Thilo Kehrer has had a busy few weeks, what with his transfer from Schalke 04 to Paris Saint-Germain and now an international call-up from Joachim Löw. The 21-year-old defender, like teammates Nico Schulz and Kai Havertz, could make his first appearance against World Champions France tonight at 20:45 CEST in Munich. In an interview with DFB.de, Thilo Kehrer speaks to editor Ronny Zimmermann about reuniting with former teammates, his development and his aims for the 2018/19 season.
DFB.de: Mr Kehrer, can you still remember anything about the 6th February 2016?
Thilo Kehrer: (Hesitantly) ...I’m guessing that was my first Bundesliga game. It was a 3-0 win against Wolfsburg and I was subbed on shortly before the end.
DFB.de: You’re quite right. You played together with Leon Goretzka and Leroy Sané, and now you’re meeting up with them again in the national team.
Kehrer: It’s great and of course I’m really happy about it. I keep in regular contact with Leon and Leroy, even though we’re all playing at different clubs. We get on very well with each other, and I think that knowing them so well will help me settle into the national team quickly. I know quite a few players as well from the U21s and the Bundesliga, so it’s very easy for me to feel at home here. I know how the Germany set-up works as well through my games for the U21s, for example. Of course everything with the first XI is one step bigger, but there are definitely some similarities.
DFB.de: What did Joachim Löw say when he selected you?
Kehrer: The coach called me and we spoke about my development, both from last season and for the future. I was overjoyed when he told me that I was in the squad to face France and Peru.
DFB.de: You played 33 games for the Germany youth teams and were captain of the U21s. To what extent has having so much responsibility in Stefan Kuntz’s team helped your own development?
Kehrer: It’s helped me a lot. Having a lot of responsibility for the team both on and off the pitch shapes you, and for me it’s been a definite stage in my development.
DFB.de: What makes you stand out as a defender?
Kehrer: I always try to bring my dynamism and athleticism to the pitch, which is very important for a defender, especially as speed is becoming more and more vital to the game. I’ve also been taught well tactically and pass the ball well. Of course, I like to put in some strong tackles as well.
DFB.de: In August, you transferred from Schalke to PSG. You recently posted two photos on Instagram of you in your new surroundings, looking really relaxed. Would you say that you’ve settled in already?
Kehrer: I definitely have, and it didn’t take long at all. I’d barely been in Paris for three weeks, and it was all a bit of a whirlwind. The lads welcomed me to the team brilliantly and that was the most important thing for me in the beginning. I’d like to get to know my teammates even better as well as the board and the coaching staff. I’ll gradually explore the city the more I’m there. My teammates have recommended a few nice places and cafés – I’ll take the locals’ word for it (laughs).
DFB.de: Your first game for the national team is against the World Champions, France, of all teams. How much have you spoken to your teammates at PSG about the match?
Kehrer: We’ve joked around a bit and said a thing or two. It’s a brilliant game which we’re all looking forward to. Essentially, the French players have a similar focus to us, maintaining their concentration on the upcoming game, analysing their opponent, playing to their own strengths and getting the best possible result at the end of the match.
DFB.de: What aims do you have for the 2018/19 season?
Kehrer: Now that I’m at PSG, I’ve set myself the target of reaching the highest playing standard. Training with and defending against world class players like Neymar and Mbappé will only help me become a better player. I’d also like to be playing and helping the team on the pitch, of course. That would also help me make progress with the national team.