With seven Bundesliga goals to his name, Suat Serdar is Schalke’s top goalscorer this season. The 22-year-old midfielder has also been able to make his international debut for Germany. Ahead of the DFB-Pokal round of 16 showdown against Hertha BSC on Tuesday (04.02.20, 20:45 CET), Serdar sat down with DFB.de’s Tobias Gonscherowski about his ambitions in the competition.
DFB.de: Mr. Serdar, what are the earliest memories you have of the DFB-Pokal, perhaps even from your own childhood?
Suat Serdar: That’s a hard question. Personally, I’ve yet to advance into the far stages of the competition. Off the top of my head, I can list my first DFB-Pokal game with Mainz. We played in Unterhaching. Otherwise, I can remember the 2018 final between Eintracht Frankfurt and Bayern München, when you saw the Frankfurt players lift the trophy and prove that you can beat Bayern in the final.
DFB.de: What significance does the DFB-Pokal have for you?
Serdar: It’s pretty significant; after all, you can win a title with six wins in the Pokal. It would definitely be something special to hold the trophy in your hands. That’s something you can tell your kids about later.
DFB.de: How appealing is the idea of playing in the final in Berlin to you?
Serdar: The final is seen everywhere in Germany and around the world. That’s something very special. If you’ve made it all the way there, then it’s definitely something to be proud of.
DFB.de: Schalke have advanced to the semis and quarterfinals of the DFB-Pokal in the past two seasons, before being knocked out at home each time. Does having lost to Bremen last season still bother you?
Serdar: Last season wasn’t that great for us. Bremen were also very strong that day. This year, things are different. We have grown as a team, even if we’re still a pretty young side. We play a clearly defined style of football and know what we’re doing. You can see that in the Bundesliga. I have a lot of faith in us.
DFB.de: Schalke have been drawn against Hertha BSC in the round of 16. You beat them 3-0 in the Bundesliga on matchday 3 – will that have any impact on the upcoming match?
Serdar: None, absolutely nothing. Hertha have a new coach in Jürgen Klinsmann. They are playing differently as of late, and are defending well. They just came back to win against Wolfsburg. It will not be easy. I’m glad that we’ll be playing at home.
DFB.de: Hertha are still undefeated on the road in the Bundesliga under Klinsmann. What make the Berliners so strong?
Serdar: They’re strong defensively. They stay compact and wait for counter-attacks to emerge that they can pounce on through fast players such as Dodi Lukebakio. But, we’ll have the support of our fans; we’ll be at home and will give it our all and enter into every challenge.
DFB.de: Schalke are a force to be reckoned with at home, and are undefeated there since August. You’ve also scored six of your seven goals this season in the Veltins-Arena. How much do you enjoy playing in front of your home fans, and what strengths do you take from that?
Serdar: You cannot find the words to describe it. The atmosphere the fans create is indescribable. They push us on in every challenge and cheer us on. Each and every one of us can feel that in the game. That definitely helps give you that extra bit of strength, even if you’re already quite tired. If you’re like me and enjoy scoring at home, then it’s really something special.
DFB.de: Schalke have a long history with the DFB-Pokal and have won the competition three times this millennium, with the most recent triumph being in 2011. Is that additional motivation or rather additional pressure on the team?
Serdar: I wouldn’t call it pressure. The Pokal is a way to reward yourself for a great season that you might have just played. So far, we’re having a good season, aside from the Bayern game (Ed. Note: 5-0 defeat on matchday 19). I don’t feel any pressure. The Pokal could be the cherry on top of our season. If we continue the way we have been, then anything is possible.
DFB.de: Your second season at Schalke marked a real breakthrough for you, and you’ve also managed to make your senior debut for Germany. To what extent do you owe your recent form to new head coach David Wagner?
Serdar: The entire coaching staff played a role in that. I owe them a lot. As a team, we’ve grown more confident. Our young squad still has a lot to learn, but we’ve also shown over the last few weeks that we can win against strong teams. The chemistry within the team is right.
DFB.de: How at home do you feel at Schalke?
Serdar: I feel really at home here and am happy that I made the move from Mainz to Schalke. I’ve made a home for myself in Gelsenkirchen. It’s a lot of fun at play football at Schalke at the moment.
DFB.de: After last summer’s U21 EUROs, you made your senior debut for Germany in the fall. The EUROs take place at the end of this season – what role do you see yourself playing there?
Serdar: I haven’t thought about it at all. I want to consistently deliver strong performances for Schalke. In the end, it’s the coach who decides and I will respect his decision. I’m just proud to have already made three appearances for Germany. I wasn’t expecting that ahead of the season, given how last year went.
DFB.de: You’ve made your way up through all of the Germany youth teams. How difficult was it for you to decide to play for Germany? You were also eligible to play for Turkey.
Serdar: Yes, but I’d already played for Germany in my youth. It was then always my goal to get the call up to the senior squad. That’s worked out for me. I’ve never regretted my decision.