Niklas Süle & Sebastian Rudy on gratitude

They’ve played important roles in what has been a fantastic season so far for TSG. Niklas Süle and Sebastian Rudy have become leading figures on and off the field. Both players are set to join FC Bayern this summer. They joined us to recall their best on-field moments with TSG, why Hoffenheim is in their hearts and what they’re hoping to achieve before they depart.

Sebastian, Niklas, we’ve known since Christmas that you’re both going to join Bayern in the summer. Most players would lose the support of the fans over such a switch, but you both seem to have maintained the respect of the supporters. Were you surprised by the reaction?

Sebastian Rudy: I wasn’t surprised, but it was pleasing for us. That’s what I know our fans are like. We’ve both given everything over the years for the club and I think the fans are honouring that. That’s why they’re accepting our transfers. Everyone can see that we haven’t taken our feet off the gas, rather we’re giving everything in order to be successful.

What did your teammates say when they found out you were going to Bayern?

Niklas Süle: It wasn’t a big talking point in the dressing room. It wasn’t a decision against TSG, rather we just chose to join Bayern. We spoke with each other about it in the dressing room. We’ll be at Bayern from the 1st July.

Rudy: The way I see it is that we’re Hoffenheim players until 30th June. Until then we have a responsibility to the team, the coaches, the whole club and the fans.

Niklas, you had extended your contract until 2019. Were you concerned that people would ask, ‘Why’s he leaving?’?

Süle: There will always be people who don’t think that it’s the right move. But it doesn’t generally bother me what other people think. What’s important is that people here at the club don’t view me any differently because of the decision. Therefore, I’m going to continue to give everything for my boyhood club. If anyone at the club had treated me differently after I made the decision then maybe I would’ve stopped trying, but that was never the case. We’ve already achieved so much this season and we want to achieve a little bit more. That’s the big motivation.   

TSG is Niklas’ boyhood club. Sebastian, you came here from Stuttgart in 2010 and you were already a Germany U21 international. What has TSG meant for you and your career?

Rudy: This region and this club has become my home. I’m now into my seventh season and I’ve played nearly all of my Bundesliga games for Hoffenheim. Seven years is a big portion of my career and I’m very thankful that I had the chance to spend this time at Hoffenheim.

Although it didn’t always go to plan...

Rudy: But it was the making of me, because it wasn’t always brilliant. That’s what makes the connection: when you don’t just experience good times but also bad times.

You’ve had nine different coaches in your seven years here.

Rudy: I’ve had to get to know so many coaches and so many football philosophies – I can adapt to many things now (laughs). In all seriousness though, there have been many ups and downs, for example, when we nearly went down in 2013 but were saved in the dying seconds. That shapes you for the rest of your career.

There was a time when 17-year-old Niklas Süle suddenly stood alongside you on the pitch. Can you remember your first impression of Niklas?

Rudy: Oh yes, that stayed with me, I still mention it to him a lot now. It was his first training session. He was only 15 and he was very cheeky – he nutmegged Sven Schipplock. Honestly, you don’t do that when you’re 15. That was when you could see that someone special was coming.

Niklas, did you not think about that or did it just come naturally to you?

Süle: Of course I respected them, but I also wanted to make an impression (laughs). That was with Holger Stanislawski who always gave me good feedback. Althoug I was quite young, I was allowed to train twice a week with the first team. I was till young and raw, then I nutmegged  Schippo and scored. There was a lot going on in training then, I still remember it like it was yesterday.

And in your second Bundesliga game in Dortmund it was all or nothing.

Süle: If we had got relegated it would have been the worst thing to happen to the club financially in its history. That was an intense time for me as a 17-year-old. But it was, of course, a great experience and also the party after the relegation play-off. I’d only ever experienced those celebrations as a fan in the stadium when I was a ball boy so it was an unbelievable experience.

How does Niklas Süle remember Sebastian Rudy then?

Süle: More than anything I remember his hair (laughs). When I came out for the first time I immediately thought, that’s Rudy with the ribbon. And it’s still cool seeing Sippi on the ball in training now. It’s close to perfection.  Sippi looked after me from the beginning as I was a young, German player which he was familiar with.  

And along with Eugen Polanski you’re the only players who played in that match in 2013.

Süle: We could definitely evaluate what happened. Every one of us experienced something crazy that day but we’ve used that to lead the team going forward and this season has gone really well.

Two leading figures who can assess the development of the club.

Rudy: Yes, we’ve had highs and lows. But we’ve on the right path for quite a while now and the club should continue on this path. If you put your faith in the club and support them over many years, then the club will improve during this time.

Where can TSG get to then? After all, it’s not a club surrounded by a huge population or an appropriate environment.

Rudy: This quiet area distinguishes this club. It makes it an attractive proposition.

Süle: I also don’t see it as a bad thing. We’re a small club but that’s quite special and rare.

You’ve experienced so much with TSG. Do you have one special memory?

Rudy: It has to be Dortmund, when we stayed up. And my first Bundesliga goal against Kaiserslautern in February 2011. You don’t forget that.

Süle: The win in Dortmund. Mainly because I’d gone to sleep for the goal that made it 2-2. Because of me there was no offside for Schmelzer’s goal. I was the last man and didn’t sprint out. The fans here would have found it hard to forgive me for that.

When you look back at last season, you just avoided relegation and Julian Nagelsmann joined.  Had you discussed relegation?

Rudy: You have thoughts about the second division, but you don’t really get too concerned with it. I also remembered what happened in 2013. Back then I sat in the SWR-Studio and said, “It’s not over yet, we’ll wait and see what happens.” Everybody laughed at me.

Under Julian you’ve had a meteoric rise. Had you expected this?

Rudy: I still remember the first thing he said to us. It was then we knew that it would work.

What was so special then?

Rudy: It was just his demeanour. His words weren’t so important, rather the impression he gave. I immediately thought to myself: ok, we’ll grasp that.

But that it would turn out this well …

Süle: I’ve known Julian for quite a long time. Therefore, I knew that he’s an absolute professional, but not everyone could see that. I knew that we could achieve something if we were prepared and developed his ideas. The club’s aim was to stay out of trouble this season, but the fact that we’re so high up after two-thirds of the season – that’s incredible.

You could lead TSG into Europe after all these years. That would be quite special …

Rudy: It would be the perfect parting gift to leave the club and the boys.

Süle: Why shouldn’t we leave the club with a place in the Champions League? We definitely got enough to finish in the top six. And we also have the drive to get as much out of this season as we can. We’re good enough, we’re in a good position and guys who will see it through to the end of the season. It would be great for both of us to see it through.

But you’re still come back and visit us?

Süle: Definitely.

Rudy: I will definitely come back and watch. My wife has a lot of friends here and we are thinking about settling here after my career. This region has become our home. 

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