Cologne - It is no coincidence that Borussia Mönchengladbach's drastic about-turn in fortunes has coincided with the return to form of Brazilian forward Raffael.
The 30-year-old has scored three goals and chipped in with five assists in his last four Bundesliga matches, with Gladbach running out victorious in every one of them.
In an exclusive interview with bundesliga.com prior to Wednesday's goalless draw away to Juventus FC in the UEFA Champions League, Raffael spoke candidly about personal milestones, the unexpected departure of head coach Lucien Favre, the Foals' revival under caretaker boss Andre Schubert, the qualities of Borussia team-mate Lars Stindl and Sunday's blockbuster clash with former club FC Schalke 04.
bundesliga.com: Raffael, you made your 200th Bundesliga appearance in the 5-1 win over Frankfurt. Were you aware of the milestone or did you only find out about it in the press?
Raffael: To be completely honest, when the media and the club drew it to my attention, I had absolutely no idea.
bundesliga.com: Is that because numbers like that don’t mean all that much to you?
Raffael: Put it this way: whether it’s the 199th, 200th or 201st game, it really doesn’t matter to me - it’s just another number. Being such a high number, though, it is pretty special. To have made 200 Bundesliga appearances in almost six seasons in such a strong league makes me proud.
bundesliga.com: At the start of the season, with Borussia stumbling from one defeat to the next, even you looked unnerved. Now you’re one of the most in-form players in the Bundesliga with three goals and five assists in your last four games. Does it sometimes surprise you how quickly things can change in football?
Raffael: No. You know me well enough now. Nothing surprises me in football any more. Things can change completely from one game to the next. One day you're rock-bottom and the next you’re on the up again. Only in a few rare instances can you explain it. Obviously I was really disappointed after games like the ones against HSV [0-3] and in Dortmund [0-4], but I never got to the point where I doubted my own ability. I only ever look forward and think positively.
bundesliga.com: On the subject of things changing so quickly: at the start of the season, no one would have believed that the Lucien Favre era would come to an end a few weeks later. Was it a shock for you?
Raffael: Absolutely. When the club first told us, I couldn't believe it. We were all convinced we could get through the crisis together. I had some fantastic experiences and achieved great things under Lucien Favre. Two championships with FC Zürich, reaching the Europa League with Hertha and recently two magnificent years with Borussia. And at each club the coach really wanted me…
bundesliga.com: … so seeing as he was something as a father figure, are you still in contact with him following his departure?
Raffael: Yes. Favre called every player to personally say goodbye. That was incredibly important to him.
bundesliga.com: Did you worry that you might lose your place under the new coach?
Raffael: No, not at all. Changes in coach are part of the business, even if it was a bit painful for me to take in this case. But, like I said, I always believe in myself and have faith that another coach won’t overlook me. So why should I worry?!
bundesliga.com: Did you know a bit more about Andre Schubert other than him being coach of the Under-23s and the guy with the bald head?
Raffael: No, that really was everything (laughs). You’re obviously aware, though, that the lads in the second team are really happy with their coach and that they’re having success.
bundesliga.com: How did Schubert kick things off?
Raffael: He told us that the team has real quality and it won’t take all that much to start showing it again. The main thing he wanted was for us to be aggressive again and put the opposition under pressure when they’re on the ball, starting on the edge of their own box. On top of that, Schubert emphasises that once you win the ball, it’s not really about settling into the game with long spells of possession, but rather trying to get at the opposition as quickly as possible if the situation is right. I think we’ve put this approach into action in our last four league games and - despite the 2-1 defeat to Manchester City - in the Champions League.
bundesliga.com: Are you still annoyed about missing a penalty against Man City or are you able to quickly forget about that kind of mishap?
Raffael: At the time, I’m obviously really annoyed, but I’m quickly able to forget about it and move on. If we get another penalty and the coach wants me to take it, I won’t hesitate to step up again.
bundesliga.com: You’ve now got your perfect partner in attack following Schubert’s decision to put Lars Stindl in Max Kruse's old position. What do you make of Stindl?
Raffael: Lars is a different player to Max, but also has fantastic quality. He runs a lot, he’s prepared to slow the ball down when needs be or quickly shift it in the decisive moment. In addition to that, he’s got incredible shooting technique, which makes him a real goal threat. Intelligent footballers like Lars don’t come along very often.
bundesliga.com: Borussia’s next two games are against your former club FC Schalke 04 at BORUSSIA-PARK in the Bundesliga and in Gelsenkirchen in the DFB Cup. Are you still in touch with people there?
Raffael: No. Neither games are particularly special to me. My time at Schalke was too short. There’s not much to get excited about. It’s completely different when we play Hertha. Hertha and Berlin - that’s always something really special for me, not least because my brother Ronny plays for them. At most I only see him during the holidays.
bundesliga.com: Victory against Schalke at the weekend would be your fifth in a row in the Bundesliga. With each win the voices only get louder for Andre Schubert to take charge full-time. What’s your view?
Raffael: You know that it’s not really for us players to interfere with the club’s plans. But obviously we can all see how well it’s going and how much fun we’re having in training and on the pitch with him. And if it keeps going that way, it’s a sign that the team and coach are a good fit and can be successful together in the long term. At the end of the day, though, these decisions are down to the management.
Raffael was speaking to Andreas Kötter