Stefan Reinartz can be defined both as loyal and educated. The 16 years he spent with Bayer 04 Leverkusen vouch for the former, while a psychology distance-study course confirms the latter.
Prior to the start of the current campaign, however, Reinartz felt it was time for a change. He told bundesliga.com in an exclusive interview what the reasons were behind his switch to Eintracht Frankfurt, why the Eagles are currently involved in a turbulent flight and his feelings going into the first-ever meeting with his former club this weekend.
bundesliga.com: Stefan Reinartz, when Eintracht entertain Bayer 04 Leverkusen on Saturday, it will be your first time in opposition to your former team-mates. Does that bring the football romantic out in you?
Stefan Reinartz: It does a bit, yes. I spent a very, very long time in Leverkusen and Saturday will be the first time in 17 years that I'll face off against them. The last time was when I was a kid, and we got a right hammering - 10-0 when I was playing for Bergisch Gladbach (smiles). This is the first time I'll come up against them as a professional.
bundesliga.com: What was the reason to leave this safe haven behind after such a long time?
Reinartz: You know, there are people who enjoy experiencing new things (grins). Of course I was happy at Bayer, as I was in the Rhineland area. At the same time, I feel there comes a point when a change becomes appealing.
bundesliga.com: What was it that appealed to you about Frankfurt, considering you also had other offers, including from England ?
Reinartz: On the one hand, I didn’t want to move too far away from my family and friends, while on the other hand Eintracht are a club with a very big allure and there is a really strong aura around this club. I'd also hoped to join a club where I could find my feet quickly and where there would be a strong probability that I would be playing frequently.
bundesliga.com: Can the step from a club who are always expected to be challenging for the leading positions to one who are currently floating around in mid-table also be seen as a step backwards?
Reinartz: Well you can't deny that, if you purely look at the sporting aspects, although I believe the only step back I took from a sporting point of view was last year, when after four or five seasons as a regular in the Bayer side I found myself playing only every now and again. Therefore, I feel that this move to Eintracht was not a step back personally, but rather a step forwards.
bundesliga.com: Were you shocked when Thomas Schaaf, the man who really wanted to sign you, was suddenly replaced by Armin Veh?
Reinartz: Not really, because I didn’t sign a contract with Thomas Schaaf, but with Eintracht Frankfurt. It's true, however, that it did come as a bit of a surprise. It wasn't a bolt out of the blue, though, because there had been a bit of speculation about it in the media. You've always got to be ready for things like this as a player.
bundesliga.com: Let's get back to Saturday's game. Eintracht and Bayer are only separated by three points in the standings…
Reinartz: If someone had offered us the chance to be just three points behind Bayer at this stage of the season before it had started, I would have signed for that happily. Even more so if both sides could have had four or five points more. Both Bayer and Eintracht would have hoped for more points than what they've got, but I'm certainly not concerned about Bayer. I know how well they work there and that they will be in a good position come the end of the season.
'We're stuck somewhere between a rock and a hard place'
bundesliga.com: And Eintracht? With such a broad array of results and performances, from the 6-2 win over Köln to the 2-0 loss in Ingolstadt, it seems you're doing justice to your reputation as a moody diva…
Reinartz: I guess that's the way it looks. It's true – we have had relatively big fluctuations in all directions, and that is why we're stuck somewhere between a rock and a hard place. We've just not managed to deliver a solid team performance week in, week out.
bundesliga.com: Do you have an explanation for that?
Reinartz: Any hint of an explanation for how we can do better is going to be kept between us. It makes little sense with just a few days to our next game to suggest solutions which our opponents would only be delighted to hear about.
bundesliga.com: Things have been going better since you tightened things up on the field, like in the recent draw with FC Bayern München.
Reinartz: That's true. Our game has been a little more defensive in the past two or three weeks, and we're also conceding far fewer goals now. With an approach like that, it becomes possible to keep a clean sheet against Bayern and that also gives the team more confidence when moving forwards.
bundesliga.com: What is your personal preference when it comes to tactics?
Reinartz: Anything which wins us points is legitimate. But if I were to pick one variety out, then it would be the way Borussia Dortmund are playing at the moment, or the way Borussia Mönchengladbach were playing last season under Lucien Favre – that was pretty close to my ideal aesthetic vision of the game. That's the brand of football which is most enjoyable.
bundesliga.com: Let's discuss something away from the field – you're currently studying psychology in a distance-study course. Has that given you any interesting insights for your daily life as a professional footballer?
Reinartz: It's true, I am studying psychology. Since completing the foundation course, which accounts for around a third of it, I've had to leave my studies on ice. However, I've set myself the target of finishing the remaining two thirds before the end of my playing career. As for where it comes in with football, I don't think the theory and practice are that close. Of course there are situations, like when medicine students believe you are showing symptoms of a certain illness, when you do see things that reflect the theory. But there's a long way to go before you can get anything constructive out of those theories.
Stefan Reinartz was talking to Andreas Kötter