The Bundesliga is home to three of world football's best left wing-backs in Bayern Munich's Alphonso Davies, RB Leipzig's Angelino and Borussia Dortmund's Raphael Guerreiro. The Portugal international has become one of the archetypal modern wing-backs at the Signal Iduna Park.
In an exclusive interview with bundesliga.com, Portugal international Guerreiro discusses his role models growing up, the changing nature of being a left-back in football, his thoughts on Davies, Der Klassiker, the Revierderby and much more...
bundesliga.com: What position did you start in as a kid?
Raphael Guerreiro: "I started playing at left back when I was young. I was then pushed slightly higher up to left wing. But I returned to left back when I was 16 or 17 years old. I have not changed my position since. And it's currently my favourite position."
bundesliga.com: Did you have any role models in your position growing up?
Guerreiro: "Yes, I watched a lot of Fabio Coentrao. He's an incredible player, who played for Real Madrid and for Benfica - a club I loved. So I watched him a lot and followed his performances closely. I had the chance to play against him when he was at Monaco and I was at Lorient. I asked him for his shirt straight after the game. He's a player whose style I have looked to emulate. He's more aggressive than I am on the pitch. But he's certainly someone I admired and took inspiration from in my position, yes."
bundesliga.com: How has your position changed over the years?
Guerreiro: "It's true that in the past, full-backs were much more defensive. They didn't contribute much to attacks. But you can see a big difference if you look at the full-backs across all leagues today. A good full-back today has to be very good both defensively and offensively. Someone who offers a threat and who can provide passes for his teammates. The position has evolved a lot throughout the years. Today we pay close attention to the attacking
qualities of full-backs - something we did very little in the past, in my opinion."
bundesliga.com: What are the reasons for the evolution of the position?
Guerreiro: "I think football, in general, has evolved. The fans expect a good spectacle and lots of attacking football. When they go to the stadium, they want to see as many goals as possible. The coaches are aware of this too and want to put on a show. The clubs as well. So football has evolved. But, of course, you need the players who are capable of playing in this way. If you have those players, you try to play through them a lot and to develop attacks through them. In summary, football has evolved but you also need the players to play in this way."
bundesliga.com: There have been many famous left-backs in the Bundesliga, like Dede at Dortmund for example, would you agree?
Guerreiro: "Yes, I know him. We had a minute-long conversation once. But I know what he has done here at Dortmund. He's a very good player, and everyone in the city has fond memories of him. A very well-known full back here in Germany was Lizarazu. I have spoken to him as well. His qualities were well adapted to the German league and he was very well respected within the league in Germany - with the titles he won, his qualities and his performances on the pitch."
bundesliga.com: How would you describe your style of play?
Guerreiro: "My style is to get the ball and build play. I'm a left-back but I often think like an attacking midfielder, in the sense that I try to find passes in between the lines. I rarely play the ball backwards. If the pitch is blocked, I try to pass it backwards, of course. But I'm always looking forward. And I'm always looking to find my midfielders, who are in the position to create a chance themselves. My job is to initiate play and to break the lines, and then the other players take care of what happens after that. But there are different kinds of left-back. There are those who get the ball and cross it automatically. There are those who always look to take on their man. That's not my style. When I have the ball, I look to create opportunities, I step inside if there are no options on the wing. I also adapt my game depending on the match, and whether my teammates are moving or not. I don't change my style, but I'm always looking to adapt to the game."
bundesliga.com: In the past, the role of the left-back was very different. Would you agree?
Guerreiro: "It's true that you don't see that very often anymore. When people do cross the ball, it's always played in at pace. The opposition is always ready to intercept balls at the first post. In the past, the pitches were not as good. And players looked to play the ball in the air more often. It has changed a lot since then. But it also depends on the players you have up front and in defence. There are lots of factors that determine the way a team plays - the pitch, the players and the style of play of the team."
Watch: Guerreiro's humble Dortmund hero
bundesliga.com: Do managers get nervous due to your attacking style?
Guerreiro: "Yes, the new coach doesn't really want me to step into midfield or stray from my position. Sometimes it's hard for me because if I see that the game is blocked, I have a strong desire to step into midfield and create some danger or play a pass to break the lines. Or to make something happen. If we always do the same thing, it's easy for them. So it's important to innovate every time. I'm not the best player for that, but I always try to create things and play the best possible pass for my teammates. If I do leave my position, I know that a teammate will cover for me. That movement creates more solutions for the player on the ball. That's my style of football, but it's true that it depends on the coach as well, and whether they want you to step forward. It depends on the system as well. If we're playing with three at the back, I'm freer to step into midfield. Whereas with four at the back, there's no one to cover for me if I step forward. So I can understand the opinions of certain coaches. It's important to adapt to every situation, every match and every opponent. If the coach makes a tactical decision, you have to respect that. But otherwise, it's important to let the creativity flow."
bundesliga.com: What is your opinion of Alphonso Davies and the way he plays as a left-back?
Guerreiro: "We have different styles. He's very, very fast - which I am not. I don't have that speed. He's very quick. He's a very good player; I like his qualities a lot. Technically good too. He makes a lot of runs down the wing. He doesn't step into midfield that often, but he creates a lot of chances down the wing with his runs. My style is more to create danger by entering midfield and through my passes. We have different styles. You could also make a comparison with Angelino. He is another very good player, with lots of attacking qualities. He's a player who puts in a lot of crosses. We all have different styles, but all have good qualities in my opinion. That raises the standard of the Bundesliga."
bundesliga.com: You also have Der Klassiker against Bayern coming up soon. What are you expecting?
