Can Bozdogan: I believed I would get a chance

Can Bozdogan, who was part of the U19s last season, is part of the first team set-up for the new campaign. The 19-year-old spoke to about his time in the Knappenschmiede, his first few weeks with the first team, players who inspire him and hoping that he won’t have to sing.

Can Bozdogan

Can, the temperature reached up to 35 degrees during training over the past few days. How was your stay in Herzlake?
They were very tiring days, but that’s part and parcel of pre-season. I got used to the heat and forgot about the high temperatures.

This is your first pre-season a professional. What’s the biggest difference in training between now and your time in the academy?
You have less time to think here. If you’re not fully on it at every second, you will lose the ball. Before the ball is at my feet, I already need to be anticipating the next move.

This isn’t your first training camp under David Wagner. You travelled to Fuento Alamo in the winter, but left early after picking up a knee injury. What was going through your head then?
It was a tough blow. I was really excited that I was going to be there beforehand. And then that happened. I didn’t bury my head in the sand though, because I believed in my abilities and I knew that I would get another chance to impress once I was fit again. I work hard every day – and I believe that hard work pays off.

You have less time to think here.

Can Bozdogan

Did you have any contact with anyone from the first team once you were injured?
The whole coaching team and Sascha Riether regularly checked up on me to see when I could train again, which was a nice feeling. They showed to me that they were thinking of me. Those messages helped me and gave me some additional confidence.

You were one of the key players for the U19s before the season was cancelled in 2019/20. You were playing under Norbert Elgert, who is a coach known for helping talented players make the step up to the first team. What did you learn from last season?
Mr Elgert helped hone a number of my skills. He knew what my weaknesses were and we worked on them together. I also learnt a lot about life from him. Football was the main focus, but he also has an eye on things away from the pitch. I’m happy that I was able to experience this training.

The majority of your teammates’ season was cut short by the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March, however Malick Thiaw and yourself were promoted to the Bundesliga start for the restart. Did you think at that point that you might make your Bundesliga debut?
After the first few training sessions I realised that I could cope at this level. I was able to bring my qualities onto the pitch. The coach noticed that. As time went on, I believed more and more that I could actually make my Bundesliga debut.

Can Bozdogan

On matchday 31 it finally happened – you made your top-flight debut against Bayer Leverkusen. You impressed with some nice play in the first half. How did you approach that game?
I was obviously a bit tense, but I wasn’t hugely nervous. That might be because we were playing behind closed doors. Coming out to 60,000 fans would obviously have been a completely different feeling. I played without any fear once the ref blew the whistle.

Who got your shirt from your first Bundesliga game?
I kept it and I will get it framed. It will then have a special place at home.

There’s an unwritten rule in football that new players need to sing when they first join a team. Have you already done your song?
Not yet, no. I hope that I can escape it (laughs).

You played two more games in the top flight – although one of them ended early. You saw two yellows in Frankfurt. How did the coaching team and your teammates react?
The second yellow was frustrating, I got there a little late. I think I can learn from this situation though. It won’t happen again. David Wagner didn’t blame me after the game. He built me back up, as did my teammates.

You can play almost anywhere across the midfield. Where do you prefer to play?
I feel most at home as a central midfielder or an attacking midfielder. I’ve got no problems with playing anywhere else though. I just want to get minutes.

There are a number of experienced players in the team, who I watch. Benjamin Stambouli is particularly impressive.

Can Bozdogan

Do you watch anybody closely in the dressing room?
There are a number of experienced players in the team, who I watch. Benjamin Stambouli is particularly impressive. He is 100% focused every second he’s on the pitch, which I like. I often look at what he does before and after training, in order to perform to my best.

Do you have a role model?
Lionel Messi! And that’s been the case forever. His style of play impresses me. I also like Philippe Coutinho.

You have been living in the Knappenschmiede’s boarding school up until now. When are you going to move into your first flat?
I actually did a few weeks ago. It wasn’t easy to find a suitable place, but it all worked out in the end. I feel happy there now.

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