Having helped Borussia Mönchengladbach to a fourth-placed finish in 2015/16, attacker Thorgan Hazard is relishing the prospect of the forthcoming Bundesliga season with a new-look Foals side.
In an exclusive interview with bundesliga.com, the Belgian attacker discusses pre-season training, his club's summer transfers and what he makes of coach Andre Schubert's rotation policy.
bundesliga.com: Thorgan Hazard, Gladbach started pre-season training two weeks ago. Do you have to prepare for that, or can you switch off completely while on holiday?
Hazard: At the end of the season we get a training plan for the summer and that started with two weeks of relaxation. But in the holidays I always play one sport or another. Sometimes I play tennis or mess about on the beach – it doesn't always have to be football (laughs). After those two weeks it's your own responsibility to complete the training program. You have to do your assigned tasks every day in order to have a certain level of fitness once team training starts again. I think that's very important at the start of a season. That's why Borussia were one of the first clubs to start training again, so that we can go into our Champions League play-off games at peak fitness.
bundesliga.com: Do you think you have become better and more professional in your two years in Germany with Gladbach?
Hazard: I've definitely become more professional in the sense that I've taken everything on board after two years, I know everyone in and around the club and my German is getting much better. I've become a better player too thanks to playing European games. All of that helps you to focus on your own performance.
"Andreas Christensen plays as if he's been a pro for ten years or more."
Hazard: I think everything still needs to come together, both on the pitch and in terms of the structure of the team. Martin Stranzl was a real leader, even though he didn't play much. Now others will have to take on more responsibility. Raffael is one player like that. Rafa is not loud, but when he's on the pitch he leads by example. Andreas Christensen is another. He may only be 20 years old but he plays as if he's been a pro for ten years or more.
bundesliga.com: Head coach Andre Schubert is planning to rotate the side a lot, meaning there will no longer be a traditional starting line-up. What do you make of that?
Hazard: Professional footballers are competitors and everyone would love to play in every game. But over the course of a season with around 50 matches to play you have to be sensible and see that having a break now and then makes sense. But if someone has a break for 15 consecutive games then he probably wouldn't be a fan of rotation (laughs).
Watch: Check out Gladbach's BORUSSIA-PARK home
bundesliga.com: Gladbach's aim for the season is the same as last term: to finish in the top half of the table. What personal aims do you have?
Hazard: To play as much as possible. As I mentioned earlier, I've settled at Gladbach really well in the last two years. I can now concentrate fully on giving my all in training so that I can be an option for the coach as often as possible. Obviously I'd like to score goals again but I haven't set myself a target, although it would be nice to top the four Bundesliga goals I scored last season.
Thorgan Hazard was speaking to Andreas Kötter