Guerreiro: "No, we know that our hopes of winning the title are completely over now. We have to stay hopeful of reaching higher places. We'll fight hard for second place. Part of this, of course, is getting good results against the big teams, as we've learned the hard way. We'll try to beat them, as we always do. Unfortunately, that hasn't always worked for us in recent years but we always try to play the best possible football. And to compete with them. I'm certain that we'll manage it one day."
bundesliga.com: What makes Bayern so successful?
Guerreiro: "They're a big team. They show that every year - both in the Bundesliga and in the Champions League. That makes it very difficult for us, of course. But that raises the level here in the Bundesliga and shows the quality of the teams here in the Bundesliga. They're monsters on the pitch. They have very good players in the starting eleven, but also on the bench. And they always keep their best players. That makes it difficult for everyone else as they know each other well. They know each other inside out on the pitch - how to play the ball, how to receive the ball, how to play it in to Lewandowski. That's what makes the difference for a team like Bayern, in my opinion."
bundesliga.com: Have full backs become more important?
Guerreiro: "Yes, it's a position which has grown in importance. Marcelo had some incredible seasons in this position. Thanks to him, we now speak more about this position. But every position is important in a team. There's more responsibility in this role now than there has been in the past. Back then, players were simply required to defend and maintain their position. Today, you have to offer something offensively. Because that's necessary to break your opponent down."
bundesliga.com: The Revierderby is almost upon us. What are you expecting?
Guerreiro: "Yes, it's one of the most important matches of the year, as it is every year. Unfortunately, there won't be any fans there with us. But we know they'll be supporting us from home. And that they'll be waiting for us after the game. We know that they expect us to win against Schalke. We won last year at home and were very happy. We'll try to repeat that achievement. It's one of the most important matches of the season. They're in a bad position at the moment, and we're not in the best position ourselves, so both teams will be determined to get the win. I hope we get the win."
bundesliga.com: Would you be pleased if Schalke were relegated or is it a rival you would actually prefer to keep in the Bundesliga?
Guerreiro: "I think the best outcome is for them to remain in the Bundesliga. Because otherwise there won't be any derby matches next season. I think some fans would be disappointed with this outcome. Of course, there are also some fans who would be pleased with their relegation. But in terms of the intensity of the league, intensity of matches, desire on the pitch, it would be a good thing if they stayed in the Bundesliga. Even though they're our rivals."
bundesliga.com: Do you know much about your next Champions League opponents, Sevilla?
Guerreiro: "Yes, I know them well. I've watched Sevilla matches before. They're a very good team, who play great football. They'll pose us some problems with the ball. But we have to adapt to the opponent and do our best. There are two legs, so anything is possible. Our position in the table isn't important, and neither is their position in the table. There are two matches, and they could turn out completely differently to the rest of the season."
bundesliga.com: They may not have the biggest names, but they are a good team. Would you agree?
Guerreiro: "Yes, they've become accustomed to winning the Europa League. They know the European competitions very well, but so do we. We always qualify for the Champions League. But we've struggled recently to get past the round of 16 and quarter-final stage. It'll certainly be a very good match. But we're focussed on our job in the league at the moment. We'll start to think about the Champions League when the day comes."
bundesliga.com: How would you describe BVB's current situation?
Guerreiro: "It's true that we're not in the best of situations. I have known better situations in recent years. But you have to pick yourself up when you get knocked down and we'll give our all in the coming matches. We have the talent to do so, that's for sure. It's just a question of mentality. But on the pitch, everyone is motivated and we're always very disappointed when we lose. It's tough to look at the table and see that we're sixth or seventh. This year has been difficult. But very few teams are on the same level as us. We'll try to do the best that we can. Unfortunately, that's not working at the moment but hopefully, in the coming games we'll improve."
bundesliga.com: What is your opinion of Youssoufa Moukoko?
Guerreiro: "He has enormous quality. He's a very good finisher in front of goal. He's very fast as well. He's also young so he needs time to adapt to the Bundesliga. He has already scored two goals, which is amazing for a 16-year-old. But I think he needs time to adapt to our game and our football. He's been training with us almost since the beginning of the season. So he's getting to know his teammates. But it's all new for him - the opponents are different. They're not 19 or 20-year-olds anymore. So it's challenging for him. But he's a very good player and I'm certain that he'll show that in the coming years. But he needs to be given time, he cannot be judged on his first matches. He's scored twice already, which is fantastic for him and for us. We're very happy with his performances. But he needs time to work on himself, and in the coming years he'll show his full talent."
bundesliga.com: You are a player that occasionally flies under the radar. Does that frustrate you at all?
Guerreiro: "It's not up to me to judge. Others will have to judge that. I know my qualities, and those who understand football well know my qualities too. My teammates know my qualities. That's the most important thing for me. What matters to me are my teammates and my coaches - what they think about me, what they know of my capabilities on the pitch. Those who know me are in a position to judge me. I'm not like this. I don't try to expose myself to the world. I try to be myself, and that's the case on the pitch as well."
bundesliga.com: Are you looking forward to the European Championships?
Guerreiro: "I hope to retain the European Championship, of course. If you win it once, you always want to win it a second time. We'll defend this title with valour and with our hearts. Because that's the reason we were able to win it. We're in a tough group with both Germany and France. So the matches will be great and very intense. Like I said, every single match is important."
bundesliga.com: Do you feel like you have a good team with Portugal?
Guerreiro: "Yes, we're there because we believe in ourselves. When we step onto the pitch, we'll be fully determined and will look for the victory in every single match. Even though we don't always have the best results, we always do well in the competitions. As champions, we'll try to defend the title with everything we have. That's what we're going to do in the Euros."