He is 26 years old and has a child’s face. And from the start, when he smiles, he even seems smaller. But when he begins to speak, everything changes. If even his sister tells him: “Joshua, you have the life of an older man,” says Joshua Kimmich, midfielder for the German team and Bayern Munich, Barcelona’s rival this Tuesday in the Champions League. “He tells me that because I go to bed very early and I like to be at home,” justifies Kimmich, laughing, dressed in the Mannschaft tracksuit, at the Hans-Dieter Flick team rally in Stuttgart. “I like to go to the mountains and I go hiking. It helps me clear my mind. To see things clearly ”. Kimmich needs to think, he always has: “I was never the fastest or the strongest on the field. Not the most talented either. To meet my goals I had to do a little better than the others. “
Question. So what did you do best?
Answer. My childhood was spent between school and soccer, like all the children who played ball with me. He played well, but I don’t know if he was aware that he was the best. Everything was different when I arrived at the Stuttgart quarry. I realized that there were many more talented children. So I had to work harder and better. That ‘s what I did.
P. Only that?
R. And think faster. If you are not strong or talented, you have to go faster with your head. It is key to enjoy the game, that it makes you happy to be with the ball and that it does not bother you to train. I had to improve a lot and without love for the game I would not have achieved it.
P. It seems very ambitious.
R. To play for Bayern and the German national team, you have to have that level of ambition. The expectations in the environment are always very high, but I like the pressure. I like that feeling of having to win. And you always have to win at Bayern and the German team. But the expectation that I have about myself is always greater than what comes from outside. The pressure I impose on myself is stronger than that of the environment.
P. Tennis player Naomi Osaka said at the last US Open that she was not happy to win, that it only brought her relief.
R. I think it must be very difficult when you are alone. Tennis is an individual sport, while I have teammates by my side. It is also important to distinguish between the different types of pressure that a professional athlete is exposed to. There is public pressure, on the one hand. But there is also your team and your own expectations.
P. How do you deal with the pressure of the environment?
R. In all sports you have to learn to live with pressure. The problem is that, in the world of football, when you talk about a person feeling pressure, it is interpreted as a weakness. I don’t see it that way. That’s why I celebrate when people talk about these things. It is normalized. And it’s okay for that to happen because it’s normal. But since it is not discussed, people think that you have to be strong and confident all the time.
P. To be or to show itself?
R. Both. Being like that is also important to me. Believing in yourself helps you develop, especially when things go wrong. I, for example, can contact my teammates at any time. I can call Leon [Goretzka] or Serge [Gnabry] and talk to them about my fears.
P. Does it?
R. Naturally. That is also one of the keys to a strong and functional team. They are my teammates, but also my friends. It is important to fight side by side with your friends, to fight as a team. But you have to differentiate.
P. What is there to differentiate?
R. Well, I’m not a scorer. I don’t think about scoring goals all the time. For me, other standards count. Let the team work. I like to make a good pass, of course. But I enjoy winning and for that the team has to work. Especially now that the public has returned.
P. Was there something positive about playing without people?
R. I think the game was fairer. It was less emotional. Everything was calmer, there was not that friction with the rival that can exist when there is an audience in the stands. And for us, we have players like Thomas [Müller] or I, who like to talk, was easier to communicate. But soccer is fun with emotions and people are emotion.
P. He spoke of the importance of companionship. Do you understand that Ter Stegen complains because he does not play in Germany?
R. Of course I can understand. They all have this ambition. He is an incredible goalkeeper. I don’t even know how long he has been playing at Barça and how many times he has won the Champions League. The problem is that we have Manu [Neuer], the best goalkeeper in the world. It is the bad luck of the goalkeeper: it is a position in which only one plays. If there is a midfielder who is better in the team than I am, then I have the option to play as a center-back or as a full-back. When I was young it was a great advantage for me to play in different positions. It helped me a lot.
R. I have played inside, as a winger and as a center back. In each position you need different skills and you have to understand different concepts. Today, when I am in the field, I can know what each of my teammates need. It helped me understand the game in a more global way. Pep [Guardiola] it was very important to me in that sense. He insisted a lot that I had to know where my teammates were all the time. Also, in that process when I arrived at Bayern, Xabi Alonso was key. It taught me to have a more peripheral look. For that you need the help of the coach and your teammates.
P. What do you mean?
R. There are two things you have to understand when playing midfielder. One is what the team coach wants and the other is orientation on the field. This means watching all the time where your teammates are and where your rivals are; when to dribble, when to pass forward and when to back. The great challenge is finding the spaces. It’s what amuses me the most, because when you do it well, you become a good team player.
P. For the German fan, was 1-7 more important to Brazil or 2-8 to Barça?
R. For the country, the 1-7 was simply incredible, really spectacular. But for us, for Bayern, the 2-8 was something special and not only because of the result. In Germany, there is often only black and white: either you love Bayern or you are against Bayern. But that day something strange and unexpected happened: I think everyone wanted us to win. Both in Germany and in Europe.
P. And why did it happen?
R. Because of the football we played. The style, the high pressure and the intensity. We scored a lot of goals. It was better to win 4-3 than 1-0. It was nice to see and people identified.
P. I guess Flick had a lot to do with it.
R. Of course.
P. You have been influenced by well known coaches like Guardiola, Flick, Ancelotti, and now Nagelsmann.
R. And very different.
P. Could you tell me about them?
R. He was very young with Pep Guardiola. He was 20 years old and came from the Second Division. He showed me positions that I had never played before and did not even know I could play. And he showed me spaces in the field that did not exist for me before. With Flick it was different. It was seated at eleven. He is a very good and respectful person. He talked a lot with the players and demanded that we also respect all the other members of the coaching staff. Nagelsmann is very young, but he already has a lot of experience as a coach.
P. How do you analyze Barcelona without Messi?
R. When I was little I looked at Barça for Messi. Now, it will be interesting to see it now without it. It has players of a lot of quality. Very good young people like Pedri and De Jong and also others with more experience like Busquets, Depay and Marc. I want to go to the Camp Nou, it will be a tough match.
P. Did Messi’s departure surprise you?
R. Who was not surprised? Now, PSG has top-level players. It will be interesting to see how they will function as a team.
P. The last three Champions of the Champions [Liverpool, Bayern y Chelsea] did the collective prioritize individualities?
R. That is why I want to play against them. I want to beat them with our team strength.
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