Speaking exclusively to bundesliga.com, Bayer Leverkusen striker Patrik Schick reflects on his return to fitness, his penchant for great goals, and looks ahead to a meeting with rivals Bayern Munich which he claims will prove "decisive" in the 2023/24 title race.
bundesliga.com: Does it feel special just be back training again after your injury?
Patrik Schick: “Yes, 14 months I was without playing a game. That was really tough. Now I’m really humble that I’m able to play football again. Every training and every game, when I can play, I bring a lot of respect and try to do everything as much as I can to not be injured again.”
bundesliga.com: Do you consider it a privilege to be a professional footballer?
Schick: “Yes. At the moment, it really doesn’t matter which weather. I really appreciate the feeling, the opportunity that I can play without any pain. I’m ready to do all training, to play at the end of the week 90 minutes. That’s really what I missed before. It’s something I’m enjoying at the moment.”
Watch: Schick returned with hat-trick in 4-0 win over Bochum
bundesliga.com: How would you describe your current form?
Schick: “I would say, personally, after 14 months, of course it takes a little bit longer to come back to the form where I was before. But I already scored some goals. At the moment now there are three games where I didn’t score. I like that nobody dropped the expectations for me, that they still want me to score every day. And that’s something that pushes me forward. I’m looking already for the next game and the next opportunity where I can score again some goals and help the team.”
bundesliga.com: How difficult is it to come through tough injuries?
Schick: “When I speak from my experience, I would say the most difficult is to have the motivation in you, that you have some goal and you are really focused. The most difficult was for me the first eight months when we didn’t know what was really going on, why I still have some pain and why I can’t play football. These eight months were the most difficult in my career. After the surgery, when we did it, I felt really relieved, and I had my goal in my head. So, I was stuck with this goal. I had the motivation that in four months I will be back, and I will have finally no pain, and I will be playing football again. These last four months after the surgery, I was really focused. I got the fire in me that now, okay, I have a plan, I know what I have to do. These four months I really worked hard, and I was motivated to be ready when I jump on the pitch that I’m not just there, that I’m ready.”
bundesliga.com: Has your approach to professional sport changed?
Schick: “I have always been professional, always tried to do as much as I can, because a football career is quite short. Even now, I realise that I could do even more. Honestly, I try to do as much as I can when I come to the stadium. I use my time, I know what to do, I listen to my body. I know when to push, when it’s time to make it a little bit easier. I listen to my body. I’m already in professional football for about 10 years, so I know what I should do. I really try to do everything at 100 percent because, to become a professional footballer and to play at this level, you really have to push every day. I realised when I was injured that to prevent injuries you have to be focused, you have to do the things that the fitness coaches tell you. From the injury, I became humble with big respect to football, to every training, to every game, and try to do my best.”
bundesliga.com: Have the first games of this year shown how tight the Bundesliga is?
Schick: “Yes. I would say I didn’t expect they were going to be that hard. We played against Augsburg, which was really difficult. The pitch wasn’t really great, and the opponents were defending really well. Against Augsburg it was really tough. Then with Leipzig, it was a little bit of a different game, more open. They had some chances, we had chances, so it was 50/50. But then we showed in the second half more quality and the way we presented ourselves in the first half of the season. We showed our form and we deserved to win. And now the last game against [Borussia] Mönchengladbach, that was something… I’ve probably never experienced something like that. A team so deep. They defended with all players behind the ball and refused to attack, so for me it was like handball, from one side to the other. It was really difficult to find the spaces. That we lost two points, that hurt us a little bit.”
bundesliga.com: Will opponents choose a different approach against Leverkusen in the future?
Schick: “Probably teams are going to be more prepared for us now because they see the way how we play. We expect that teams are going to defend in a low block and try to defend with all players. Probably we’re expecting something similar from last week.”
bundesliga.com: How do you counteract opponents’ new approach?
Schick: “Of course, you always need to be one step in front. Of course, when we expect something, we try to have a plan already for that. It’s like playing chess. Of course, we will have some tactics to beat this low defence.”
Watch: Why Leverkusen can win the title - analysis
bundesliga.com: Is the coming game against Bayern a special one or just like any other game?
Schick: “Exactly how you say it. For the fans and for everybody, it will be like a decisive game. It brings a lot of attention, but the season has so many games to go. This game’s not going to decide anything. It will just show maybe the actual form between us, maybe the points, but we will be plus/minus the same. This game just brings a lot of attention, but the fight for the title, I think this will come a little bit later.”
bundesliga.com: Why are the team playing down talks of winning the title?
Schick: “To be honest, we're not talking about it too much. Of course, we know in which position we are. We know how good we play, how many good players we have in the team. We deserve to be in this place. But of course, everybody knows that the season is too long. You have so many games. You never know what’s going to happen. To talk about some trophies and things, it’s too soon. At the moment, I’m really honest, nobody’s talking about it.”
bundesliga.com: We’re going to show you one of your goals against Bayern on Matchday 13 in 2020/21. How would you describe that goal?
Schick: “I have one thing to this goal. When we trained this the day before with Peter Bosz, we had the signal like that, that we’re going to do. I had a little bit of pain in my hip from this because we trained it five or six times. After that, I already had a little bit of pain in my hip and I said, ‘let’s stop, because if the situation comes tomorrow, I’m not able to shoot like that’. I think it was maybe our first corner and we tried to do that. Then I forget everything and I just focus on the ball. In the end, it was a nice goal.”
Watch: Schick's 2020/21 beauty against Bayern
bundesliga.com: So was it planned?
Schick: “It was planned. We did it the day before six or seven times. And when you do hard shots six or seven times like that, then you can feel it, so we said, ‘it’s enough today, let’s try it tomorrow’.”
bundesliga.com: Was it the nicest goal of your career?
Schick: “Yes, one of the nicest, but not the most beautiful goal. The most beautiful was at the Euros against Scotland.”
bundesliga.com: Are you a bit of a specialist in nice goals?
Schick: “I’ve scored a few nice goals, yes…”
bundesliga.com: What actually drives you?
Schick: “I think you just need to have passion for the game. You have to really like what you do. If someone would have to force you to go to training every day and every week to play the game, and every time has to push you, then it would be really difficult to make your whole career like that. So, I would say you need to like the game, you need to have the passion, and of course you have to be motivated. And to achieve something you need to have some goals. I speak personally, that motivates me. I always try to have some goals for what I want to achieve. That’s what I’m working for.”
Vote: Do you think Schick's Leverkusen will win the title?
How will Leverkusen line up during AFCON?
Leverkusen have lost top scorer Victor Boniface to injury and defensive stalwarts Odilon Kossounou and Edmond Tapsoba to AFCON in January and February…
Slick Schick, reliable Openda and VfB's formidable duo
After heavy snow gave Bayern Munich an unexpected weekend off, the spotlight was turned onto the rest of the Bundesliga's leading pack on an intriguing Matchday 13.
Patrik Schick extends Leverkusen contract
Bayer's 2021/22 top scorer has signed a new deal through to summer 2027.