Ridle Baku made the switch from 1. FSV Mainz 05 to VfL Wolfsburg at the start of this season and has since gone on to play for the Germany national team too. He’s now aiming to round off a successful year with a win over SV Sandhausen in the second round of the DFB-Pokal. DFB.de spoke to the 22-year-old about the cup tie, winning his first Germany cap and Karl-Heinz Riedle.
DFB.de: Ridle, do you think there’s a danger of underestimating SV Sandhausen?
Ridle Baku: There are no easy ties in the DFB-Pokal. We obviously go into the game as favourites and we’re aiming to justify that role. We will certainly take the task seriously.
DFB.de: You know from experience that a Bundesliga side can be knocked out by a team from a lower division. Your Mainz team were beaten by third-tier 1. FC Kaiserslautern in August 2019. What lessons were you able to learn from that game?
Baku: That was a painful experience, especially as it’s a derby against Kaiserslautern. Like I said, you have to take every game in the cup seriously – it doesn’t matter who your opponents are. If we produce the level we’re capable of on the day, we should be beating Sandhausen. That has to be our goal.
DFB.de: On 1st October, you made the move from Mainz to Wolfsburg. To what extent was that the right career move for you?
Baku: Taking the next step in my career at Wolfsburg was a considered decision. It’s a good club for young players to develop. I have gotten a lot of game time already and have been able to make my mark, so I’m very happy.
DFB.de: Wolfsburg are enjoying a good season so far. What are the factors behind that?
Baku: When you take a look at our squad, there’s real quality throughout. Our goal is to establish ourselves as one of the league’s top sides. We want to be battling at the top and so have to keep on picking up points. I think we’re on track.
DFB.de: Oliver Glasner is quoted in Sport Bild as saying that your signing fits in with the club’s philosophy of bringing in players that can be developed and helped along their journey, even if that means letting them go when they want to take the next step. What is your dream club or dream league to play in?
Baku: Well, for now I have a five-year contract here that will allow me to take the next step. You never know how things will turn out, but we will wait and see.
DFB.de: Let’s word it a little differently. What were your favourite clubs when you were a kid?
Baku: I’m football mad and actually like watching every league, particularly the Premier League and La Liga. It’s obviously the dream of any young footballer to play for one of the top sides in one of those leagues one day. There isn’t a single dream club for me, but if one day Real Madrid of Barcelona gave me a call, it would be hard to say no (laughs). But we’re still a long way off that.
DFB.de: You were called into the senior Germany team in November. How surprised were you to get the nod from Joachim Löw?
Baku: That was a huge surprise because I was expecting to play with the U21s. After the Bundesliga game against Hoffenheim, Stefan Kuntz spoke to me and said that I would be joining up with the senior team. I couldn’t quite believe it at first.
DFB.de: How did it feel to be part of the senior Germany team?
Baku: It was a strange feeling. I obviously knew a lot of the lads from the Bundesliga, but it’s a very different experience being their teammate. I was made to feel very welcome and I easily got on with the lads that I knew from the U21s like Nadiem Amiri, Jonathan Tah, Benjamin Henrichs and Florian Neuhaus.
DFB.de: You were in the starting line-up for the 1-0 win against the Czech Republic and played the full 90 minutes. What do you remember of the game?
Baku: I just tried to enjoy it. Not every footballer gets a chance to play for their country. It was certainly a wonderful experience, particularly as we won the match. Maybe I will get another chance to put the shirt on again soon.
DFB.de: Did you get any feedback from the boss?
Baku: Not specifically about my performance, but about my development in general. It was mostly about becoming familiar with the level you have to be at with the national team. Now it’s important to keep on delivering at club level and then we’ll see what happens.
DFB.de: Are you hopeful of being a part of the Germany squad for the European Championship in summer 2021?
Baku: I’m not thinking about that at the moment. I certainly want to play at a tournament next summer. The EUROs with the senior team would be incredible, but I’d be happy playing at the European U21 Championship too.
DFB.de: Which team do you think has the better chance of winning the title?
Baku: Germany have always been a tournament team. You never know what’s going to happen at major tournaments, but I think that both sides will be aiming for the title.
DFB.de: Your full name is Bote Nzuzi Baku, but in 2018, you added your nickname Ridle to your passport – one your father gave you, after Karl-Heinz Riedle. Why was that so important to you?
Baku: I’ve always been called Ridle since I was a kid, so I decided to add it to my passport. I haven’t actually met Karl-Heinz Riedle, but we have messaged a few times and I have seen plenty of videos of him from his playing days.###more###