked up to him, and I'm so happy that I can now play in the same team as him. And Niki did what I want to do in my career: at a very young age, he moved to a huge club and made his mark. My aim is to do that here too, so I'm delighted that the three of us are now together."
Their defensive resolve will be called upon to prop up a possible push for the title, but in two games more than any other, they will not just be expected to win, they will be compelled to.
"I think the derbies here are very different from the derbies at other clubs," Schlotterbeck said. "I've seen the Berlin derby in Berlin without any fans, and the derby against Schalke, with fans, will be a completely different experience. Those games are why we play football, and before too long we'll win them.
"I can't wait [to play in front of the Yellow Wall]! As I said before, I think games like those are why we play football and, unfortunately, I've only had one five-minute appearance here in front of a full house. I didn't play very well when I came one, so I won’t dwell on that. I want to play as well as I can here over the next few years, and I think, with the fans behind us, we can achieve great things."
"My approach will be to try to give everything for the club - that will be my top priority."
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