Augsburg captain since 2012, nobody is as synonymous with the Bavarian club's recent rise as Paul Verhaegh
Augsburg captain since 2012, nobody is as synonymous with the Bavarian club's recent rise as Paul Verhaegh

Faces of the

Augsburg - FC Augsburg could hardly wish for a better player to embody the down-to-earth, family values of the club than captain .

Family man

The defender is never alone when he addresses the media after another hard day at the office on matchdays: his three-year-old daughter Mila never leaves his side as he answers the reporters' questions, and gets impatient if his attention drifts too much away from her.

The Bavarian outfit pride themselves on being such a close-knit group. "We have a fantastic camaraderie," the Dutchman said. "Everybody is there for everybody else. I just love playing in this team." Verhaegh has been on FCA's books since 2010, earning promotion to the Bundesliga in 2011 and inheriting the captain's armband at the start of 2012.

Two years on, Verhaegh has just helped Augsburg celebrate the best Hinrunde in the club's history. "Our position is sensational," said Augsburg coach Markus Weinzierl. "Not only this half a year, but 2014 as a whole." Indeed, the Függerstädter posted their best ever Rückrunde in 2013/14 to only narrowly miss out on a place in Europe – something they can realistically aim for in the coming year.

Spot on

The 2-1 win over Borussia Mönchengladbach on Matchday 17 was a test of their readiness for greater things, and it is one they passed impressively, "sending out a signal" that Augsburg are to be taken seriously. "We've got a fantastic character," added Weinzierl, whose side have turned recovering into an art form, with no fewer than four wins this season after falling 1-0 behind.

That confidence can also be seen in the composure captain Verhaegh shows from the penalty spot. The full-back has certainly made a significant contribution to Augsburg's rise, scoring five successful penalties out of five this season. That tally has extended the three-time Dutch international's 100 per cent record from the spot – seven spot-kicks out of seven have now been coolly slotted away in Germany's top flight.

Keeping it real

Verhaegh is equally cool when he analyses the current league table. "We aren't talking about Europe," he said. "We've never done that and we're not going to start now." Yet with 27 points from 17 games, FCA are currently in a position which would mean European football next season. "The fans are allowed to dream, but we're realistic and know that we've got some tough opponents in our way up to the Matchday 34."

Instead, he remains focused on making history of another kind by extending the Bavarians' permanence in the top flight by another year. "Things can take a turn in the wrong direction very quickly," warned Verhaegh. "We've given ourselves a nice cushion, but that doesn't mean we can relax on it in 2015."

There is some time for relaxation for Verhaegh heading into the new year, though. "We can go into the winter break with a positive feeling and we're allowed to enjoy our holidays," said the family man, before being pulled out of the mixed zone by Mila and into a well-earned vacation.