Following in the footsteps of his famous father, Martin Max, Augsburg's Philipp Max tells bundesliga.com that he may not score the goals his dad did but he certainly hopes to keep providing them for his teammates.
The 25-year-old Olympic bronze medalist laid on 13 assists - the highest number for a defender in Bundesliga history - for his team last year, behind only Bayern Munich's Thomas Müller, and ahead of James Rodriguez and Borussia Mönchengladbach's Thorgan Hazard, a feat Max describes as "special."
And although the left-back is unlikely to register the goalscoring efforts of his two-time Torjägerkanone winning father, the Augsburg defender is more than happy becoming the latest provider in the family.
Watch: All of Philipp Max's assists in 2017/18
bundesliga.com: Since the 0-0 draw with Schalke on Matchday 32, it’s confirmed Augsburg will play in the Bundesliga again next season. How did it hit you after the final whistle?
Philipp Max: “A lot. Even though we knew when we landed that we'd secured our survival, we wanted to earn a point against Schalke and thankfully it worked out and we were able to celebrate staying in the league.”
bundesliga.com: It certainly was not an easy week for you. After a relegation battle and change of coach, how nice is it to go into the final game Wolfsburg with no fears?
Philipp Max: “It was a similar situation last season, where we won at home against Mainz in Round 30 or 31 to stay up, but unfortunately we were unable to win a match after that, so of course we’d like to change that this year. We haven’t always offered the most spectacular games to our fans, like against Stuttgart at home, we have some things to work on for the future, to give the fans a bit more, so first we want to go to Wolfsburg in the last game and give ourselves a good feeling at the end of the season and something to work with for next season.”
bundesliga.com: How much influence did new coach Martin Schmidt have in securing your survival early?
Philipp Max: “Of course, the new coach was able to give us a positive impulse. We were in a situation where we had some good games and some not so good games. I think it was a decision from the leaders of the clubs, the players didn’t have much influence, we always try to make the best of it and I can say everything was positive from the off and we went into the game in a good mood. We had these two sensational matches, which secured our survival. He’s a very positive man, with a positive impulse and he came in at the right time to help us stay up.”
bundesliga.com: Without underestimating Manuel Baum’s contribution, what does Martin Schmidt do differently? Is it tactical, his approach, does he coach differently?
Philipp Max: “I’m not one to make comparisons, because I had a very good time under the old coach and I’m not a fan of saying something negative. They are two different characters, who have their own good ideas of how they would like the game to be played. With Martin Schmidt you notice that he has experience with two other Bundesliga clubs and has his ideas for how he would like to play. We’ve tried to live up to that and have managed to take seven of 12 possible points and ensure we stay up.”
bundesliga.com: You were a student of Manuel Baum’s in Taufkirchen, near Munich. Have you heard from him since his departure, for example about what a pity it is that your successful working relationship has come to an end?
Philipp Max: “It was a special situation, we’ve known each other a very long time and we saw each other when he was not the coach here. I feel for him, but unfortunately it’s part of football, which is why I could call him and will try to during the summer break.”
bundesliga.com: Against Stuttgart, and then against Bayer Leverkusen and Schalke, you played on the left wing and scored two goals. How is it for you to play in that position and could you imagine yourself having a more offensive role in the future?
Philipp Max: “I don’t think so. I like to have the game in front of me and I can take it on at speed. The coach wants to play with pace on the wings going forward, so I try to give it my all and prepare myself mentally, but I would rather stay a left back.”
bundesliga.com: So your father, who was a two-time top scorer in the league with 1860 Munich, should not fear you beating his goalscoring record?
Philipp Max: “I don’t think I’ll manage that.”
bundesliga.com: You’ve spent almost four years at Augsburg. How much has the club grown on you?
Philipp Max: “I was taken in very well from the beginning. We’ve been battling against relegation over the years and I came in during the season when we played in the Europa League, which was something very special and I enjoyed every moment of it, it was a childhood dream come true. I came into the situation where there was a lot of money spent for a second division player and I have always tried to pay it back with good performances. My future wife is from Augsburg and I’m very thankful that I could make this move.”
bundesliga.com: What do you think the DNA of FCA is? What makes the club so special?
Philipp Max: “I find it is remarkable how everyone, regardless of their role, deals with the relegation battle. It’s never a squad which falls down, we always reached our goals and stood strong together, regardless of the line-up. That is the core DNA of the club, that we stay close in any situation and work towards our goals together. I hope in the future we’ll move towards the safety of mid-table and be able to offer the fans better and more successful football, but we know our roots and will always be happy when we secure our safety as quickly as possible.”
Watch: Philipp Max scored twice in Augsburg's 6-0 win over Stuttgart
bundesliga.com: Can you describe the atmosphere in the WWK Arena? What makes this stadium so unique?
Philipp Max: “It’s always something special. I think the stadium is getting fuller all the time and excitement for the club rises in the region as well. People are working hard behind the scenes to get young fans to come. It’s been nine years since we first played in the Bundesliga and it was a long time before that without top level football, but you see every weekend the stadium is almost full, I think this is the stadium where fans are closer to the pitch than anywhere in Germany. When you play a good match, like the 6-0 against Stuttgart, then it becomes a cauldron and is something special.”
bundesliga.com: With your father and mother, who also played football, was your football career somewhat pre-programmed?
