"It has perhaps taken a bit longer than I would have hoped, but I’m just so happy that it finally has."
Getting a call-up to the Germany national team is a dream come true for Nico Schulz. The 25-year-old wide player from TSG Hoffenheim is in the squad for the first time for the UEFA Nations League tie against France (Thursday, 20:45 CEST) and the friendly against Peru on Sunday (20:45, CEST). In a DFB.de interview with André Fulczyk, Schulz discussed his first days with the squad, his injury-plagued time at Borussia Mönchengladbach and his excitement to play in the Champions League.
DFB.de: Mr Schulz, how have your first days with the national side been?
Nico Schulz: They have been very good. I know a lot of the lads having played with them in Germany’s youth teams, but of course it’s really special to be with the national side for the first time.
DFB.de: You played for all the Germany age groups from U15s up to U21s. How excited are you to finally have made it into the national side?
Schulz: I’m delighted; it’s always been my dream to play for my country. After playing for all the youth teams, I obviously have always wanted to make this next step. It has perhaps taken a bit longer than I would have hoped, but I’m just so happy that it finally has. I will also make sure that I will give my all if and when I get the chance.
DFB.de: In 2015 you decided to leave your home team Hertha BSC after 15 years. What were your reasons for moving to Borussia Mönchengladbach?
Schulz: In Berlin we were always either fighting relegation or trying to secure promotion. I then received an offer from Gladbach, who at the time were a young team, who had just qualified for the Champions League. For me this was the next logical step in my career.
DFB.de: You had a couple of difficult years there, with a change of management and injuries setting you back. Did you ever doubt yourself?
Schulz: On the whole, my time in Gladbach was not very easy. I was signed by Lucien Favre, who then left the club quite soon after. Then I got injured and found it difficult not being able to run properly and generally being in pain. Seeing your teammates on TV giving 100% obviously makes you question a few things. The following year was also quite tricky as I didn’t get much game time, but I never stopped believing in myself.
DFB.de: After this you made the move to TSG Hoffenheim, where you will also play Champions League football next season. How much are you looking forward to it?
Schulz: I cannot wait! Even last year was difficult for me at the beginning, although I eventually got through it. After not playing much football for the past two years, I hadn’t expected to be such a regular in the Hoffenheim side. Our season only really took off in the second half of the campaign, once we had put our poor Europa League form behind us. We were then able to play good and successful football, and ultimately deserved to qualify for the Champions League. The whole squad is totally buzzing to get underway.
DFB.de: What do you make of the draw?
Schulz: I have already played Manchester City twice with Gladbach so I am looking forward to playing them again. I haven’t spoken to Leroy Sane about it yet though! Even though there are no bad teams in Champions League, we feel that we have been given a group that we can potentially qualify from. We will give our all to try and make sure that we are playing European football after the winter break as well.
DFB.de: You can play anywhere down the left-hand side. What are your strengths?
Schulz: I would say that my biggest strengths are my pace, power and dynamism. When we play with a back three I am more or less alone on the left-hand side, whereas with a back four I have to focus on supporting my partner.
DFB.de: You have an Italian father. How much Italian blood is there in you?
Schulz: There is a little bit, yeah! He also played football and had bandy legs just like me! I also think I inherited his endurance. However, I grew up in Berlin and therefore see myself as primarily German.
DFB.de: You were born on the 1st April, 1993. How many April Fools’ jokes have you had to endure? And which was the worst?
Schulz: When I was younger, there were quite a few. Once, my family pretended for the whole day that they had forgotten my birthday. The jokes don’t tend to be so bad anymore.