Plying his trade at Borussia Mönchengladbach since the start of the 2015/16 season, Lars Stindl could celebrate the end of his first year with the Foals by securing a place in the UEFA Champions League.
It is a far cry from the relegation battle his former club Hannover 96 are currently enduring, but he has not forgotten where he came from and, in an exclusive interview with bundesliga.com, he touched on the past, the present and what the future has in store.
bundesliga.com: Lars Stindl, you've been with Borussia for three quarters of a year now – how would you sum up your time at the club?
Lars Stindl: After a few difficulties on the field to start with, which always get carried over into your 'normal' daily routine, my wife and I have settled in really well in Mönchengladbach. You can feel on every street corner here that Borussia is what life revolves around, and almost everybody has this club's fortunes at heart.
bundesliga.com: And do you actually live in Mönchengladbach?
Stindl: Yes, I do. It was a conscious decision. It's important for me to live and breathe the club and the city, and see how much Borussia means to the fans. That's important, particularly in the early days.
bundesliga.com: It sounds as if your expectations have been fulfilled in every possible way...
Stindl: Absolutely. I've been able to do everything I'd hoped to do here. I've experienced some great nights in the UEFA Champions League, which has been the highlight of my career so far. We've also had some great games in the Bundesliga and we're now in a pretty decent fifth place, with the chance of doing something special in our remaining games.
bundesliga.com: When you joined Borussia, Lucien Favre was your coach. Were you worried that your expectations would not be entirely fulfilled when he resigned after just five games?
Stindl: Let me begin by saying that I was convinced by the overall sporting leadership and concept of the club. Whether that was with [sporting director] Max Eberl, [general manager] Steffen Korell or Lucien Favre – all the talks I had with people here were excellent. Of course Favre's resignation left the team and the whole club in a difficult situation. I would have liked to have got to know his way of working and his philosophy of football a bit better, but things change quickly in football and life must go on. With Andre Schubert, we now have a coach who has changed things a bit, and that goes for my situation and my position, too. The team and I definitely feel happy with the way things are going.
bundesliga.com: Indeed, you were regarded as more of a defensive midfielder for Favre, but now you're leading the attack with Raffael…
Stindl: Lucien Favre had already said there was a chance I would play further up the field. We tried it out against Bremen, for example, although we lost 2-1. It's not so important for me whether I'm deep or high up, to be honest. What I've always said is that I prefer to be able to play down the middle. It's always about dealing with the situation and trying to make the most of it.
bundesliga.com: Your team-mate Raffael seems to be in the form of his life…
Stindl: He's not your usual player. Raffael not only makes our whole team better, but also the whole of the Bundesliga. I'm delighted to be able to play up front alongside him. We've also had Thorgan Hazard up front with us in recent games and that's worked well too. All of our attacking players have great individual ability and intuition. At the same time, nobody's putting himself above the team. I think all three of us pull our weight for the team.
bundesliga.com: Borussia are often playing their opponents off the park, particularly away from home, but are still not picking up many points on the road. Is that something to do with the style of play?
Stindl: No, I don't think so. We've played different systems in recent weeks – like in Mainz, when we had a 4-4-2, as we did in Augsburg. We changed the way we played during the game in Wolfsburg. Now we've got to take a very close look at how we can improve things. Football's about getting results; we all know that. At the end of the day, we've only picked up one point away from home in the second half of the season and we know that's simply not good enough if we want to reach our objectives. That's why we're working even harder on creating more chances because that increases the likelihood of us scoring goals, which at the same time reduces the chance of us losing.
bundesliga.com: When you see that the ball just won't go in, like against Schalke, despite all the chances you created, shouldn't you then just settle for a 0-0, though?
Stindl: We've proven often enough at home that we can keep a clean sheet and that our defence does not suffer from our attacking philosophy. We've just got to show that away from home in the weeks to come.
bundesliga.com: First you have high-flying Hertha Berlin at the BORUSSIA-PARK. The 4-1 in the capital was your last away win – is it going to be as easy as that again?
Stindl: Most definitely not. Of course we're aware of how strong we've been at home, and it's always our aim to win here, but Hertha are tough opponents. They've got a huge opportunity to cement third place and move to within touching distance of Champions League qualification, so it's not going to be easy. Hertha are tactically well schooled and very disciplined. They've also improved a lot as a team and they're playing great football under Pal Dardai. They've won a lot of tight games too, and that's a good quality to have.
bundesliga.com: Are you still up to speed with what's happening at Hannover?
Stindl: I think all professional footballers keep a bond with their former clubs, or at least those who don't move often (smiles). Borussia are only my third club and I'm already almost 28. That's not so common in football. My bond with Hannover is always going to be there. I'm still in touch with some of the staff and players and we exchange messages and calls from time to time. It's a very difficult situation for the lads there, but there are still a few games to come. It's going to be touch and go, but I hope they somehow manage to get out of there. Whatever happens, I will keep looking out for Hannover's results for the rest of my life.
bundesliga.com: That bond saw you given a moving send-off which not many players receive…
Stindl: It was truly sensational. I'd made up my mind pretty early in the season and I told the club and the management this immediately. I also requested that I could inform the fans and the public myself through social media, before the club made a press release. I think people see me there the way I really am. The fans like the way I am and I was pleased with the way they supported me, and the fact we stayed up last season only brought us even closer together.
bundesliga.com: How close are you now to Borussia's fans?
Stindl: The atmosphere at our home games is sensational. The stadium's practically always sold out, but we're also getting amazing support away from home, throughout Germany and also on our travels abroad. It's really impressive, even for a player who's already been around a bit.
Interview by Andreas Kötter