Lewis Holtby - Exclusive Interview
Lewis Holtby is one of European football’s brightest young talents. Born in Germany and with an English father, the 19-year-old started his career with Alemannia Aachen before being given his big opportunity with Schalke 04.
In January of this year he joined VFL Bochum on a two season loan to gain some valuable first team experience. Recently voted by one European journal as one of the top 100 young players in the world, The Sport Review caught up with the youngster to find out a little more about his career to date and what his hopes are for the future.
So, VFL Bochum. How do you feel about the move?
Yes I’m very pleased. It’ll be good for me to get more experience of first team football playing there. Bochum didn’t want me for just half a year, they preferred a longer spell, so I’m on loan until the summer of 2011.
How are you settling in to your new surroundings?
Yes, it’s brilliant. It’s a good team with a good spirit. The main reason I agreed to go back to Bochum was to team up with Heiko Herrlich [Bochum’s manager] again. I have played for him before when playing for the German under-19 side where he was the coach at that time. There is a good partnership between us, he gave me confidence and belief as a youngster. So, the only club I would have left Schalke for would have been Bochum as Heiko is now the coach there and made no secret about the fact he wanted me to join them.
For the benefit of UK football fans, how would you describe your game?
I’m good at taking players on in a one-on-one situation. I’m quick. I can play behind the striker, left wing or right wing. Sometimes I play as second striker. My main asset is my first touch, if I was to liken myself to one player in England it would be Joe Cole.
You were voted into the top 100 young players in World Football by one European journal. How does that make you feel?
Yes, that was really massive! It’s a real honour and feels like a reward for all the hard work I am putting in. It’s a real sense of achievement.
I’m aiming to possibly play for the national side in Euro 2012. My ultimate dream is to play at full international level in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Under legendary coach Felix Magath at Schalke, what would you say have been the biggest improvements in your game this season?
He has helped me psychologically. He has also made me physically stronger. I have really learnt lots from him, he helped to be mentally strong, so it was a good half year for me. When I knew of the interest from Bochum, Felix Magath encouraged me to go, with the view to coming back to Schalke a better player. I said I wanted to play football again, and he thought it was a good decision.
German soccer has yet again topped the rankings for attendances, how does it feel playing in some of the top stadiums in world football?
It’s an amazing experience. The supporters sing more, they have some really good songs. Now that the Bundesliga has become more competitive, it’s encouraging more fans to come to the stadiums.
How do you think we could improve the atmospheres in our stadiums in the UK?
I don’t think the atmospheres in the English Premiership need improving. English fans are far more tolerant with players when they make a mistake, whereas in Germany this is not the case. In England, everybody cheers, the singing comes from all four sides of the ground. In Germany, singing only really happens behind the goal. I also like the sense of humour that the English fans have.
There has been interest in you from several high profile clubs from the Premier League. Could you one day see yourself playing in the UK?
I want to play in Germany for a few years and learn the tactical side of the game, to improve my performances. So, I want to learn here and then if I’m good enough I’d like to then move to the Premier League.
The rumour in the UK is that you are an Everton supporter. Is this true?
Yes I’m an Everton fan! This comes from my father’s influence. He was born in Birmingham, but has always been an Evertonian. It would be my ultimate dream to play for them. I’ve been an Everton fan since the 1995 FA Cup Final, when I was five years old. My dad took me to the match and I’ve been a fan since then.
With an English father did it ever cross your mind to represent England at international level rather than Germany?
I always wore an England shirt when I was a child. I was always an England supporter. It was very strange when I found myself wearing a German kit. I first played against England when I was in the German under-17 side - it was certainly a strange feeling.
You are now in the German U21 team. What are your main aspirations at International level?
I’m aiming possibly to play for the national side in Euro 2012, but am taking it one step at a time. I have played in the World Cup for the under-20 squad and we played against Brazil, it was an amazing feeling. My ultimate dream is to play at full international level in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Who have been the main influences in your career?
For me, Wayne Rooney was the player I aspired to be when I was young. On the coaching side it is without doubt Heiko Herrlich, I owe so much to him as I have known him since I was a small boy and he has given me the self belief to become a top professional.
I notice you have a page on Twitter with over 1000 followers - Lewis Holtby’s stock is rising!
Yeah, I remember what it’s like to be a fan, as well as a player. I want to keep my feet on the ground; I understand football from a fan’s point of view and I don’t want to be any different.
Outside of football, what are your main interests?
I like to play golf when the weather is good. I also play cricket. I have a lot of friends from Sri Lanka so I play cricket with them - not my German team-mates! I love cricket but as a professional footballer, I don’t have the time to follow it as much as I’d like to. I also play tennis, I’m a sports fanatic!
Do you get to visit family in the UK very often?
I have many English relatives. I get back to England as often as possible. This summer I am coming over to play in a golf tournament near Newcastle. A lot of my family are from there, so I’ll be playing with them.