Yann Sommer has called Gianluigi Buffon his biggest idol. - © DFL/imago
Yann Sommer has called Gianluigi Buffon his biggest idol. - © DFL/imago

Borussia Mönchengladbach's Yann Sommer: "Gianluigi Buffon is my biggest idol"


Borussia Mönchengladbach's Yann Sommer has made over 200 appearances for the Bundesliga club and reached almost 50 appearances internationally for Switzerland. This, is all by the time he is 30, and despite being one of the shorter goalkeepers around.

Gladbach's No.1 sat down with bundesliga.com to discuss the club's start under new coach Marco Rose, how he became a goalkeeper following in the footsteps of his grandfather and father, and his biggest idols including Italian legend Gianluigi Buffon...

bundesliga.com: How would you rate your start to the season?

Yann Sommer: "Good! We've definitely started well in the league. Of course, the Europa League has been very disappointing so far in the first game but, in the Bundesliga, we've started well. It takes us a while to get going in games but we're getting to where the head coach wants us to be in terms of the football we want to play. It’s been a positive start."

bundesliga.com: Are Gladbach still finding their feet?

Sommer: "Yeah but that's not a bad thing. We knew that'd be the case when you have a new head coach and new staff who demand different things from us as a team. We're playing a new style of football. It's normal that it takes time. Of course, we're in the middle of the season and time isn't on our side. We have to get results and we're doing that. There are still weeks in the season for us to improve and work on finer details. Sure, we want to be in a situation in the next few weeks where we're at ease with our new system."

bundesliga.com: How are you finding playing for Marco Rose?

Sommer: "He suits us very well. He's a relaxed coach, very friendly and easy-going. He has a clear idea of how he'd like us to play football. He's very professional and asks a lot of his sides which is good for us as we need someone who pushes us. He's demanding and I like that."

bundesliga.com: Does a change in head coach affect a goalkeeper's game too?

Sommer: "Sure. Every coach has his ideas of how a goalkeeper should impact a game. There haven't been enormous changes to my game but there are two or three small things which we've spoken about where in certain situations he'd like me to offer for the ball. For me, it's a matter of re-thinking small parts of my game and learning it until it's natural."

Borussia Mönchengladbach have made their best start to a Bundesliga season for eight years with the help of Yann Sommer in goal. - 2019 DFL

bundesliga.com: How have you found the addition of Breel Embolo?

Sommer: "First of all, I was very happy when I heard he was coming to us as I like him as a person most of all. He's a great guy and I know him from the national team. As a footballer, I know how much power he can bring to the pitch. He's a player full of surprises. He's important for the team when he's fit as he makes a big impact on games. He finds space and holds the ball up well up front. He's always got an end product. There are always things people can tweak in their game but he’s a great player."

bundesliga.com: Can you see in Marcus Thuram that his father is a World Cup winner?

Sommer: "We know him as Marcus and, although we know who his father is, we know it's nothing to do with Marcus at the end of the day. He's having his own career and he's doing well. He's a good guy. He's been a positive influence on the team. As a player, he's fit in well. On Sunday [on Matchday 5 vs. Fortuna Düsseldorf], he came on with 20 minutes to go and brought so much to the game. He's technically excellent which is a plus and I'm glad that we've been able to have him on board."

bundesliga.com: How do you feel about your career to date?

Sommer: "I'm very happy. I'd say that, at the age of 30, I've never felt better. I think that's normal as a goalkeeper as I have a lot of experience. I have more of a routine and am calmer in games. I know exactly how to react in certain situations. You lack that as a young goalkeeper. I'm still trying to improve all elements of my game and am fine-tuning my strengths and weaknesses. I think I'm on the right path."

Yann Sommer has been able to challenge himself against some of the best players in the world while playing in the Bundesliga. - 2019 DFL

bundesliga.com: When did you start playing football?

Sommer: "Aged five. At five, I started playing football. At that time, we moved from the French-speaking part of Switzerland into the German-speaking part. Then, I started at a small football club near Zurich."

bundesliga.com: How did you become a goalkeeper?        

