Despite playing in more than 40 games in all competitions last season, new Borussia Mönchengladbach defender Matthias Ginter is more than happy with his decision to swap the Signal Iduna Park for the Borussia-Park.
bundesliga.com caught up with the versatile 23-year-old to get his thoughts on his season goals for Gladbach and Germany, and what it was like to meet Pope Francis at the Vatican recently…
bundesliga.com: Matthias Ginter, what was it like to visit the Pope with Borussia Mönchengladbach? That was more than just the usual business trip…
Matthias Ginter: My first names [Matthias and Lukas/Matthew and Luke] are almost half of the New Testament (laughs)! Seriously, the visit was very special for every one of us, regardless of religion or creed. Personally I’m from a Catholic family and tradition has always been very important.
bundesliga.com: As a FIFA World Cup winner and Olympic silver medallist you’re well used to media attention. Was a visit to the Vatican more nerve-wracking than normal?
Ginter: I think so! The Pope has been a significant figure throughout history, and when he’s suddenly standing in front of you you have to have respect. To meet such a personality was a great honour. I can barely put it into words.
bundesliga.com: You are also a Confederation Cup winner as well as Borussia Mönchengladbach’s record transfer. How have your teammates responded to having you in the squad?
Ginter: I felt very welcome from the first moment. Everyone in this team has their own merits, and not everyone gets to play for Borussia Mönchengladbach. I like to think of my colleagues as teammates and not a collection of individuals. It’s important that we all support each other. I knew a few of the guys already from youth football, and with Lars Stindl I got to know him a lot at the Confederations Cup. That’s why it already feels like I have been at Borussia for much longer than three weeks!
Watch: Behind the scenes at the Gladbach Media Day
bundesliga.com: You have been involved in international competition for each of the past five summers [Under-21 Championships in 2013 and ’15, the 2014 World Cup, and this summer’s Olympic and Confederations Cup campaigns]. It would be a shame if this run was to stop for the World Cup in Russia next year…
Ginter: I’ll have to have a break in 2019! But you’re right, I’d be delighted if I could keep this run going by travelling to Russia for the biggest of tournaments in 2018.
bundesliga.com: How does your body cope with playing right through the summer for the last five years?
Ginter: I don’t even know what six weeks’ holiday each summer would look like! But I don’t feel that drained. It is always an honour to play for Germany and incentive to keep playing as well as possible. Of course, it means you have to be very professional and look after your body. Regeneration is very important to me.
bundesliga.com: Was the fear of missing the 2018 World Cup part of the reason you left Borussia Dortmund, a club playing in the UEFA Champions League this season?
Ginter: I played a lot of games last season – more than 40 in all competitions. Dortmund signed two new centre-backs [Ömer Toprak from Bayer Leverkusen and Dan-Axel Zagadou from Paris Saint-Germain], and there was some uncertainty about who would replace Thomas Tuchel as coach. It was therefore hard for me to gauge where I’d fit in. I know that versatile players are often appreciated, but it can also be a curse. I think the time has come for me to establish myself as a centre-back. That’s why staying in Dortmund the year before the World Cup was just too big a risk. Of course, that’s not the only reason I chose to join Gladbach.
bundesliga.com: [Sporting director] Max Eberl was nervous for a long time that you wouldn’t say yes to the transfer…
Ginter: Ha! Well, it was Gladbach’s perseverance that convinced me to join. The feeling that everyone at the club wanted me to be here. They tried and failed to sign me twice before, and that they didn’t give up this time convinced me 100 per cent that it was the right thing to sign. Dieter Hecking also made contact with me in previous seasons when he was the coach at Wolfsburg. There’s no question, I had three really good years in Dortmund, but now is the time for a new challenge, and the chance to be an important player is greater for me at Gladbach than it was in Dortmund.
bundesliga.com: Gladbach already see you as a leader even though you’re still only 23. Does this happen more quickly in football than in the rest of the world?
Ginter: There's something in that. People often think I’m 25 or 26. The truth is I no longer see myself as a young player. I now have five-and-a-half years of Bundesliga experience to draw upon. I feel I’ve already experienced quite a lot in football.
bundesliga.com: You don’t come across as particularly outspoken. What do you think makes a good leader?
Ginter: If I feel hard done by in training I can definitely shout (laughs)! Seriously, for me a leader is someone who lets their football do the talking. The one who is still trying until the final minute when all looks lost. A player who can find words to motivate himself and others. With a young team that is especially important. I was young myself once (laughs). I know how good it is when an experienced player stands by you and motivates you.
bundesliga.com: After three weeks with Gladbach, what is your impression of the quality in the squad? What is possible with this team?
Ginter: I have a very positive impression, but I don’t want to say too much. I think anybody with an informed opinion would confirm that this team has great potential. I’m convinced we have what it takes to challenge. The fans also expect better than last season [Gladbach finished ninth, three points off European contention]. With less competitions to focus on that’s fair, but teams like Bayer Leverkusen, Schalke and Wolfsburg are in the same situation. The two promoted teams, Hannover and VfB Stuttgart, simply belong in the Bundesliga. I think it’ll be a close season but if we get it right we can improve a few percentage points.
bundesliga.com: Gladbach begin the season with a Rheinderby against Cologne. How will this compare to playing the Revierderby between Dortmund and Schalke?
Ginter: Derbies are definitely more explosive! I wouldn’t like to judge between the two. Gladbach vs. Cologne, like Dortmund vs. Schalke, is one of the most traditional derbies in Germany. Gladbach’s 3-2 win over Cologne last season in particular sticks in my mind. The match has an incredible atmosphere. These games are great! And of course, we want to start with a win!
Watch: Marcel Risse's stunning winner in last season's Rheinderby
Ginter was speaking to Andreas Kötter