Borussia Dortmund's Thomas Delaney has told bundesliga.com Lucien Favre's men are ready to push Bayern Munich even harder in the 2019/20 Bundesliga title race after learning the lessons of last season's near miss.
Delaney & Co. had to settle for second place as Bayern claimed a seventh successive German top-flight crown last term, but Dortmund kept Niko Kovac's men on tenterhooks until the final day of the campaign before the Bavarian giants could finally celebrate.
bundesliga.com: When you left Copenhagen for Werder Bremen in January 2017, you said you were looking to take a step up. Do you feel you have done that?
Thomas Delaney: Of course. Two-and-a-half years ago, I wouldn't have dreamed of being at Dortmund at this stage. Of course I'm very proud, and humble in that regard, coming from little Denmark to big Dortmund is something that not a lot of people will do in their lives.
bundesliga.com: You moved to Dortmund 12 months ago. How do you feel that maiden season at the Signal Iduna Park went?
Delaney: If you had asked me before the season, knowing we had a chance to win the title in the final round even if we needed a helping hand, I would have taken that. But you know, the story, your goals change throughout the season, whether you're up or you're down. Of course we saw the possibility of a championship, and taking that into consideration it's double-edged. You're proud and happy, but also a little bit disappointed at the same time.
Watch: Thomas Delaney talks to Patrick Owomoyela about life at Borussia Dortmund
bundesliga.com: Big disappointments can also be a major source of motivation in football. Can the squad feed off that near miss to do better next season?
Delaney: Of course. We had moments in the season where we didn't hit our level. We had moments when we had a lot of pressure on us, and we didn't come through, and that's something we need to improve on. With the young players we have, we'll only get better, and you only learn by failing. In some regards, we did. You can't just train for big matches. You have to feel them, you have to make mistakes, You have to do great things in order to learn.
bundesliga.com: The club has been very active in the transfer window. Mats Hummels, Thorgan Hazard, Julian Brandt and Nico Schulz are three top quality players who have been brought in. As a Dortmund player, how do you feel when you see players like that arriving?
Delaney: When I arrived, the club had a plan. They wanted to improve and get back to the top of the table. They had a good team, but they had had a disappointing season before that. This [the new signings] is just another sign that the management knows what they're doing and they're preparing, and I welcome that. There will always be competition, and that's only for the benefit of the team, so I see that as a major plus.
bundesliga.com: Axel Witsel came to the club at the same time as you. He'd gone to China, a move that surprised many, but he has returned and proved he can still perform at the very top level. How has it been playing alongside him?
Delaney: I'm very impressed by Axel, he's an all-round player with a very high level in every aspect of the game. I learn a lot from him. I think we have a very good companionship, we support each other. We can sort of do the same things, and yet there is room to improve. It's been a pleasure to play with him.
bundesliga.com: Your coach, Lucien Favre, also came to the club in summer 2018. What has he done to shape the team to his vision of the game?
Delaney: I think he's aware he has a young team. He's very detail-oriented, and tries to remove the childish mistakes that we make sometimes. I don't mean just the young players, but as a team. He has a lot of trust and even forgiveness. He wants to play attacking football, and I think there were a lot of times in the season when we enjoyed that freedom to go out and try to score more goals than our opponents. In the end, that's what matters, for us at Borussia. There are many ways of winning, and one of them is to score one more goal than our opponents. If we do that, then we'll see what happens.
bundesliga.com: You're one of the fortunate few to have been on that Signal Iduna Park pitch with 80,000 of the world's most passionate fans behind you. What's that like?
Delaney: It's a pleasure, every game. I've only been there a year, and I don't know about Marcel Schmelzer or Lukasz Piszczek, who have been there their whole lives [sic], but I get goosebumps when I go out onto the pitch. It's crazy. Those moments during the season, the 3-2 goal against Bayern, for example, it's absolutely crazy. You can't really describe it. One thing is the Yellow Wall, but you have everything all around you. It's intense, that's the right word: intense. Let me put it this way: I've played there as an opponent and as the home team, and it's way easier to be the home side, even if it can be difficult to communicate. It's a pleasure to play there. I remember going there as a Bremen player and thinking: 'Oh my God, we're already 1-0 behind.'
bundesliga.com: While Dortmund have been strengthening their squad, Bayern have been doing the same. They will start the new campaign as favourites for the title, but you pushed them close last season. Can you do it again?
Delaney: Of course. We want to stay up there. What matters most is a top-four finish, and then we'll see what happens. I have high hopes for us. We have the confidence, we have learned some lessons, we have improved with the new players, and even played together as a team more, so I'm very optimistic.