Sebastian Rudy has played with the likes of Thomas Müller and Arturo Vidal at Bayern Munich, but it's as the beating heart of the Hoffenheim midfield where the Schalke loanee is happiest.
Rudy became a full Germany international during his first, seven-year stint at Hoffenheim, before joining Bayern on a free transfer in summer 2017. Despite winning the Bundesliga title in his only full season at the club, he was on the move again the following year, signing with Bundesliga rivals Schalke.
Rudy made 21 Bundesliga appearances for the Royal Blues, but there was a parting of ways on the back of a turbulent 2018/19 campaign and when Hoffenheim came calling he jumped at the chance to return to the Sinsheim outfit on loan. The 29-year-old has started every game under new TSG coach Alfred Schreuder in 2019/20 and could not be happier, as bundesliga.com found out...
bundesliga.com: Sebastian Rudy, you have played every minute of Bundesliga for Hoffenheim this season. What's that down to?
Sebastian Rudy: "I'm really happy! I have very strong support from the coach and the whole club in general. I feel like a player needs this backing after a very difficult season. It helped me a lot and I try to give back as much as I can on the pitch. I know we haven't gotten as many points in the league as we were hoping, however, I don't think we've played terrible football, in fact, I think we've had moments where we've played some very attractive football. We've also been unlucky in one or two situations which is why we've lost a couple of games. However, as we saw against Bayern, we, as a team, are capable of working well together. It was a very important win for us, mentally. The coach's tactics worked out well and we scored goals, something that we've been missing in the last several games."
bundesliga.com: How were you able to beat Bayern on Matchday 7?
Rudy: "People know that Bayern needs to be in an uncomfortable position to be able to beat them. Bayern is a very strong team. You need to make sure that on the day, you make the most of it. First of all, you hope that the opponent makes a lot of mistakes, which they did in that game. Secondly, we needed to believe that we had a chance to leave with a win. Therefore, when both of these steps work out, when the performance of each player is up to scratch, the win becomes possible and that's how we managed it."
bundesliga.com: What was your biggest moment of the season so far?
Rudy: "The win at Bayern, for sure. The way we fought and struggled for the win, I think it was the nicest moment of the season until this point. I don't think anyone believed we could do it so it was nice to prove them wrong."
Watch: Hoffenheim's historic win over Bayern!
bundesliga.com: What's your opinion of Thomas Müller who, until recently, was spending most of his time on the Bayern bench?
Rudy: "Everyone in the world knows the quality Thomas Müller possesses. When he has the belief and when he's allowed to play, he always delivers, regardless of whether he scores or assists. He's incredibly valuable. Not only off the pitch but on it as well. He is unpredictable in my point of view, and therefore, irreplaceable."
bundesliga.com: What were the reasons it did not work out between you and Schalke?
Rudy: "Several reasons. I switched there in a short period of time. We lost the first five games. I feel like we drifted slightly from the initial plan. After that, all that was left was to fight, fight, fight to get the points. I have my qualities; I've shown them during games; the qualities that I possess. Those were not deemed a requirement anymore. It was difficult for me to accept that."
bundesliga.com: What is expected of Hoffenheim this season?
Rudy: "If we're able to show our quality, a lot is possible! We're all aware that there's a lot of room for improvement. We've shown our abilities in parts, but I'm sure we can do even better. We can definitely aim higher."
bundesliga.com: How is it going with your new coach, Alfred Schreuder?
Rudy: "Very well! He leads the team very well. I've witnessed the way his football is played in Amsterdam and I can say that that is the type of football he trains. He's trying to bring that philosophy over to us and I think we, as a team, have improved a lot in that department, but can become even better."
bundesliga.com: How much did you enjoy the goal you scored against Wolfsburg on Matchday 5?
Rudy: "So much. A good team performance, repaying the coach for the faith he put in me and then also scoring meant so much to me. I'm so pleased to be able to help the team."
Watch: Sebastian Rudy's first goal back at Hoffenheim was an absolute belter!
bundesliga.com: What type of player are you?
Rudy: "I'm the type of player entrusted with the passing side of the game: I always try to be in a passable position, to try to help my teammates. I make the runs. I have a specific type of physicality to my game. People say I need to get in the middle of the duels, however, I don't agree. All that's required is to win the duel, regardless of how. If you win a duel intelligently it's just as much a duel won as one won through a slide tackle. This's the type of physicality I bring to the game. If you look at the statistics over the last couple of games, you'll see that I'm doing rather well in that department."
bundesliga.com: Who do you think is the best footballer in your position?
Rudy: "During my time at Bayern, I always thought Arturo Vidal had a specific quality. He could always impress me when I played against him. I'd always look forward to playing with him."
bundesliga.com: Apart from football, do you enjoy any other sport?
Rudy: "I love playing Ping-Pong, golf and normal tennis. I enjoy playing these sports. Golf takes a while longer but I still enjoy playing a round of Ping-Pong or something like that."
bundesliga.com: There is a rumour going around about your wedding ring. Tell us more...
Rudy: "It was when I was newly married so I didn't want to take the wedding ring off. We had a friendly match during pre-season. The match was an hour away from the hotel. I didn't want to take the ring off so I taped it to my finger. That evening we were having dinner and Kai Herdling, who was a player for us back then, said something about a ring. So, I looked down and I saw that my ring was gone. Firstly, I went even paler than I already am. Then I panicked and tried to think where it could be. I realised it could only be at the stadium. We had the next day off so Oliver Baumann and I went back to the stadium. I'm still so grateful to him for coming and helping me. We went around the entire pitch in two lines. He eventually found it wrapped around some tape. That's the story. I only told my wife only after I had found it again!"
bundesliga.com: Does Oliver Baumann have a special place in your heart due to his role in the wedding-ring saga?
Rudy: "Not just because of that. We've known each other for so long; we played and shared a room with each other back in the days where we were both playing for the youth teams of the German national team. I don't know how long we've known each other but it must be eight years. It connects us. We have always gotten on well. We think the same. That's why we have such a good connection."
bundesliga.com: Who is your best friend in the team?
Rudy: "I have to say, due to the fact that I've played with Oli [Baumann] so long, he's probably my best friend."
bundesliga.com: Can you still remember the first Bundesliga game you watched?
Rudy: "I don't remember who the opponents were but I remember being in Betzenberg, Kaiserslautern. My mother comes from that region so I used to be somewhat of a Kaiserslautern fan growing up. That's where I watched my first game."
bundesliga.com: How old were you at that time?
Rudy: "I think I was six or seven."
bundesliga.com: Who did you play your first Bundesliga game against?
Rudy: "I remember because it was with Stuttgart against Hoffenheim. It finished 0-0. It was an unfair draw because Hoffenheim should've won. Everyone wanted to be a footballer. I wasn't even thinking about being a footballer. I just did it because it was so much fun."
bundesliga.com: What was your career choice if not for football?
Rudy: "During school you always hope you have something to fall back on but after football, to be honest, I never had anything I thought I could always rely on after football."
bundesliga.com: Which jersey did you wear the most while you were growing up?
Rudy: "I had several football jerseys, due to my mum being a Kaiserslautern fan. My dad was a Gladbach fan. I had several jerseys. Eventually, I became a Leverkusen fan. In the end, my favourite jersey was that of Bernd Schneider."
bundesliga.com: Why were you a fan of Bernd Schneider growing up?
Rudy: "I loved the way he played football. His passes, his precision, his crosses; as a kid, he always stood out for me."