Mönchengladbach – That Josip Drmic has some big boots to fill at Borussia Mönchengladbach is no secret: he was brought in to replace the departed Max Kruse, who hit double figures in each of his two seasons with the Foals. A similar return is expected of the one time1. FC Nürnberg and Bayer 04 Leverkusen forward, of whom his former Nürnberg coach Gertjan Verbeek once said he would "win the Golden Boot one year".
In an exclusive interview with bundesliga.com, the Swiss forward spoke about settling into his new surroundings and his expectations for the year ahead, including the chance to strut his stuff in the UEFA Champions League.
bundesliga.com: Josip Drmic, you've been a Borussia player for three and a half weeks now. How do you feel you have settled in?
Josip Drmic: My very first impression was very positive. I was given a really warm welcome and straight away everybody gave me the feeling they were pleased to have me here. We've also been training a lot with the ball so far and that suits me too. I love training with these lads. They're all really good footballers so I can definitely say I'm delighted to be here.
bundesliga.com: Were you spared the traditional ritual of having to sing in front of the rest of the team on your first day?
Drmic: Unfortunately not (smiles). I had to stand on a chair after our evening meal and sing in front of everybody, which I've got to say is not really one of my strengths and I wasn't feeling all that great about it (smiles). I made it more bearable by choosing a Croatian song, so if I made any mistakes nobody would notice. It's a good job too because I made a few mistakes (smiles), but it went down pretty well.
bundesliga.com: How was your first training match? As the newcomer, do you think about how to get it right – getting involved without being too overzealous?
Drmic: Not really, I just tried to be myself and not change anything. Of course it's not a great idea to try to show off your best tricks because nobody wants to see that, and if it goes wrong then it's just embarrassing. No, I just said to myself 'Josip, do what you do best and follow the coach's orders!'
bundesliga.com: You do tend to be a little shy at first...
Drmic: That's true. I need a bit of time to get used to things, which is why I can seem a bit distanced from things and people. But like I've said, they all made it so easy for me to settle in here that there was no reason to be nervous really. And then I have Granit [Xhaka] and Yann [Sommer] who really helped me.
bundesliga.com: What role did it play in your decision to join Borussia that you would be linking up with a group including your Swiss compatriots?
Drmic: I'd say that it did play a pretty big role in my decision, and at the same time it was a nice bonus. I desperately wanted to join Borussia and to know that Yann and Granit and other compatriots are here made my decision easier. It's great to have such fantastic people around you and to be able to work with them. I think we have excellent youth development structures in Switzerland and many talented youngsters in the game. 1992 was a particularly good year as many strong players emerged. I'd say that we could even form our own team of Swiss players in the Bundesliga, and do pretty well.
bundesliga.com: When you arrived in the Bundesliga a few years ago, you were the league's third-best scorer with 1. FC Nürnberg. You didn't play as much for Leverkusen and 'only' scored six goals. What targets have you set this season?
Drmic: If you name a figure in public and then don't make it, for whatever reason, you've always got to explain why not. Nevertheless, I always set myself a target before the start of the season and ten goals is a good place to start. We'll see…
'I still want to learn a great deal from Lucien Favre'
bundesliga.com: Reaching that objective will also depend on how quickly you adapt to what Favre wants from his forwards. He just said after a friendly that you've still got a lot to learn – what did he mean by that?
Drmic: I think I do still have a lot of room for improvement. Technically and tactically I've definitely got to improve. What is it that they say: A raw diamond must first be cut before revealing all its beauty (smiles). Seriously, you learn new things at any age and I still want to learn a great deal from Lucien Favre. I'm convinced that we're going to have a rewarding relationship.
bundesliga.com: Were you still not a bit disappointed that the coach said such things in public?
Drmic: Absolutely not! In fact, I see it as a compliment and support. It's very important to me that the coach says if I'm doing something wrong or if I have to change something. In the past, I've worked with coaches who hardly said anything or completely ignored me.
'I want to enjoy every moment.'
bundesliga.com: What do you think your own role is?
Drmic: I see myself as a centre forward – a penalty area striker – but I also realise that I've got to change my style and adapt here. Borussia have played with different types of forwards who always drop off and get involved in the game more and work a lot defensively. It's going to be my first challenge to get used to that and then I think we're going to achieve a lot together.
bundesliga.com: Another of your challenges is the Champions League. You are one of only a few Borussia players to have already played in the competition. Tell us what it feels like to play in the Champions League…
Drmic: It's a great feeling. It's a really nice feeling that I would wish on any professional footballer. When you hear the anthem, it gives you goosebumps every time. And the good thing is we're going to experience it at least six times. Even if we lose one, that won't change that. I want to enjoy every moment and I'm really looking forward to it for our fans, who really can't wait for the Champions League.
bundesliga.com: What would be your ideal group?
Drmic: To be totally honest, I've not given it any thought, apart from the one exception: I would do anything to be able to play against Barcelona at the Camp Nou. Of course that would be incredibly difficult for us, but the opportunity to play against the very best in the world and learn from them cannot be taken away from you by anybody. No worries, though – we're not only in the Champions League because it feels good, but because we want to go a long way. Most of our opponents won't even know us yet and maybe we can spring a surprise or two.
bundesliga.com: Borussia start out against one of the big guns in the Bundesliga. How hopeful are you of being in the starting XI against Borussia Dortmund?
Drmic: It's pointless thinking about that right now. I've absolutely no idea what the coach is thinking. Certainly there's no indication of that yet, but that's no problem for me. I'll do all I can to ensure I'm ready for Borussia on 15 August.
Interview by Andreas Kötter