Benjamin Pavard played against Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Mario Mandzukic on his way to lifting the 2018 FIFA World Cup with France, but the VfB Stuttgart defender claims the toughest opponent he's ever faced is right here in the Bundesliga. And it's not Robert Lewandowski...
bundesliga.com: After almost a year and a half playing in the Bundesliga, who has been your toughest opponent?
Benjamin Pavard: Schalke's Franco di Santo is exceptionally hard to keep in check. He's always on the move and is unpredictable. There's also Lewandowski, who is a complete player and is always so dangerous.
Watch: Learn more about Pavard's remarkable rise to stardom
bundesliga.com: Why are there so many French players in the Bundesliga?
Pavard: Personally, I always wanted to play in the Bundesliga because I loved the atmosphere in the stadia. All these fans and modern stadia are really impressive. Almost every game is sold out, and I also like the way we work: every training session is very intensive, with a real attention to detail and a lot of passion. Nothing is left to chance. There are also lots of examples of French players who had disciplinary problems in France who have become much more calm in Germany. Here, a player's potential is fully exploited. Every player is at 100 per cent in training, and like that you make progress a lot quicker.
bundesliga.com: How do you explain why things haven’t been going so well for Stuttgart this season?
Pavard: As a newly promoted team, things are much harder in the second and third seasons than in the first. People expect us to do at least as well as last season, and that is extremely difficult. Last season's Hinrunde was a bit bumpy, but we really came on strong in the Rückrunde. Despite our bad position in the table, we have a very good squad and the atmosphere in the dressing room is also good. Everything here is set up to get good results. I'm absolutely convinced that we will soon get things right.
Watch: What makes Pavard so good?
bundesliga.com: What aims have you set before Christmas?
Pavard: We want to get as many points as possible to distance ourselves from the relegation zone. Then we'll be able to have a nice holiday. If we're still languishing near the bottom, then the break will be a lot less pleasant - that's for sure. There's no doubt we have potential. Our biggest problem this season is that in spite of numerous scoring chances, we’re not managing to get in front in a game. If we can do that more often, then things will be possible.
bundesliga.com: Markus Weinzierl came in as coach about a month ago. What are your first impressions of him?
Pavard: He is always positive. He still needs some time to get his ideas across, and he's come to a club that finds itself in a negative period in sporting terms, which is never easy. But you can see that results are getting better and hopefully we will soon get on a run of wins. He's meticulous, and puts a lot of emphasis on one-on-one talks.
bundesliga.com: This weekend Stuttgart go to Mönchengladbach. What are you hoping to get from Borussia-Park?
Pavard: We know it'll be very tough there, because they are having a great season and have a lot of potential. We lost there last season as well. Gladbach are in the hunt for the Champions League places and we’re having trouble finding consistency, which means we're outsiders. We want to get at least a point, and if we can get more…