Julian Brandt is aiming to lift the DFB-Pokal with Borussia Dortmund for the first time. In an interview with DFB.de, the 25-year-old talks about the final against RB Leipzig (Thursday, 20:45 CEST), the challenges of this season, the lure of being a professional footballer and his development from being a youth international to a fully-fledged pro.
DFB.de: Mr. Brandt, what would it mean to you to win your first major professional title in the DFB-Pokal?
Brandt: A cup final is a new situation for me. I'm really looking forward to it - even if the occasion won't be the same as usual. I really want to win this final; it would be something very special for me. Many players in our team have won the DFB-Pokal before. It would be really important for the entire team and the club to have a trophy in our hands once again.
DFB.de: What personal memories do you associate with the DFB-Pokal final?
Brandt: I'm from Bremen. In 2009, when Werder Bremen won the Pokal, I was in Berlin on the day - I wasn't at the game, but in the city. My friends and I were extremely happy that Werder won the final against Bayer Leverkusen. Now I've been playing in the competition myself for a few years and of course always follow the finals.
DFB.de: In 2018, you reached the semi-finals with Bayer Leverkusen, but lost 6-2 to FC Bayern. Was that one of your toughest defeats?
Brandt: When you're so close to the final, of course you want to get there at all costs. We actually played relatively well, but Bayern Munich simply had more quality and didn't give us a chance. It was very disappointing not to have reached the final. That should always be the aim. But I hope to reach a few more.
DFB.de: How do you rate your cup opponents RB Leipzig?
Brandt: The way they play football is very good. They go deep a lot and press immediately. That's the trademark of RB Leipzig. If someone loses the ball, all the players nearby immediately try to win it back. They have a very, very athletic squad with a lot of young players who bring extreme quality. They also have a lot of good depth in the squad. When I think back to them being able to bring on Emil Forsberg or Benjamin Henrichs in the semi final against Werder Bremen, it's a testament to the depth that they have. They deserved to be second in the table this season.
DFB.de: Is there a favourite in the final?
Brandt: No. I think two good teams will go head-to-head and that anything can happen.
DFB.de: Borussia Dortmund have had a mixed season overall. How would you rate the season?
Brandt: I think we're in very special times at the moment. It's a bit of an adjustment for every team when you're always playing in an empty stadium and have to adjust to hygiene concepts all over again. Some teams cope with it well, others have their difficulties. We are one of the teams that have had more difficulties with it. We really miss the fans. 80,000 fans in the stadium give us players a special energy. We've been lacking that little bit. For me, that, along with a few other small points, has been the main reason for the way the season has gone. Ultimately though, we now have a chance to crown our season with a trophy in the final, and I really hope that things will change for the new season - not only in terms of football, but also for everyone's private lives. I believe that when normal life is possible again, the difficulties will leave BVB.
DFB.de: Edin Terzic could crown his time as head coach with a trophy before returning to an assistant under Marco Rose next season. How important is it for the team that he remains with the club in this capacity?
Brandt: Having already been an assistant to Lucien Favre for a long time, you have a different relationship with him as a player than you do with a head coach. Even when he took over later, that good relationship remained. On the one hand, you're a little more relaxed with him, but on the other, it's also a challenge because he's the one in charge now. He's extremely good for us. He is a young coach and has a lot of fire inside him. He can ignite this fire in us every game. The whole team and the club are very happy that he is returning to his old role, despite everything that he's achieved. Because to be honest, once you've had a taste of it, you might want more. But he loves this club and identifies himself with Borussia Dortmund.
DFB.de: Let's talk about you personally. You once said that your parents always placed great importance on being grounded and not getting carried away. How difficult is that sometimes when you're already a senior Germany international at the age of 20?
Brandt: I don't think there was ever a phase where I wasn't grounded. I never got any sign from my family or my teammates that I was getting ahead of myself. Still, it's not always easy. I can understand that there are people in football, whether players or coaches or officials, who can get big-headed with everything around them. You can't always prevent that. When success comes, people are constantly patting you on the back, things are on the rise and the media hype arrives, the human mind first has to process that. It takes time. It can make you go a little crazy. I have always surrounded myself with my family and my teammates. There was never any reason not to be realistic. After all, you get older and value different things in life than you did when you were 19 or 20.
DFB.de: What did you attach more importance to in the past than you do today?
Brandt: When you were 18, 19 or 20, you played a good game and scored a goal, you were happy and liked to go out partying at the weekend. You got interested in new things. As a young professional player, you're practically thrown into the deep end like that. You feel like you want to try everything once. All your teammates drive some great cars and wear fancy clothes. You get caught up in this whole world for a short while and try out a few things yourself. But at some point you wake up and think: okay, some things are cool, others are unnecessary. You start to value other things. For example, I realised that my connection to my friends and family has become more and more important to me. I also spend a lot more time in the weight room today than I did when I was 19 or 20, and I pay a lot more attention to my diet. And somehow you no longer have the desire to drive very fast cars. I have a Vespa in Cologne, and sometimes that's all I need.
DFB.de: You’ve just turned 25. Do you feel that you are still perceived as a young player by the public?
Brandt: Two or three years ago, that was certainly the case. Nowadays, it's changing a bit. Although when we train 11 vs. 11 here in Dortmund, I still have to play with the younger players. However, I am noticing how quickly the time passes. I've been in the game for eight years now. Despite that, I still feel very fresh. I don't follow what is written about me in the media very closely, so I can't judge it.
DFB.de: You've been through almost all the national teams - from the U15s to the U21s, through to the senior team, where you've won 35 caps so far. To what extent has that helped your development?
Brandt: First of all, it was simply an extremely enjoyable time. Every year brought new experiences - whether it was the European Championship with the U17s or the U20 World Cup in New Zealand. Over the years, you get to know an huge amount of people who you meet again later. For example, I became a European U19 champion with Marcus Sorg, and now he's an assistant for the senior team. There were also many other great people, like Horst Hrubesch. I gained a lot of experience, which has helped me a lot.###more###