Wednesday after morning drills I had a chance to speak briefly with Bayer 04 Leverkusen midfielder Julian Baumgartlinger. The club has their final Florida Cup friendly Wednesday evening against Brazilian club Atletico Mineiro at the ESPN Sports Complex in Orlando.
Baumgartlinger, who just turned 29 years old a few days ago, is a native of Salzburg and played for 1860 Munich at both the youth and senior squad levels until 2006 when he signed with FK Austria Wien in 2009. After two seasons with the famed Austrian club, he joined 1.FSV Mainz 05 in 2011 and featured in 124 matches before joining Leverkusen this summer. The defensive midfielder also has over 50 caps for Austria and helped them qualify for this summer’s Euros.
Fanatic: Julian, what is it feel like to be a new father?
Julian: It’s a great feeling, I’m really happy. Both my wife and my daughter are doing really well and I am very happy.
Fanatic:Was it difficult to leave Mainz after so many years with the club?
Julian: Of course, I had a good time there but made the decision on my own because I thought I had a great opportunity with a great new team. There are great facilities and possibilities in Leverkusen, and that’s what I have found here, so I am very happy and not regretting anything.
Fanatic: The club has not reached expectations during the Hinrunde, what do you foresee going into the Ruckrunde for Bayer Leverkusen?
Julian: I think we are really going to be aggressive, be the team we used to be, and reach our goals, which are to play football internationally and also show football that is successful. We didn’t achieve that at all during the Fall, and so we will go ahead with our heads down.
Fanatic: Was it difficult at all for you to adapt to Roger Schmidt’s pressing style of attack?
Julian: No, not at all. I am used to that from Mainz, we did some of that, so it was familiar and not a difficult for me to learn. The whole quality of this team is high.
Fanatic: How have you enjoyed being in Florida? I know you’ve only been here a few days.
Julian: It’s nice. The weather is nice. The pitch is perfect and we have great conditions to get ready to practice and prepare to finish the season.
Earlier in the interview session, Julian made clear that he has little to no interest of ever playing in China despite the inroads that the Chinese league is having in signing top players, and is concentrating on his time at Leverkusen after signing a four-year contract. He also has little interest in playing in the Premier League or is thinking ahead to the end of his career. His focus is in the present at Leverkusen.
Julian was also asked about the winter break in Germany. He responded that it was a positive thing in that players get a bit of a physical and mental rest but training begins soon enough so that the players don’t really lose a great deal of fitness. He also welcomes what RB Leipzig has brought to the leg in that the number of young German players featured in Leipzig can only someday help the German national team, and that new ideas are always welcome in the league.