Wolfsburg - He’s one of the Bundesliga’s elite free-kick specialists. No current players have scored more goals from dead-ball situations than VfL Wolfsburg’s Brazilian Diego. His strike, which made it 2-0 in an eventual 3-1 victory over VfB Stuttgart, was his 13th strike from a set-piece in Germany's top flight. Yet despite these exploits, the playmaker still divides opinion in Lower Saxony.
In this exclusive interview with bundesliga.com, Diego talks about Saturday's victory, as well as his future with the 'Wolves' and the development of rising star Robin Knoche.
bundesliga.com: Diego, how relieved are you after a tough, battling home victory over Stuttgart?
Diego: Before the game, the intention was to emerge with three points because we knew the other results and that we could make up some ground on the top four. Now, we’re looking forward to the away game against Borussia Mönchengladbach next weekend. It’ll be tough, but I’ve got to congratulate the side, we worked really hard today.
bundesliga.com: Timo Werner had a great chance to make it 1-1 just before the break, but your young defender Robin Knoche managed to pull off a spectacular clearance, which turned out to be important for the rest of the game.
Diego: Robin did really well there - but that’s what your defenders are for! The attackers are responsible for scoring the goals and the defenders for keeping a clean sheet, but the most important thing is that we came away with three points. Everyone needs to keep performing to their full potential, we need that for our success.
bundesliga.com: After 72 minutes, you came off for Ivan Perisic. Were you struggling or could you have played all 90 minutes?
Diego: I felt really good today. I could have played 90 minutes easily, but the coach decided to take me off. No one ever wants to come off, but it’s never a problem for me if that’s what the coach decides. It wasn’t the first time I’ve been substituted and I doubt it’ll be the last, you’re never happy about coming off, but that’s the way things go.
bundesliga.com: Your relief was there for all to see after you scored and you blew kisses to the crowd. Were they aimed at anyone in particular?
Diego: I was delighted with my goal, really pleased. The kisses were for my wife, who’s always been so supportive of me.
bundesliga.com: In recent weeks, there’s been plenty of speculation about your future. Did that affect you in any way?
Diego: It’s difficult and not the most comfortable of situations. It’s part and parcel of being a professional footballer though and my job is to concentrate on staying professional and helping out my team. It’s not pleasant always to be the focus of the media, but I’ll just keep working to help the team - that’s the most important thing.
bundesliga.com: Has a decision been made about your future? Your contract runs out at the end of the season.
Diego: Not yet no, but that’s the responsibility of the club and it doesn’t just depend on me. I’m sure it’s not too far away and it’ll come at the right moment. We’ll decide together. I’m just keeping myself to myself and doing my job which is the only thing I can influence.
Alexander Barklage reporting from Wolfsburg
Diego has been a Bundesliga star for years now - check out his top five goals courtesy of the official Bundesliga YouTube channel: