After joining Borussia Dortmund from Paris Saint-Germain this summer, Thomas Meunier is looking ahead to his first season in the Bundesliga in 2020/21 - a league the Belgium international has watched regularly, and believes he can be successful in.
Sitting down with bundesliga.com ahead of the start of the new campaign, the 29-year-old defender discusses his initiation at BVB, how he can help the club's abundance of young talent and how Futsal has influenced his playing style.
bundesliga.com: Did you have to sing in front of your new teammates at the training camp?
Thomas Meunier: "I had to sing, yes. As a new player, I had to do it. It wasn't a great pleasure as I'm quite shy, but for the atmosphere in the group it was quite nice."
bundesliga.com: What did you sing?
Meunier: "I chose 'Wonderwall' by Oasis."
bundesliga.com: Did the younger players know the song?
Meunier: "I think the youngest was 15, the rest are 16, 17, 18. I don't think they know it. Jude [Bellingham] knows it, but he's from England so that's different."
bundesliga.com: How has life been in the training camp?
Meunier: "Life is going well. I was expecting a tough camp because I hadn't played since the beginning of March. It was nice to be with my family, but I was a bit lost, to be honest. I've played football every week, every weekend, every day since I was seven years old, so it was a bit strange. Not negative, just strange. I was happy to touch the ball again and be part of a group. We worked really well. The mentality is there, but the quality is also there. I can only say that I'm really happy to be here."
bundesliga.com: How have you managed to get through these Corona times so far?
Meunier: "We faced it really well. We had our third child during the Coronavirus period in March, and I couldn't have dreamed of a better moment to become a father again. We were together every day, every second for three months. It was probably one of the best moments of my life so far. It's normal to be there as a father, but it's sometimes a bit complicated with the work that we do, we have away games, we have to go abroad, those kinds of things. I'm not at home a lot usually and everyone was happy to see me. When they opened the border we went back to Belgium and it was the same with my family. I appreciate the period a lot. We faced it like everyone, we didn't have the choice, we couldn't do what we wanted to do so we were just together and enjoyed the family time."
bundesliga.com: How would you describe yourself?
Meunier: "It's always difficult to describe yourself! I'd say I'm not complicated. I always think positively, I want to improve myself, to improve the personality and character of my teammates, of the people around me. I try to have a positive impact on everybody and try to be myself. I'm a normal guy who likes football, family and to drink some beer sometimes! I'm just normal, nothing special."
bundesliga.com: How would you describe yourself as a player?
Meunier: "As a player, I'm experienced, not old, experienced! We have a really young group here and I think I can pass my knowledge on to the young generation. I'll do my best to bring what I can to the team. I will always give everything until the day I die and even if it's not enough I know I will have no regrets at the end of the game, that's my personality. I'm difficult to beat."
bundesliga.com: We have seen a few of your skills and tricks, where did you learn your technique?
Meunier: "There is a story about that, I played futsal earlier for many years. That was my first love, even before football. At the moment you can't compare the two worlds, though, you can't really make a living playing futsal. You have to make a choice. I don't regret it at all. If I could have earned as much money as I do now I would have been a futsal player, though, and not a football player. It was technical, it was physical, intense. Sometimes a football game is boring, it's too tactical. Playing futsal you just get the ball and enjoy. There is no real direction to it, you get passes from everywhere, you can shoot from midfield if you want. Technically you can really improve, it was a real pleasure. Football was also my ambition. I'm a bit technical and this is because of futsal."
bundesliga.com: That's common in Belgium, right?
Meunier: "It's famous in Belgium. Almost all of my friends who play in an amateur league play futsal on Fridays. It's part of the culture. It's just a different way to enjoy the game. It's like table tennis and tennis, you can do both, but it's totally different and once you like the sport you have to practise a bit on a few things."
bundesliga.com: You were wearing Copa Mundials in the training camp, very old boots! What did your teammates have to say about them?
Meunier: "They were laughing on the first day. Thorgan [Hazard] told me I was the referee, someone else told me I was playing in defence! Julian [Brandt] told me either Franz Beckenbauer or Johan Cruyff. Of course, they were all joking, I have no problem with that. When I was younger I played in Copa Mundials at my first club in the third division, Virton. Now it's difficult to play in something comfortable because the boots have to be sold in the shops so they are constantly creating new boots, there are always new pairs and the kids are always wanting new pairs. Nobody wants to buy Copa Mundials because you buy one pair and play in them all year, that's the difference."
Watch: Dortmund's next generation
bundesliga.com: You have got a lot of younger players at Dortmund - how can you help them improve?
Meunier: "They already have the talent, otherwise they wouldn't be with us. The only thing I can do then is to give them advice. So for defenders, the way to cover, the rotation, the pressing, those kind of things. They have to choose the right moments because when you're young, you're savage - you just want to run, like a crazy dog! You can just help them to stay focused on football, to be professional. I know from Paris with the young players, it's quite easy to lose focus because there is a lot to do, like social media, fame, it comes really fast once the press starts talking about you. I think it's easier in Dortmund to stay focused and grounded. You have less temptation. There's always a way to speak with the devil of course, but you see the whole group, players like Mats [Hummels], [Marcel] Schmelzer, they can control the group because the young players listen to them. I think they learn that in the academy as well. You see the difference, they are really aware of the chance that they have got to be with us."
bundesliga.com: What do BVB expect of you?
Meunier: "Probably, when a club buys a player, they should believe in his footballing quality. They judge that I can bring something, that's the start. The idea that I can make the team better, that's the principle. I believe, as the club does, that I can bring something extra to the team and hopefully it will be a success in the coming years."
Meunier: "I really like watching it on TV, I like Match of the Day in England too, it's a bit legendary. I follow the Belgian players wherever they go, in France, Spain, Germany so I follow the Bundesliga. Dortmund, Bayern, Leverkusen, Mönchengladbach, these are the kind of teams that everyone is talking about. I know the Bundesliga like I know football. I have good knowledge. I follow what's going on in German football."
bundesliga.com: Your first game is against Borussia Mönchengladbach - is that a good thing or a bad thing?
Meunier: "There is no good or bad time to play big matches because you will have to play them anyway. You may think it's easier, but it's not. You can lose against anyone and you can win against anyone. Playing Mönchengladbach, Bayern Munich or Paderborn is all the same to me."
bundesliga.com: You have a lot of cartoons on your social media channels, who's behind them?
Meunier: "On my social media, the guy is Pad'R, that's his nickname. I just like the way of sending a message through an image because now people don't take the time to read any more, they want the message instantly like on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook. It's all about images and a short comment. It's a summary of everything. When I want to be creative and not put something like 'training day, it was fun', I try to be a bit more original. He likes football, Belgian football and football in general. He's always up to date with transfers, results, news. We don't only speak about football either, but other subjects like Coronavirus, the European Union. He's quite smart and tries to find the little things to please the people, so I enjoy working with him."