Philipp Max: “I came a bit late to it, I wasn’t immediately interested in football and my parents never forced me in any direction. I began with tennis for about half a year, but I didn’t like it so much, I wanted something with more people involved and it was with my classmates in school that I discovered my passion for football. When I was a bit older, going to the stadium, a home game for 1860 Munich in the Olympiastadion, I got more of a taste of what it could be like. I didn’t fully understand then, but as I got older and understood better, the more I wanted to reach his goal. I went through some youth teams, 1860, Bayern, Schalke, had different coaches and I wouldn’t change those times, regardless of how good or not they were. They were important experiences which brought me to where I am today and I’m glad with how it has gone.”
Philipp Max: “Yeah, I won’t forget that soon. I’ve had many games since, but you’ll never forget that first moment. The Revierderby with Schalke as an under-23 player, I hadn’t made an appearance beforehand. The score was 0-0 and there were a few of us from the under-23s on the bench alongside Adam Szalai, an experienced Bundesliga player, so you didn’t get the feeling that you had a chance to play. It was the second minute of injury time and a couple of teammates said that my number was up. I laughed it off at first, not realising it, then indeed, you have to run and I think it was the fastest sprint of my career to the bench. I was only on for 30 seconds and didn’t touch the ball, but it was still something special.”
bundesliga.com: How is your relationship with your father and how was it as the son of a former Bundesliga player growing up, and then following in his footsteps?
Philipp Max: “Our relationship is good. Before I saw it as a negative, but now as a plus that he has experienced it, but he is happy when I play well just like any other father. He has seen a lot and worked with many people and while you try to collect your own experience and put it to use, I’m very thankful that I have a very successful father who follows me all the way.”
bundesliga.com: You’re known for giving plenty of assists in the Bundesliga. Four so far this year, 13 last year, ahead of James Rodriguez and Thorgan Hazard. How proud were you of that?
Philipp Max: “Last year was special, with 10 assists in the first half of the season alone. I try to set my game up to ensure I’m secure in defence because I'll switch to attack when the time is right. Although this year it hasn’t been 13 assists, rather four, I’m still satisfied. I think I’ve learned a lot, I’m a year older and more mature, and I’m always trying to develop further. Experts and other people were saying that I’m somewhat vulnerable in defence, so I’ve tried to address that this season and I saw myself that I need to work on it, but I made a good step forward this season.”
bundesliga.com: Does a nice assist sometimes feel just as nice as a goal? Or even better? Or is nothing better than a goal of your own?
Philipp Max: “I think it’s nice however a goal is scored, even if someone else sets it up and scores. When you see how we celebrate goals, for us it doesn’t matter who scores.”
bundesliga.com: What makes the Bundesliga so special for you?
Philipp Max: “It’s very special. If you look throughout the stadiums in Germany, you see they are almost always full. People live for this sport. I grew up in North Rhine-Westphalia and played four years in Schalke, it’s like a second religion for the people and you need to realise that as a player. I always try to give my all, because the people feel everything, but can’t do anything about what’s going on. As my father was a Bundesliga player, I was always a huge fan and only followed the Bundesliga. I could name every player involved, I was really into it. I’m simply so happy to be a part of it, it’s special to be allowed to sit here and it’s great to win matches and celebrate with the fans in the stands.”
bundesliga.com: Do you have a special ritual before going onto the pitch?
Philipp Max: “I have a strong belief and I try to gain strength, but I don’t do anything in particular.”
bundesliga.com: Does this belief help you through difficult times? Have there been low points in your career?
Philipp Max: “Absolutely, it’s very important. Growing up, it's always the case, you’re not a man and kids are that way. Many say you can’t do it because they’re not satisfied with themselves, so you have to find your own way, keep fighting and believing. What is key is that you find your own path. I was always very good at separating it because my father was very successful, many said that I didn’t earn it. I found a good path where I could show the best of myself, work hard and then I had in Norbert Elgert a brilliant man by my side.”
bundesliga.com: What were the highlights of your career so far?
Philipp Max: “I’ve had very many great moments. Staying up every year is something special, when few people give Augsburg a chance. My first Bundesliga goal, the first appearance, the silver medal, all special moments, but for me what stands out is winning the German title with the under-19s. We were so close as a team, we won not because we were the best footballing team, like Bayern Munich were in the final, but because we put in an awesome effort. I’ve taken that with me through my career, knowing that it will only work out if we stick together.”
bundesliga.com: Which goals do you still have with FCA and personally?
Philipp Max: “The first goal has been achieved, staying up, that is top of the list for me, guaranteeing that we’re playing Bundesliga next season. Personally, I’m always trying to develop, I’ve scored a couple more goals this year, but unfortunately not as many assists, so I’ve left that personal aim lagging a bit, but defensively I’ve hit a personal target. In the next few years, I’d like to play internationally again, gain experience, grow and measure myself with the best, but that is the goal of every footballer.”