Grassau - 2013/14 was a season of firsts for FC Schalke 04 prodigy Max Meyer. Embarking on his first full campaign with the first-team, the 18-year-old displayed a maturity beyond his years as he settled quickly into the Royal Blues’ midfield, earning a Germany debut against Poland at the tail end of the campaign as a reward.
Check out more about the Schalke academy that produced the likes of Max Meyer and Julian Draxler on the Bundesliga's official Youtube channel:
In an exclusive interview with bundesliga.com at Schalke’s pre-season training camp in Grassau, Meyer discusses futsal, the number seven shirt, and his hopes ahead of the new season...
bundesliga.com Max Meyer, you and the rest of the Schalke squad have been training in Grassau for a week now. Are the grueling sessions starting to take their toll?
Max Meyer: We’re training twice a day and usually start with weight training in the morning - we were using tree trunks for the second time on Monday! It’s obviously not as much fun as playing football, but it’s part and parcel of pre-season.
bundesliga.com: What’s the atmosphere like in the camp?
Meyer: We grew a lot closer during our training camp in Qatar last winter. In addition to that, the second half of the campaign went really well and we won a lot of matches. Successes like these bring a team much closer together, so it’s hardly surprising that the atmosphere is very good - it would be bad if it wasn’t! If we manage to maintain this positive atmosphere, we’ll be able to play to our potential on the pitch.
bundesliga.com: Some of the youth players, such as Timon Wellenreuther and Axel Borgmann, have been training with the senior squad for the very first time in Grassau. Have the new guys sought your advice on how to make that step up to the first team?
Meyer: They maybe look up to me a little, as I’ve been with the first team for one and a half years now. I played with most of them at youth level, so we’ve known each other for a few years and we obviously talk to each other on the pitch. I’m still learning from the older players every day, but I also try to pass on some of my experience to the younger ones.
bundesliga.com: You made 41 appearances for Schalke last season and made your international debut . You must be living the dream right now!
Meyer: Last season went really well, but I wasn’t expecting anything less. I didn’t necessarily believe that things would go so quickly, but it was always clear to me which path I would follow. Now we’re starting from scratch again, though. It’s a fresh start for me and I have to make sure I perform. Hopefully I’ll have another season like the last one.
bundesliga.com: Given your rapid rise through the Schalke ranks, have you managed to take in all the developments of the past eighteen months or so?
Meyer: You never manage to take it all in, but I’ve managed to keep everything in perspective. I know last season went very well, for me and the entire team. I’ll try and pick up where I left off last term. There were a couple of games where I was a little tired, just because of the number of matches I’d played, but this is my second full season [with the first-team], I’m a bit more mature and I think I can cope with the pressure.
bundesliga.com: You were handed the number seven shirt - previously worn by the likes of Stan Libuda, Rüdiger Abramczik and Raul - at the beginning of last season. How did you feel at being given such an iconic shirt?
Meyer: When they wanted to give me the number seven shirt last summer, I had to think about it. After all, that shirt is associated with a certain calibre of player. In the end I was delighted to take it and will continue to wear it with pride. I think I succeeded in doing so last season, but I’m not putting myself under any pressure. I’ll just try and keep playing my game, no matter which number’s on my back.
bundesliga.com: Your natural position is in central attacking midfield, but you were playing on the wing against Rosenheim recently. Can we expect to see more of you on the flank this year?
Meyer: In the second half against Rosenheim, there weren’t any other natural left wingers available, so I switched to the flank. Playing there isn’t a problem for me, I played in that position a few times last season after all. My favourite position is in the middle, but I’m pretty versatile.
bundesliga.com: You played futsal as a youngster, which is played mainly indoors on a much smaller field and places a particular emphasis on technique and ball control. Has that helped you at all in your football career?
Meyer: It’s very important to have a hobby as a youngster. I chose Futsal because football was the only thing I was interested in and barely a day went by without me kicking a ball. As they’re both very similar, I learned a lot about football while playing futsal, even though I gave it up when I was 15. Working on my technique in confined spaces has definitely stood me in good stead.
bundesliga.com: Schalke’s start to the season certainly packs a punch. You play relegated Bundesliga 2 side Dynamo Dresden in the first round of the DFB Cup and after travelling to Hannover 96 on the opening day, you host an FC Bayern München side who already seem to be hitting their stride.
Meyer: Bayern are always favourites for the title, but you shouldn’t take their pre-season results too seriously. It’s good for Bayern that they won the Telekom Cup in Hamburg this weekend, but it’s nothing to get too excited about. The start of the DFB Cup is more important, as it shows you where you are in terms of your preparation. We’re obviously hoping to make a better start to this season than the last one.
bundesliga.com: As so many of their players were at the World Cup, Bayern will have to wait before they can start training with their full squad. Does that make them vulnerable?
Meyer: They were out of sight at the top of the league last season, but things won’t be as easy for them this time. Dortmund will make life difficult for them and we want to do the same, but I don’t think we can expect to win the Bundesliga. First and foremost, our aim is to qualify for the Champions League.
Interview by Maximilian Lotz