Sommer: "I went in goals right away. I think at the time my parents told me that the coach asked who wants to go in goal and I wanted to! My uncle was a goalkeeper as was my father. I don't know if maybe that inspired me. I just wanted to be a goalkeeper too and it was a good decision!"

bundesliga.com: When did you realise you could be a goalkeeper professionally?

Sommer: "It was fun for me. I always wanted to play football. Every free minute I had was spent on a football pitch kicking a ball with my friends. It's hard to say when I thought I could make it. Maybe aged 12, 13 or 14, you start to slowly realise that you were always the youngest in the team and that I kept making my way through the ranks quickly. You don't really think about these things too much as a boy. You just play and enjoy it and try to do your best. I just wanted to keep improving and it’s only when you look back that you realise how the quick the progress that you made really was."

A young Yann Sommer taking his first steps in professional football with Basel. - imago sportfotodienst

bundesliga.com: Were you always tall growing up?  

Sommer: "I think I just grew normally. I'm not the biggest goalkeeper now anyway. As a youngster, I wasn't massively bigger or smaller than the others. I'm used to that. It was important for me as it meant that aged 15, 16 I started to work on my agility and worked strongly on aspects such as timing and bravery when collecting the ball which helps me still today."

bundesliga.com: Who has been especially supportive of you throughout your career?

Sommer: "Honestly, there are many, many people. There are so many names as in every level I played at there were people who kept pushing me. Without them, I wouldn't have got to where I am now. There are the goalkeeping coaches – I'd include my father in that. There were the coaches at Concordia Basel. There are many coaches who were important for me at various stages of my career. It's tough to name names."

bundesliga.com: As your goalkeeping coach, did your father expect a lot from you?     

Sommer: "He was very relaxed. They dealt with the situation well and just wanted me to have fun. My father also had fun training me! It was always calm and never too serious. It was very important for me at that stage of my career. It helped me a lot and, at home, I was never pushed about it. I could do whatever I wanted. If I hadn't wanted to play football, then I would've stopped and there wouldn't have been a problem with that, but I always wanted to play!"

Yann Sommer names Gianluigi Buffon as his biggest goalkeeping idol. - imago images/Sportimage

bundesliga.com: How old were you when big clubs were interested in you? 

Sommer: "I was 15 when I moved to Basel. I signed my first professional deal at 16. All of a sudden, I was the third-choice 'keeper in the first-team. I played for the U21s. Then, it came to the decision. I was at school at the time. I had to decide if I wanted to keep playing in the U21s as I wasn't going to be coming through the first team, or to go out on loan. I opted to go on loan in the second division in Switzerland. That meant I no longer went to school. That wasn't an easy decision for my parents, but it was an important step for me to get experience and to prove myself at a new club."

bundesliga.com: Did you have an idol who you looked up to?

Sommer: "Yeah there's many. Buffon is my biggest idol but there were also many great goalkeepers at Basel who I looked to up to such as Pascal Zuberbühler. [Miroslav] König I like to remember. Franco Costanzo, an Argentinian goalkeeper, came to the club when I was the third choice and brought a completely different style of goalkeeping to the club with his sidekicks, with his calm but courageous distribution. I picked up a lot from watching him."

bundesliga.com: Do you remember your first-team debut?

Sommer: "Yes. I remember it being for Vaduz in the Switzerland second tier. They're based in Liechtenstein so they're small but play in the Swiss league. After a year, we got promoted! So, for six months, I was able to get first-division experience which was great. Then, Costanzo got injured so I was recalled by Christian Gross. I played six or seven games for Basel and it went from there!"

bundesliga.com: Who was your biggest influence?

Sommer: "I think that'd have to be my parents. They supported me. They helped me with my decision aged 17 whether I should carry on with school or focus on football. They were calm about the whole thing. They let me decide at the end of the day. They let me know of the consequences if it didn't work out but left it open to me to decide. Therefore, I'd have to say my parents have been the biggest supporters of my career."