Christoph Kramer has returned to Borussia Mönchengladbach after a single season back at Bayer 04 Leverkusen, and he is relishing the prospect of lacing his boots again with the Foals.
bundesliga.com spoke to the midfielder about life at Gladbach, emerging talent Mahmoud Dahoud, and how Germany might fare at UEFA EURO 2016…
bundesliga.com: Mr. Kramer, 15 months ago we spoke, on this very spot, of your impending move from Gladbach to Leverkusen. At that time, you were both happy and sad. Are you sad to move on once again?
Christoph Kramer: That's difficult to answer. If you get along well with colleagues that you leave - as was the case for me at Bochum and Borussia - it's never easy to go. The contact with Borussia and [sporting director] Max Eberl never disappeared, and now it feels as if I'd never been away.
bundesliga.com: How did such a transfer come about?
Kramer: As I said, we never lost contact. We stayed in touch. They maybe joked: "We've lost five games, you really have to come back!", or I would have said "3-1 against FC Bayern München, I would have loved that!", but both sides knew that this was only a bit of fun and not to be taken seriously.
Watch: Kramer shows his musical talents in interview with Patrick Owomoyela
bundesliga.com: And yet eventually the fun became serious...
Kramer: Exactly! Our contact went from being fun to being serious! (laughs) I sometimes thought about how great my two years with Gladbach were. I can't say that Leverkusen did or did not give me something specific. It was a gut feeling. I like it so much at Borussia, I wanted to be part of this team and this club once again.
bundesliga.com: Granit Xhaka, who has left Borussia for London, sees you in a position to lead this team. Do you see yourself in this role?
Kramer: I love to take responsibility. I've always done that on the field. I'm not one who hides when things get a little more difficult. And off the field, I give my opinion if it is asked of me. Basically, the idea of responsibility in football gets exaggerated. I think that everyone has to take responsibility to a certain extent.
bundesliga.com: Although you are only 25, you are already one of the more experienced players in the team. What do you make of the development of Mo Dahoud?
Kramer: I like it when I can help younger players. For me in the past Lars Bender was a guy who talked a lot with me and helped me. He is a true role model for me. With Mo, I said back in the summer of 2015 that Gladbach had the successor for my position in their own ranks. Mo is a talented player, but still far from the end of his development. You have to take into account that he is such a young player and accept that. You have to take him out of the firing line a bit and let him know that he is free to play as he has done so far.
bundesliga.com: How would you define your personal and team goals with Borussia?
Kramer: Personally, I want to help the team towards the best possible success. Regarding the goals of the club, we can't forget where we come from. We know that, for example, Wolfsburg have no burden of European football and that Schalke and Leverkusen will always be there or thereabouts when it come to the Champions League places, and Leipzig might be in the reckoning already. There are not enough Champions League places for everybody, so somebody's wishes won't come true. Borussia have played in Europe for four of the last five seasons. Should we manage a second consecutive Champions League season that would be an incredible achievement for me, but to say that we have to be in the Champions League every year would be presumptuous.
bundesliga.com: Speaking of realistic expectations: What does the world champion of 2014, Christoph Kramer, think of the performances of the German team at the EURO?
Kramer: What annoys me is that after a 3-0 win against Slovakia everybody said "My goodness, the Slovaks were bad!" Of course they looked bad because Germany played so well. We belittle victories in a way that they don't do in other countries. Had England beaten Iceland 3-0 for example, they would already have been celebrated as European champions in the local press! (laughs) The fact is that Germany almost always make their opponents look bad because they are so dominant. For me, Germany are the best team in the tournament by a wide margin.
Interview by Andreas Kötter