Niklas Stark hasn’t missed a minute of Bundesliga action for Hertha BSC since the start of the second half of the season, appearing in all nine matches. He could make his debut for the Germany national side very soon too, as national coach Joachim Löw has called him up into his 23-man-squad to face Serbia (Wednesday, 20:45 CET) and the Netherlands (Sunday, 20:45) for the first time. Stark discussed his selection, old friends and new experiences in an interview with DFB.de.
DFB.de: Mr Stark, do you still remember the words that Joachim Löw said to you on the phone?
Niklas Stark: He said to me that the national side is in a rebuilding phase right now and there are chances for younger players. He also has followed my progress for a long time too. Hearing all of that really pleased me. I definitely had a higher pulse rate than normal during that phone call! It’s a massive honour to be called up to the national side for the first time.
DFB.de: In September 2016, when you were still a key player for the U21s side, you said in a DFB.de interview that there was a high chance of young players breaking into the national side and that was very motivating for the players. Now you have profited from this yourself.
Stark: It’s really great that it’s now actually happened (laughs). I can still remember being given a Germany shirt at Christmas as a child and it was always very special for me. Every footballer dreams of playing for their national side. Now I want to take my chance and do everything I can so we are successful. I don’t want this to be my only call-up.
DFB.de: You have already played with a number of players in the squad for Germany’s youth sides. Has that made it easier to settle in?
Stark: It definitely has made life easier. I would say that my experiences with the youth sides have generally helped me. I have already played with Joshua Kimmich, Niklas Süle, Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sané for Germany and won the European Championship in 2017 with the U21s. The day-to-day business with the DFB is therefore quite familiar for me, although this is on a larger scale.
DFB.de: You play as a centre-back for Hertha BSC. What are your strengths?
Stark: I try to help my team with my mentality and concentration on the pitch. I obviously also try to win my tackles and duels too. As a centre-back, I communicate a lot, especially with my defensive midfielders. My goal is to have a good overview of the game when we are building the play up. I prefer to build things up on the floor, although sometimes a chip over their defence can work, especially if they are pressing us.
DFB.de: The head coach has stated his intentions of developing a squad for the future. You have already trained with the national side twice. What are your first impressions like?
Stark: Everybody can see that we now have a lot of young players in the side. There is a lot of quality in the team and we play at a very high tempo. It’s really fun to be training in this environment right now. I can’t compare it to the younger age groups, but my first impression is that everyone has turned up full of enthusiasm and ready to be a part of this new Germany squad.