Niklas Dorsch is set to return to Munich and the Allianz Arena to take on his former club in the DFB-Pokal quarter-finals on Wednesday evening (18:30 CEST). 1. FC Heidenheim midfielder Dorsch made his Bundesliga debut just under a year ago with record DFB-Pokal champions FC Bayern. In an interview with DFB.de, the 21 year-old reflects on his time in Munich and his return to the Bavarian capital.
DFB.de: Niklas Dorsch, do you simply want to enjoy the away match against record champions FC Bayern or do you believe Heidenheim could pull off a shock?
Dorsch: I hope to have a mixture of both feelings. We’re not travelling to Munich to just a couple of nice days down in Bavaria and then return home. We have already pulled off the impossible in the previous round at home against Bayer Leverkusen and we are travelling to Munich with the same mentality. SC Freiburg proved on Saturday that you can definitely take something against FC Bayern. At the same time, Bayern are certainly favourites to win at home. It is a David vs. Goliath cup tie.
DFB.de: Do you think it is good that this tie will take place in front of 75,000 fans in the Allianz Arena, or would you have preferred a home match in the much smaller Voith-Arena?
Dorsch: That’s a difficult question. Of course we are excited for the match. For most of the squad, it will be the first time that they will have played in front of such a large crowd and against elite opponents. That will be a real highlight for all of us. However, an away match is naturally more difficult than a home match.
DFB.de: You have already mentioned the sensational 2-1 home victory against Bayer Leverkusen in the previous round. This proved that Heidenheim are able to compete with top tier teams. What have you taken out of the Leverkusen victory which you will carry into the Bayern match?
Dorsch: The decisive factor against Leverkusen was the second half when we were 1-0 down. For a second tier side, that is a difficult situation to be in. However, we were able to rise up and play our game freely. We gave everything we had and played attacking football to put our opponents under pressure. Leverkusen went on to make mistakes and we exploited them. We want to approach the match in Munich in a similar manner.
DFB.de: You developed through the FC Bayern München academy and went on to make your Bundesliga debut for the record champions. Last summer, you left Bayern to join Heidenheim. How closely connected to FC Bayern are you now? Dorsch: I’m still basically connected to the club. I left home alone at just 14 years of age to experience my first years of academy and professional football in Munich. I’m still in contact with several friends I made during this time in Munich. DFB.de: Does this include former teammates still at FC Bayern?
Dorsch: Yes definitely, most of all Niklas Süle, Mats Hummels and Joshua Kimmich. These were players who helped me to start my progress towards professional football. As a young player, it isn’t easy to break into the first team at big clubs such as Bayern. These teammates helped me a lot and I will always be grateful for the support. Thomas Müller and other players also helped my progress which was kindly appreciated.
DFB.de: As a young footballer, how did it feel participate in senior training with the first team for the first time and to sit alongside the superstars in the dressing room?
Dorsch: I was 17 years old when this happened to me for the first time. I was actually at school when the assistant coach called me to say that I needed to head to training as soon as possible as I was given permission to train with the first team. I came into the changing room where there were a few players sitting down and they said to me: “What are you doing here?” However, a couple of players I recognised came in that I knew and addressed with me directly. Everything was very personal which was nice.
DFB.de: As a young academy player, how long did you need to get used to the unbelievably high training standards alongside Thiago, Arjen Robben, Franck Ribéry and James?
Dorsch: It actually didn’t take that long. You easily learn when you’re consistently training at such a high level. It was a completely different experience compared with the Regionalliga where I had previously been playing for FC Bayern München II. As a result of training with the first team, I developed into playing at a much higher level than previously. DFB.de: How did you perceive previous Bayern coaches such as Jupp Heynckes, Carlo Ancelotti and even Pep Guardiola? Dorsch: Pep Guardiola was my first coach as a member of the Bayern first team. Most of all, he focused on tactics and technical ability with the players. He treated everyone equally and wanted to help each and every player to improve. I trained with the professional squad the least under Carlo Ancelotti. He was a very quiet and relaxed manager. Jupp Heynckes was simply an incredible coach and knew exactly how he should speak to every player in the squad.
DFB.de: Under Heynckes, you made your professional debut for FC Bayern. On matchday 32 last season, you started for Bayern against Eintracht Frankfurt and scored the opening goal of the match. What memories do you have of this special day?
Dorsch: Jupp Heynckes came up to me the day before the match and asked me whether or not I would trust myself to play. Of course I said yes and the match was incredible, especially the goal. When you are surrounded by as many fantastic players as I was, it was naturally easier for me to adapt to Bundesliga football.
DFB.de: Why did you then decide to sign for 1. FC Heidenheim last summer and not try your luck at trying to break even further into the Bayern first team?
Dorsch: When you have spent two years on a professional contract at FC Bayern and realise things are not going as well as you first think, you enter your final season under the contract with the feeling of trying to change things for the better. My contract ran out last sommer and it was clear to me early on that I would need to find a new club. A good performance cannot change that.
DFB.de: Looking back on your experiences, is FC Bayern a good club for development as you get the opportunity to train at the highest level? Alternatively, is it not a good idea for young talents to go to a club like Bayern because the step up is higher than any other German club?
Dorsch: Just regarding football development, Bayern are certainly one of the best clubs around. The best time for a young footballer to develop is during training and the conditions in Munich were ideal for me to improve. However, the step up to the first team is even harder as a result of this. The club has the financial resources to sign the best talent.
DFB.de: Is Heidenheim a completely different place to be compared with Munich?
Dorsch: Of course Heidenheim is much smaller than Munich, but it is still a lovely little town. We are also currently enjoying a lot of success as a team. Of course no team can compete with Bayern financially but we have everything that we need here in Heidenheim. I don’t think it’s a bad thing that fewer fans come to watch training here in Heidenheim compared with Munich. Having fans in the stadium is more important.