Gelsenkirchen - Against Borussia Mönchengladbach on Friday, was named in FC Schalke 04's starting XI for the first time since the turn of the year. The 29-year-old certainly made the most of the opportunity, marking his 250th Bundesliga appearance with the only goal of the game to seal a 1-0 win over the Foals and take the Royal Blues above their guests in the standings.
"They can have all the possession they want when they're not in a dangerous area. That doesn't bother us."
It is no surprise, therefore, that the Swiss midfielder had a broad grin on his face when he spoke to bundesliga.com in the catacombs of the Veltins Arena after the Matchday 20 opener...
bundesliga.com: Tranquillo Barnetta, the winning goal on your 250th top-flight appearance - it doesn't get any better than this, does it?
Tranquillo Barnetta: I've only just heard that I had reached a milestone in terms of games. To be honest, I didn't know about it in advance, but when you get to celebrate it with a goal, then of course that's just perfect.
bundesliga.com: It was also a perfect game for Schalke - an early goal followed by a resolute defensive display...
Barnetta: It certainly makes things easier when you take an early lead, but I think that we wouldn't have changed our plan all that much even if we hadn't scored so soon. We could have finished off one or two of our counter-attacks better, then the game would have been over sooner. But if you see how we didn't let Gladbach or even Bayern have any shots on goal, then it shows we're doing a lot right.
bundesliga.com: Is Schalke's strength at the moment in defence - an area the coach has been working very hard on?
Barnetta: Yes, definitely! Everybody knows that they always have a man behind them and everybody runs for each other. If you are beaten by your man, it doesn't matter because they've also got to beat the man behind you. That makes it difficult for any opponents and it gives you a good feeling too. We've got that down to a fine art so far and that's how we've got to continue.
bundesliga.com: For you as a midfielder, it must be particularly demanding though...
Barnetta:(smiles) Yes, it is pretty demanding. You've got to run a lot, but that's just part of the game and, in the system we play, it's one of the fundamentals if we want to be successful.
bundesliga.com: Does it not bother you that your opponents have the better statistics? Gladbach had almost 70 percent possession...
Barnetta: Gladbach could never really find anything to threaten our compact defence tonight. They can have all the possession they want when they're not in a dangerous area. That doesn't bother us.
bundesliga.com: Was there ever a moment when you feared the game could take a turn for the worse?
Barnetta: No, I never had that fear. We knew that it would be difficult for Gladbach. We kept on trying to push out and not let them force us too deep. When you just stand on the edge of your own penalty area, then things can go wrong. But we are a team who defend as a team - very compact and united - so it never really gets dangerous for us.
Has this been the perfect start to the second half of the season for Schalke?
You could say that. It was a perfect week and to start with seven points was certainly something we would have signed for in advance. Even the way we played - practically not conceding any chances - proves that we didn't steal anything. We may not have been on fire in attack, but that doesn't help you anyway if you don't get the results.
This has also been a good start to the second half of the season for you personally. You weren't in the starting XI before and now you've played a great game against Gladbach...
I showed in the first half of the season that I am there when needed. I just waited for my chance and knew that I was getting closer. When you have so many difficult games, you can't get through them with only 11 men. That's why it was never a problem for me to sit on the bench to start with. I knew that my chance would come and of course it's nice to have taken it so well. Interview by Dietmar Nolte