Rocco Reitz has played in all 13 of Borussia Mönchengladbach's Bundesliga matches so far this season. bundesliga.com spoke to the Germany U21 international about his breakthrough campaign with his boyhood club...
bundesliga.com: How did it feel to score your first Bundesliga goal for Gladbach against Wolfsburg on Matchday 11?
Rocco Reitz: "Yeah, it was very, very cool, especially being able to score in front of the home crowd. When I did the knee slide to celebrate, it was awesome. It was really cool - a dream of mine. I couldn’t really believe it when it happened, but I was happy on the day also with the fact we won 4-0, for the team and for the atmosphere. It was a really good day.”
bundesliga.com: Just how long have you been dreaming of that moment for?
Reitz: "For a very long time. I think way back when I was playing with the U9s, or when I was extremely young, we had a game at Borussia-Park and I think I probably imagined scoring at the ground back then. When I was about 10 or 11, I really started following the first team and paying attention to their games, so that was probably when it really became a dream of mine."
Watch: Reitz scores first goal in Borussia Mönchengladbach's 4-0 over Wolfsburg
bundesliga.com: You played for Gladbach since the age of seven, so you must feel an extremely strong connection to the club?
Reitz: "It goes back even longer than that - I'm not sure exactly. My whole family is linked to the club, and my father’s friends are, too. I’ve been registered as a club member since I was born, and I think ever since I’ve been watching football it’s always been Gladbach, so the club has played a role in my life from the very start. I still have a season ticket, actually but I can’t use it! My family, my dad, and my best friend, we have three season tickets between us.”
bundesliga.com: Getting so much praise and affection from the kind of fans now that you used to know so well must be pleasant, is it?
Reitz: “It’s nicest thing ever, and obviously it makes me really happy. I always put myself in the place of the fans a bit, and it would make me so happy too to see a kid from your own academy, who’s been there for so long, finally break through like that. That I am in that exact place makes me even happier! It’s just so much fun.”
bundesliga.com: You may have come through all the ranks at Gladbach, but you had to go on loan to St. Truiden in Belgium before making a breakthrough at the club. Were there times you doubted whether you would make it?
Reitz: “Yeah, it definitely wasn’t an easy time in Belgium. To be on your own in a new country, where they play a different kind of football that you have to adapt to, and having times when you don’t play as much, you obviously start to think ‘Damn, this is really tough’. I think I just told myself every morning before training to give my all and it’ll come somehow. If that’s not enough, then that’s fine. Right now it’s going well though, and I think that was the main thing, that I never gave up and always kept going.”
bundesliga.com: Do you credit your breakthrough to anything in particular?
Reitz: “I just want to highlight the hard work. I think others have the talent, but it’s so hard to reach the top and you don’t get there without hard work. That’s just the way it is."
bundesliga.com: You operate mostly as a defensive midfielder, but you are happy to get forward and attack at times too. How would you describe your playing style?
Reitz: "I think everything starts with your defensive work. When you do that and you do it well, that’s when you can think about attacking. If you get involved and win your duels defensively, then you get space going forward and you get better chances, and one is linked to the other - that’s how I see it."
bundesliga.com: You aren't called the Lower Rhine Messi for no reason, after all?
Reitz: "No, stop! It’s a laugh in the dressing room, but I don’t want to hear anything about it, because it’s a comparison that’s just a joke between friends for me. As I said, on the ball I’m not so bad, it’s fun to play with the ball, and I like to have it. I like to have control or start an attack or dribble a bit, so it’s really fun."
bundesliga.com: How important has your coach at Gladbach, Gerardo Seoane, been for your development this season?
Reitz: “He has played a huge role, for sure. When you are young player at their boyhood club, the way a season can go, you need a coach who trusts you, who’s behind you and says ‘He can make mistakes, but who cares?’ That’s so important, because without confidence it’s so hard to reach the top, so I’m really thankful for that.”
bundesliga.com: Does it help you that Gladbach have a lot of young players at the moment?
Reitz: "You need a bit of mixture in a team, of more experienced older players and fearless younger players who’ll give their all and run every yard. That’s what we have. It’s really fun to play with the team, because we have that mixture of young and old and we all get on really well. I think we all push each other. The young players perhaps go out a bit harder than the older guys, and then there’s something back from the older guys that just pushes you all higher. That’s how the quality in training goes up and how the team performs better at the weekend.”
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