Bremen - During a difficult start to the 2014/15 campaign, Franco Di Santo’s goals were one of very few highlights for SV Werder Bremen fans. Now, in conjunction with the club’s Viktor Skripnik-inspired revival, they are one of the main reasons behind the Green-White faithful’s belief that a return to the European stage may not be as far-fetched as it first appeared.
'Everything’s going really well for me so far'
With 12 goals in 18 appearances, the Argentinian has been one of the Bundesliga’s most prolific frontmen during the current campaign and, as his most recent match-winning strike against SC Freiburg proved, he also has a penchant for the spectacular. In an exclusive interview with bundesliga.com, Di Santo opens up about Skripnik’s work ethic, Werder’s renaissance and his own future.
bundesliga.com: Franco Di Santo, in just one and a half years in Bremen you’ve scored more goals than you netted in your last seven years combined with other clubs. Are the Werder fans currently witnessing the best Franco Di Santo of all time?
Franco Di Santo: It looks that way doesn’t it?! But only up until now hopefully (laughs)…
bundesliga.com: Only up until now?
Di Santo: Then it’s good because I always want to get better (laughs)! No seriously. It’s true, this has been the best phase of my career so far and everything’s coming together perfectly. However, I also know that I can achieve even more if I keep working hard on myself. And that’s what I’m going to do.
bundesliga.com: Other South American stars often take longer to get used to the Bundesliga and the German lifestyle. You, on the other hand, appeared to have no issues settling in…
Di Santo: It also wasn’t easy for me on account of my long-term injury at the beginning of the first season, but already at the end of that campaign I was feeling really good and in this season everything’s going really well for me so far. I was well received in the team and at the club and also feel comfortable in the city. When these conditions are in place it allows me to focus purely on my work and produce my best performances.
bundesliga.com: You have Argentinian and Italian roots, have played in England and Chile and are now well versed in all things Bundesliga. What separates German football from these other big footballing nations?
Di Santo: I don’t believe that the differences are all that big when it’s about pure sport and football. Taking the Bundesliga and the Premier League as an example: in both leagues there’s a lot of pace in the game and you try to attack your opponents early in their build-up play. No there aren’t any huge sporting differences. Those are found more often when it comes to the marketing and the media’s influence. In that regard, the Premier League is still slightly ahead of the Bundesliga. You can watch the Premier League all over the world. In Argentina there are eight or nine Premier League games shown a week, but a maximum of two from the Bundesliga.
'Playing for Argentina again is one of my biggest wishes'
bundesliga.com: On the subject of Argentina: following your impressive performances, how do you rate your chances of getting back into the national team set-up?
Di Santo: Without question, playing for Argentina again is one of my biggest wishes. Which players in the world wouldn’t give everything they could to be able to play for their country?! So I’ll continue to do everything to keep producing my best performances. Everything else is out of my hands.
bundesliga.com: You’re a striker who doesn’t just poach, but also scores special, almost artistic goals. Is that pure intuition or can you learn that?
Di Santo: I try to practise those things. Only someone who repeats a certain sequence of events can get better and we work on certain situations, like in Mainz, in training. When you try to do that ten times, at least five of those will not end up with the ball in the back of the net, but with every attempt the movements are better shaped. It’s not just like that in football either, but goes for everything in life. Security only comes from exercising certain situations.
'We’ve got a great camaraderie'
bundesliga.com: Let’s talk about Werder’s successful ‘comeback’. In the space of five months an unstable side at the bottom of the table has evolved into a team who are right in the mix in the battle for the European qualification spots. What has changed exactly? And please don’t say the head coach...
Di Santo: Of course Viktor Skripnik has played a major role in us playing much better again now. He has a lot of experience, he’s been at the club for a long time and accordingly knows how to convey what it means to be able to play for this club. That changed a lot for the lads, me included. Above all our mentality is a different one. We’re playing with confidence again because we can feel that Werder Bremen are one of the biggest clubs in the Bundesliga. This feeling allows us to put in good performances out on the pitch.
bundesliga.com: What can this team achieve, not just in this season, but also in the next couple of years?
Di Santo: That depends, not least, on how the team will look in the future, who leaves the club and who will join us as a result. The fact is though that the younger players coming through now have what it takes in terms of quality to help push Werder forward. Provided of course that they, like everyone else, continue to work hard on themselves. The basic requirements are definitely there, we’ve got a good structure in the team and above all a great camaraderie and I think that, in the last five months, everyone has seen that Werder Bremen are putting together a very good team again.
'I told my agent that I don’t want to hear from him'
bundesliga.com: On the subject of the future face of this team, one magazine referred to you as a “promise of a golden future”…
Di Santo: That sounds good and I’m very flattered. It’s not just about me though, but more about the team and how I can help the team. If I need to run more to do that, then I’ll run more. If I have to defend more vigorously for that, then I’ll defend more vigorously. Because that’s what it means to play a team sport and when I continue to score as well, then it’s good for the team as well as me.
bundesliga.com: …but this “promise” of fate only helps Werder if you extend your contract…
Di Santo: You’re right in saying that. That’s how it is with promise, they’re only worth it if they’re upheld (laughs). However, you can believe me when I say that, until the end of the season, I’m not thinking about anything else but Werder and our remaining matches. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t tell you anything now, because I don’t know myself. I told my agent that I don’t want to hear from him at all until the end of the season and certainly not about offers from other clubs. During a campaign I want to, in principle, not have to deal with things like that because I need my full concentration on giving 100 per cent for my club and not just 90. Only after the last Matchday will we see what happens!
Franco Di Santo was talking to Andreas Kötter