From kicking the ball in the park with his brother all the way to the National Team. For Julian Draxler the transition has been a dream come true. The 18 year old was recently called up to Joachim Löw’s provisional squad for the Euros this summer. Along with Marc-Andre ter Stegen he is one of the two newcomers to the squad.
In DFB.de’s exclusive interview, Draxler sits down to talk about the surprise nomination, his development as a player and Jose Mourinho’s character.
DFB.de: Mr. Draxler, your inclusion in the provisional EURO squad surprised quite a few people. How exactly did the nomination come about?
Julian Draxler: I was actually in school, sitting in my history class when the phone rang. I wondered who it could possibly be given that everyone knew I was in class. I later listened to the voicemail and heard the voice of the National Team coach who asked me to call him back to talk about something important.
DFB.de: It was not hard to guess why he called I assume.
Draxler: I was secretly hoping it was about the nomination but I wasn’t fully convinced. Then I called him back and Mr. Löw confirmed it. I was speechless and overjoyed.
DFB.de: How fast did you realize that you were actually really there?
Draxler: I was with my parents the day after the call and we reviewed everything that has happened in the last two years. It is unbelievable how fast everything has moved. All of a sudden I am sitting here in Sardinia. Madness!
DFB.de: Your rise has been meteoric to say the least. Do you sometimes feel it is all happening too fast?
Draxler: Actually I had planned to look back and evaluate what has happened in my life in the last year and a half this summer. But I have to put that aside because I have a new task to focus on. It is all happening fast but I don’t think it’s happening too fast.
DFB.de: Back in November you already set a goal for your next 24 monthts that in the coming two years you want to become a regular in the Bundesliga.
Draxler: Yes but caution is key. There may be setbacks. I do not see myself as an established player yet. But at the rate things are going it is looking good and as far as I’m concerned, it can continue to go like this.
DFB.de: Two years ago during the World Cup you were still a fan more or less. How did you experience the semi final between Spain and Germany?
Draxler: I was on vacation – in Spain of all places…. I watched the previous games at home or at public viewings. The semi final I watched in a hotel with my father. Most of the people there were German so it was bad for everyone that the National Team was eliminated.
DFB.de: Two years later, you are part of the team. If someone had told you that then …
Draxler: … I would have told him he must be joking. But that’s how life goes, some things you just can’t predict.
DFB.de: The days after the nomination were pretty hectic for you
Draxler: I had to organize quite a few things because I didn’t know how exactly things were going to go. I was going to join Schalke on their trip to New York. Then I had to clear it with the school and see if it was possible to be absent for so long and I also had to take two final exams.
DFB.de: And how did the exams go?
Draxler: There was an English and a French exam. I didn’t have to study as much because there were no facts required. Either way, I quite like languages. After all the stress is over after the summer I’m very determined to learn Spanish too, a language I find to be very beautiful.
DFB.de: And Spanish football also seems to appeal to you. On your facebook page is a childhood photo that shows a young Julian in a rather large Barcelona jersey.
Draxler: Generally speaking, I am fascinated by Spanish football. I’ve never made a secret of the fact that I dream to play there at some point. That doesn’t necessarily have to be at Barcelona although the club is currently the standard bearer in football.
DFB.de: You are also fascinated by Jose Mourinho. Why?
Draxler: He is so self assured and has developed a unique aura, even with his provocative behavior. From my perspective he is a top coach. He understands wonderfully how to take players in and is always protective of his team. And he has an answer to every question.
DFB.de: And Germany coach Joachim Löw? What is your impression so far?
Draxler: The qualities of the National Coach are self evident. We briefly talked on Friday at the airport in Frankfurt. Here in Sardinia we have not had the chance to do so yet but that’s not the point. The point is to prove myself on the pitch and hope the coach is pleased with me there.
DFB.de: How important is it for you, that your team-mate Benedikt Höwedes is also here with you?
Draxler: It helps, of course. It is always valuable when you have a reference person in the team, so it pleases me very much that Ben is here. He helps me with the process and I can always ask him about it.
DFB.de: You are friends with him off the pitch right?
Draxler: Yes, we get along very well. Last year we were on vacation together, for example. Also, Beni has also helped me at Schalke initially and has done the same with the National Team, for that I am very thankful to him.
DFB.de: Did you ever inquire or talk to him about the National Team before this?
Draxler: Sure. He went on holidays after the match against Azerbaijan last year and of course, I asked him about the National Team, what it takes to get there and about the players.
DFB.de: Now you can experience it for yourself. Or is the experience limited because you are here with your school books and are studying all day to get your diploma?
Draxler: (Hesitates) Uh, to be honest, I haven’t really opened my books yet.
DFB.de: Then you should catch up soon! Oliver Bierhoff has said that he’d check up on your studying.
Draxler: Oops, I have to think of something then. (Laughs) Maybe I can leave my books open in my room and make it look as if I’ve been reading them.
DFB.de: How do you like your experience with the National Team so far generally speaking?
Draxler: All the guys here are great. I’m having so much fun with the entire team. They’re not all here yet, but those who are are all open, nice and warm. I cannot really complain.
DFB.de: Here’s a little teaser for you now – was it good for you as a player that none of the Dortmund players were here from the beginning?
Draxler: Well, Marco Reus is three quarters a Dortmunder so I am slowly getting used to it. (Laughs) In the National Team the rivalry between the clubs is quickly forgotten. Here there is a common goal. It doesn’t matter who players for what club.
DFB.de: You’ve said about yourself that you can be quite cheeky and provocative at times. In what situations do you get like that?
Draxler: Well, certainly not in this situation. I’m not mad. (Laughs) It’s more common at home or at Schalke where I’ve been known to say a word or two. In the beginning I always kept quiet but that gradually changed and now I can dish it out as well.
DFB.de: How hopeful are you of making the final squad and traveling to the EUROs in Poland and the Ukraine? you gotta help me here – it’s “die Ukraine” in German, with the definite article, but do you also say “the Ukraine” in English??
Draxler: Well, I’m here to accomplish exactly that. I know my role very well. I know that I am the underdog to many and I can do no more than to give my best every day and that is exactly what I will do. In the end I hope that I’ve done enough to convince the National coach.
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