Borussia Dortmund midfielder Emre Can spoke to SportBild about his winning mentality, Jadon Sancho, Erling Haaland and the upcoming clash against Bayern Munich. Here’s the translated interview.
Mr. Can, the Daily Mail explained to English football fans ahead of the re-start of the Bundesliga that Liverpool are the pendant to Borussia Dortmund. Do you agree?
Can: “One hundred per cent. When I arrived [in Dortmund] last winter, I drew many comparisons between the clubs. The clubs are really similar, both have a familial atmosphere and unique fans. And: Both love Jürgen Klopp!
Do Dortmund — like Liverpool – have what it takes to win the Champions League in the coming years?
Can: “I can’t promise that. We have a lot of ambition and we want to develop further. Going as far as possible in the Champions League is part of that. Winning the title with Dortmund is a dream.”
According to the English outlet, fans of Manchester United can identify with Bayern Munich. Also true?
Can: “This comparison works, too. Both are the respective record champions and both have a gigantic aura. Big names like Bastian Schweinsteiger or Owen Hargreaves played for both teams. However, I would never play for United due to my time at Liverpool. My heart doesn’t allow that. The rivalry between those two clubs is enormous.”
Just like it is between Dortmund and Bayern. Next week BVB will host the Munich club for a championship showdown. Will it be a special game for you against your former club?
Can: “Definitely, especially since I will meet a few familiar faces. I had four great years at Bayern, I became a man there and I’m thankful to the club for many things. Now I’m wearing a Dortmund shirt and will do everything I can to beat Bayern on Tuesday.”
You’re described as someone who always wants to win and who clearly defines his high objectives. Did that miss at BVB before?
Can: “Teams that want to win the championship always exude that conviction, also on the training ground. The going gets even tougher then. In my first weeks at BVB, I felt that [this spirit] was a bit lacking. Since then, it definitely changed, however. Whether I contributed to that is hard for me to say. It’s true, that I always want to win. I’ve been told that my mentality is visible from the outside. I joined Dortmund because I want to win titles. I didn’t come here just to solidify second place behind Bayern Munich. It’s our goal at BVB to land in front of Bayern, which is why we need a win next week.”
Mats Hummels confirmed your notion when he remarked that he is “feeling a different spirit since the Rückrunde” in training, adding that yourself and Erling Haaland have “contributed a big part to that”.
Can: “Mats is right. There’s more seriousness, more focus. When in a training match not just two or three but 22 players want to win, there’s a completely different tension. I’m used to that from my time in Munich. I still remember when we won the treble in 2013. Mario Mandzukic was a striker but he slid into someone in every training session. You’re indoctrinated with the will to win there, which I got to know very early in my career. At Bayern, everyone is lusting to win tiles. I brought this attitude from Munich.”
Thomas Müller was happy about Marco Reus’ announcement that Dortmund want to win a title. He said that he often missed that in the past.
Can: “Thomas doesn’t have to worry. From my side, he will hear those announcements more regularly. If we’re as close to Bayern as we’re now, then we don’t have to hide. But in the end, the only thing that counts is how you perform on the field.”
At Juventus, you played together with Cristiano Ronaldo for one and a half seasons. Is he winning mentality personified?
Can: “I often enough experienced, how he lives his winning mentality. When he loses a training game, he is in a bad mood. If he wins, he celebrates and bullies the losers. If he scores the most goals during shooting practice, he winds up his teammates about it. It doesn’t only drive him but boosts everyone else.”
Haaland doesn’t only have a scoring rate like Ronaldo but also a lot of confidence and coolness like him. When is his bold appearance refreshing and when does it turn into arrogance?
Can: “Erling is brazen in a positive way, also off the pitch. He always has a good quip and is definitely a very confident guy. But that isn’t arrogance. He’s already extremely mature for his age. And on the field, he is just spectacular: Fast, robust, and with a superb eye for goal. Though he needs to continue to work hard on his skills. He was the potential to become a world-class player. I hope that he stays healthy and a long while at BVB.”
BVB consultant Matthias Sammer says that talent alone isn’t enough. Character and attitude make the difference to make it to the top. Do you agree?
Can: “Yes. No matter how big your talent is, you can’t just rely on that. I know Mr. Sammer for a long time, he saw me play for Germany’s youth teams at the DFB, and in 2013 we were successful together at Bayern Munich. I heard that he put in a good word for me when I was signed, which is nice to know.”
Matthias Sammer said: “When I’m first in the end, people can call me an asshole. I don’t care.” Would you make a similar bargain?
Can: “First of all: It may be that my playing style looks a bit more brutal due to my strong physique but I always try to play fair. I raise my voice on the pitch and argue with the referee because I need those emotions but when I realise that I’ve made a mistake I’m the last who doesn’t apologise. As for your question: If it has to be, I’ll be the ass for my team. One for all and all for one.”
Even though you’re only 26 years old, you’re counted as one of the veterans at BVB. Are you comfortable with taking the responsibility and guiding younger players?
Can: “I feel comfortable when I’m important for the team. I’m important here again, which is why I like my role. I’m still new here and have a good feeling for when I can say something and when not. But of course I tried to help my teammates from the first day on — especially the younger ones.”
What advice would you give Jadon Sancho when he asks you about a transfer to the Premier League?
Can: “I’ll tell him: Stay here and let’s play here forever. Jadon has an extra class that not many players have. I quickly realised that. He is enormously important for us.”
It’s rumoured that Manchester United are trying to sign him. Are United, who played Europa League recently, ranked above Dortmund in your view?
Can: “No, I don’t see a reason to put Manchester United above Dortmund. Neither in a sporting sense nor from the level of attractiveness.”
BVB-Boss Hans-Joachim Watzke said in the first half of the season that Dortmund had to play result-oriented “more like Juventus”. You came from Turin — do the Black and Yellows play a bit like Juve?
Can: “I know how Mr Watzke meant it. But when I compare our football to Juventus: No. In Turin, I learned how to win games without shining. We won so many games with just a one-goal advantage. Fans and players said: ‘We won, good!’. It’s different at BVB. When we beat SC Freiburg 1-0 at home at the end of February, the atmosphere in the locker room was weird. Nobody was really satisfied — that was very strange to me at first. But I like it because I’m also happier when we play beautiful football. We have the right coach for that in Lucien Favre.”
If PSG are excluded from the Champions League quarter-finals because football games are banned until further notice in France, are BVB ready to stand in?
Can: “I hadn’t heard of that possibility. Paris sadly defeated us and are rightfully in the next round. But if we get another crack at the Champions League, I’d be ready at all times.”