Florian Flick: There’s something special about every game
After Florian Flick got his first taste of life as a professional footballer at the end of last season, the 21-year-old is now a permanent member of the first-team squad. In an interview with schalke04.de, the midfielder discusses his sporting career so far, his Bundesliga debut, feedback from Dimitrios Grammozis and his nickname.
Florian, pre-season preparations are now entering their final stages ahead of the new campaign! How excited are you about the start of the 2021/22 season?
I’m buzzing! Looking at the calendar is making me even more excited about the start of the new season every day. In Hamburger SV, we have a strong opponent visiting the VELTINS Arena right on the first matchday as well.
What was your first thought when you saw the fixture list?
That the first match of the season doesn’t feel like a Bundesliga 2 fixture. There are so many big names in the second tier this year. In my eyes, it has to be the most interesting Bundesliga 2 season of all time. There’s something special about every game. We definitely won’t be gifted any points, that’s for sure.
You have experience of playing in the Regionalliga, 3. Liga, and in the Bundesliga, but the Bundesliga 2 is missing from that list, at least as far as playing is concerned. How do the different divisions compare to one another?
In the Regionalliga and 3. Liga, matches are characterised by how much fight you bring to them. On the other hand in the Bundesliga, your opponents tend to wait for you to make a mistake and then they exploit them. The Bundesliga is also naturally stronger in terms of the standard of play. I’m curious to discover what it’ll be like in the second tier. I know the league as a spectator, but it always feels a lot different when you’re involved in the action.
Looking at the calendar is making me even more excited about the start of the new season every day.
You celebrated making your Bundesliga debut on 8th May away against TSG 1899 Hoffenheim. When did you find out that you would be playing on that day?
At the meeting on matchday. After training in the few days beforehand, I had a gut feeling, but the coach didn’t actually tell me until a few hours before kick-off. That wasn’t a big problem for me though as I’m always ready and not the type who needs two or three days to mentally adjust to a new challenge such as that.
Your top-flight debut in Hoffenheim took place not far from your home in Mannheim. You must have been a bit gutted that it happened with no spectators due to coronavirus restrictions, right? You could have probably filled a whole block with your family and friends under normal circumstances!
Yeah, there would definitely have been some ticket requests from them! Obviously it’s a big shame that my family and friends weren’t allowed to be there, but we’ll make up for that in matches this season.
The week after you made your debut, you scored your first Bundesliga goal in the 4-3 win against Eintracht Frankfurt! What felt better, your first game or your first goal?
That’s a very tricky question. (ponders) If I have to pick between them, it would have to be the first match. It’s a moment I’ve been working towards for my whole life, and it was a childhood dream come true to make my debut in the Bundesliga. But of course my first goal also felt fantastic too.
You also signed your first professional contract at the end of the season as well. What are your personal goals going forward?
I want to play as many minutes as possible and learn things from more experienced players in every training session. I’m very ambitious and I put pressure on myself to get a little bit better every day.
Are there any players you pay particular attention to during training?
Mainly the boys who play in my position. Victor Pálsson is the most important one, but I also look at what Timo Becker and Blendi Idrizi are doing. The three of us have had a similar career path, having moved up from the U23s to the first-team squad.
In the friendlies against Shakhtar Donetsk and Vitesse Arnhem, you lined up in the middle of a back three. Was that a new position for you?
No, I often played as a centre-back in my youth so I already know this position quite well.
What made you switch from a 3. Liga team, Waldhof Mannheim, to Schalke U23s, who play in the Regionalliga?
On paper it might look like a small step backwards, but I never saw it that way – quite the opposite in fact. I was able to gain a lot of playing experience at Schalke and saw the chance to develop my all round game further. After speaking to the coaches at the Knappenschmiede, especially with the then U23s manager Gerald Asamoah, and visiting the training grounds, it became clear to me that I wanted to make the move to Gelsenkirchen. Looking back, that was definitely the right decision.
When did you feel that you were close to making your breakthrough into the first-team squad?
I was permitted to train with the first team more frequently last season, but not regularly. In the last third of the season, I realised that I would get my chance. The first time I was featured in a matchday squad was Dimitrios Grammozis’ first game in charge against 1. FSV Mainz 05.
Do you get regular feedback from Dimitrios Grammozis?
The coach tells me at regular intervals what he expects from me, what he wants to see and how I can improve further. Following these discussions, I try my best to implement his advice. He expects me to assert myself in my position, to be calm on the ball, to distribute the ball well and to keep things under control on the pitch.
The coach tells me at regular intervals what he expects from me, what he wants to see and how I can improve further.
Last season you wore number 41, but now you have the squad number 17 for 2021/22. Does that number have a special meaning for you?
No. At the start of pre-season, I just looked to see which numbers were available and decided on 17. I like it, but it doesn’t have any special meaning to me.
The first-round draw for the DFB-Pokal was made at the beginning of July. Were you hoping for a clash against Waldhof Mannheim?
It would have been nice to play against the club where I spent my youth with Schalke. I’m sure many family members and friends would have been there for that match. But who knows, maybe that draw will happen one day.
Your nickname is ‘Hansi’ in reference to Germany coach, Hansi Flick. How did that come about?
It first began sometime during my time at Mannheim, but I can’t say exactly when. It wasn’t quite as widespread there but with the U23s at Schalke, almost everyone was calling me ‘Hansi’. One or two teammates in the first team are calling me that, but it hasn’t got out of hand yet.
The real Hansi Flick was also born in the Rhine-Neckar region. Are you related?
I get that question a lot! (laughs) No, we are not related.
Nevertheless, you do come from a family of footballers. Your father Marco played for Waldhof Mannheim and SV Sandhausen, among others. Is he one of your most important influences?
For sure. My father has always supported me in the past and drove me to training in Mannheim, along with my mother and my grandparents. He’s always giving me tips on what I should do in certain game situations and how I can improve my overall game.