A reunion with his former club awaits Rani Khedira on Tuesday, as FC Ausgburg play RB Leipzig in the quarter finals of the DFB-Pokal (KO 20:45 CEST). In an exclusive interview with DFB.de, the Augsburg midfielder spoke to Oliver Jensen about the cup game, his past in Leipzig, his assistant coach Jens Lehmann and his brother Sami.
DFB.de: Mr Khedira, do you think the home game against RB Leipzig is a good draw?
Khedira: It’s a very tough draw. They are a top team in the Bundesliga. They play quick and aggressive football and are strong away from home too. On the other hand, we are stronger at home than we are away.
DFB.de: FC Augsburg have already played RB Leipzig twice this season, drawing 0-0 on both occasions. Is this an even match?
Khedira: If you break down the two results then yes it is. However, when you look at the Bundesliga table, it’s clear who the favourites are. Despite that, anything is possible.
DFB.de: You have history with RB Leipzig, signing for them in 2014 from VfB Stuttgart. Why did you choose to drop down from the Bundesliga to move there?
Khedira: Back then I wasn’t playing much at VfB. RB Leipzig submitted an offer for me and it was an attractive move. Even though we spent two years playing in the 2. Bundesliga, this time helped shape me as a footballer, as I was in the team straight away. I learnt tactical things, how to play football at a increased pace and how to behave professionally there. RB Leipzig aren’t successful just by chance. They pay attention to every small detail, so that all their players are on-form.
DFB.de: For some of your time there you were coached by Ralf Rangnick, who has taken over again until the end of the season. What memories do you have of him?
Khedira: He’s an exceptional coach, who places a lot of importance on defensive work. He wants to keep clean sheets and defend aggressively from the front. Instead of just clearing balls, he wants his sides to counter attack quickly and get into scoring positions. It was a lot of fun to work with him, because he paid attention to every small detail. He was one of the best coaches I have ever played for. He’s also a very pleasant coach. I spoke a lot with him as well.
DFB.de: In the Bundesliga you only made ten appearances, mostly coming on as a sub late in games. Did you want more responsibility?
Khedira: Naturally that was disappointing, but the team did so well in the Hinrunde that I could understand why the coach put his faith in other players. After the season I then moved to Augsburg, although I could have stayed in Leipzig too. I think the move made sense for all involved. It was important to play regular football again, which I do here at Augsburg.
DFB.de: What are the differences between FC Augsburg and RB Leipzig?
Khedira: Augsburg is a smaller club, who are thankful to be playing in the Bundesliga. We overachieve here. Leipzig have more financial opportunities and achieve a lot too. Both clubs are run well.
DFB.de: You now have a famous assistant coach at FC Augsburg: Jens Lehmann. What kind of influence does he have on the team?
Khedira: He has the same influence any assistant coach has. The only difference is perhaps that he played at a high level for over 20 years. He has experienced everything in football, so he helps prepare us well. He is very meticulous and pays attention to the finest details. He speaks with us a lot and wants to improve every player.
DFB.de: Can a former keeper help outfield players too?
Khedira: Of course. As a keeper he learnt to read and anticipate the game, therefore he helps us with a lot of things.
DFB.de: Your brother Sami Khedira is a World Cup winner and currently plays for Juventus. You also became a professional footballer in the Bundesliga. Where does this talent come from in your family?
Khedira: My mother and father weren’t talented sportsmen, so I’m not sure! Nevertheless, my father lives for football. He always gave us a ball, played a lot with us and took us to watch VfB Stuttgart.
DFB.de: Have you and your brother always been playing football in your free time?
Khedira: Yes, you could say that. When we were younger, there wasn't much other than football. Even though my brother is seven years older, we played together a lot. He used to protect me as a big brother, but sometimes I had to look after myself. It certainly shaped me as a kid because I played with the older kids and I had to play a bit smarter than the others. It was a great time.
DFB.de:Do you get the feeling that your performances are often compared to those of your older brother?
Khedira:That’s definitely the way it is. If the older brother has so much success, you’re expected to be at least just as successful, especially given that many pundits and experts have claimed I have even more talent. The expectations were high from the start – a lot of eyes were on me. That was hard at first, but with time I’ve got used to it.
DFB.de:You two aren’t represented by a big agency, but by your brother Denny Khedira. How did this come about?
Khedira:My brother Denny used to play football himself and actually had more talent than me and Sami. His ambition was targeted at school and his studies though. He studied economics and graduated with a first – he enhances the both of us.