After a stirring Hinrunde on an individual level, Lewis Holtby is well on his way to becoming one of the new faces of the Hamburger SV collective.
The 25-year-old midfielder lit up the Volksparkstadion with his attitude and commitment prior to the winter break, and even chipped in with a couple of goals and assists.
Gearing up for the forthcoming Rückrunde, the three-time Germany international spoke with great zest about life at HSV, fan support and much more besides.
Lewis Holtby on...
... representing HSV:
"It’s a very nice club, a very big club with a fantastic history. It has achieved a lot. It has a very big stadium with a very big and close fan base. They’ve witnessed the ups and downs and they’ve coped well. You always feel they're right behind the team. I feel it, too. They really push us forward whether we’re at home or away."
... the Rückrunde:
"We all want to finish in the top half, but there's no specific objective in the table. Our main goal is to get as many points as possible. We got 22 in the first half of the season and we want to improve on that. It’s a big task, but we have the team and the quality to do it. We definitely have more to improve upon. There were games we lost game that we shouldn’t have, but apart from the Bayern [defeat], we had chances to win or we were on top in the game. That is a positive."
... his role at Hamburg:
"It’s difficult for me to say what I’m good at. For me, I just love to play football. I can run a lot, I’m good on the ball, I guess, and the other things you just have to see on the pitch. I don’t really like to rate myself. I play for a very good Bundesliga side, I’ve achieved a couple of things in my career - I don’t think I’m a bad player."
... the importance of the fans:
"I used to be a big fan myself. I used to support a small team in Germany called Aachen. I used to be there, standing in the cold with no roof over my head, just watching and celebrating the club. I know what it’s like to be a fan, so I bring that onto the pitch. I think it’s very important to connect with the fans because they live the club and they are always there. For fans, I think it’s worth paying money if they see a player who gives 100 per cent, showing that he plays for that club and he means it. And that’s what I’m trying to do."
... hosting FC Bayern on Matchday 18:
"I think it’s fantastic to compete with the best players in the world. That’s what you’re playing for and why you want to get to the top. It’s a big ask, but you have to see it positively. Of course, they’re a big side and everyone thinks they’re going to win, but we’re working very hard here now to try and make it as hard as possible for them. When you’re a kid you always dream about playing against the big players or playing with them and now’s our chance to play against them. Everyone should be positive. There’s always a chance."
... personal goals:
"I got two goals and two assists in the first half of the season, but my main ambition was always to stay fit. I played all 17 games and I’m very happy that I’m still healthy. I want that to continue, be professional and I want to help the team. That’s my goal. I want to bring my qualities to the team, so that we can win games and improve. I believe in myself. I’m comfortable and confident. We’re here right now to get better and I think we will get better."
... his top five Bundesliga players:
"That’s tough. Franck Ribery’s been here a long time and I think he’s proven to himself, or everyone, that he’s one of the best players to ever have played in the Bundesliga. If you go way back, I think Gerd Müller’s up there. He scored a lot of goals. Maybe Michael Ballack, who had a superbly successful time in Germany. Goalkeepers - it’s tight between [Manuel] Neuer and [Oliver] Kahn. Those two are probably the best goalkeepers ever in the Bundesliga. The last player… maybe [Franz] Beckenbauer. I’m not sure, there are a lot of good players, a lot of talent. Nowadays, [Robert] Lewandowski, [Douglas] Costa, [Arjen] Robben - I can name a lot of them."