Cologne – He almost singlehandedly kept Hannover 96 in the Bundesliga last season and now Lars Stindl is preparing for football at the next level, having joined UEFA Champions League participants Borussia Mönchengladbach.
In an exclusive interview with bundesliga.com, the 26-year-old midfielder talks about his expectations for the coming campaign, a first taste of action in European football’s top competition and why Borussia already feels like home.
bundesliga.com: Lars Stindl, you had a very emotional send-off from the Hannover fans last season. That doesn’t happen too often these days when a player leaves one club for another…
Lars Stindl: I had some great times in my five years at Hannover, but also some tough ones that we had to battle through, and that brought us closer together. I’m here for a new challenge now, but I wasn’t going to let my time at Hannover finish in relegation. Staying up was something I wanted so much, and I think the fans felt that, so the way they saw me off really made me happy. As you say, that doesn’t happen too often in this business.
bundesliga.com: A player leaves one club for another but his rhythm and routine doesn’t change much. Would you agree?
Stindl: Training, dressing rooms – all of that is the same as it was, but the training is certainly different. Every coach has his own way of doing things and every team is different. I‘ve been welcomed really warmly by everyone here and it’s made it easy for me and the other new guys to settle in. You sense straight away that there’s a good team spirit in the dressing room.
'Borussia have developed unbelievably'
bundesliga.com: You’re also in a new city and new surroundings and have to adapt to a different mentality. Has that been difficult?
Stindl: No. I’m a very open-minded person, otherwise I wouldn’t have made the decision to come here. You obviously look at the city, the stadium and the club to make your own decision about things, and the fan culture here is very important for me. But the key thing is the work you do with the team, and the conversations I had with [coach] Lucien Favre and [sporting director] Max Eberl immediately made me feel that the way this football club is run suits me perfectly.
bundesliga.com: Champions League football can’t, therefore, be the only reason you decided to come here…
Stindl: That’s true. At the time I chose to come here Gladbach weren't guaranteed to qualify for the Champions League. But the path that the club has followed over a long time really impressed me. In the last few seasons the team's developed unbelievably well, and I think there’s potential for even more to come.
bundesliga.com: You’ve come from a club fighting the drop to one playing in the Champions League. Do you notice this change on a daily basis?
Stindl: Out of respect for my former club, and to all clubs, I don’t want to compare them in this regard. The fact is that you have players here that take to the pitch with a certain level of confidence because of the success they’ve had in the past few years. Our routines are working well, you see that in training and in the friendlies we’ve had. Now we need to build on that when the season starts.
'I have to establish myself here'
bundesliga.com: Lucien Favre recently told bundesliga.com that nothing had been decided in terms of picking the players for your position. Has any thing changed in that regard?
Stindl: People know that I can play in different positions, and that my favourite position is in the middle where I can best influence the game. I think our friendly matches have shown that. But I'm also happy to to play a more defensive role, if required. The coach will decide things at the end of the day. We have a lot of players with fantastic quality in the squad who are knocking on the door to play. So I have to establish myself here first.
bundesliga.com: You scored nine goals in four seasons at Hannover, followed by ten in just 21 games last season. That’s an explosion in form…
Stindl: Statistically maybe (laughs). Yes, I obviously played well last season and scored goals, but things didn’t go well for the team last season so that made it harder for me to be pleased about my personal performances. Looking back now, after Hannover stayed up, I can analyse my goal return and say that it really was a special season for me.
bundesliga.com: What do you think you can achieve in the new season?
Stindl: Pre-season was very intense, but we’ve worked hard and we’re happy things are starting up again in a few days. The anticipation of competing in three competitions is huge. The first game in the DFB Cup against St. Pauli will be like going from 0 to 100mph, and then a few days later, we start the league season against Borussia Dortmund, which will be an absolutely massive game. I want to do my bit to make sure that I’m part of the team from the beginning and that we have another good season.
bundesliga.com: And what would you consider a good season for the club?
Stindl: Right now I don’t see any reason why the development we’ve had over the last few years shouldn’t continue. But ‘development’ doesn’t necessarily mean improving on third place in the table. For me, that can also mean that we finish in the top half and consolidate the work we’ve done in the last few years to show that there’s long-term stability at this club.
Interview by Andreas Kötter