Rudy: "We want to settle down here"

Sebastian Rudy is back. Having spent a season at FC Schalke 04 and FC Bayern Munich respectively, the midfielder returned to Sinsheim in the summer for a second spell with TSG Hoffenheim. The match against VfL Wolfsburg could be his 200th in the Bundesliga for the club. In the run-up to the game, SPIELFELD invited the 29-year-old to his sporting home – the PreZero Arena in Sinsheim. "I'm really happy to be back here," he said in the South Stand. Later, right up in the top tier below the roof, he added: "I've never been up here. You have a really outstanding view from here, what a great experience."

How do you like it up here, directly below the roof with a view over your sporting home?

"It's impressive. The arena is a real gem. You have a very different view from up here. Everything is flat down on the pitch, which makes it much more difficult to identify spaces than it is up here. From this viewpoint, it's clear where the ball needs to be played – the spectators have a perfect overview."

Can you now understand why a groan goes through the crowd when players do certain things?

"Yes, of course, down on the pitch you sometimes don't understand it. But as I'm noticing right now, the spectators probably have a better view at times." (laughs)

"The PreZero is my sporting home"

What meaning does the stadium in Sinsheim carry for you?

"It's become my sporting home, I've played more games in this stadium than any other. I spent seven years at TSG and I'm now in my eighth season in a Hoffenheim shirt. There's a family atmosphere around the arena, you recognise a lot of fans by sight and there's just a pleasant and personal feel here. I look forward to every time I play here."

You didn't play a single home game in Sinsheim for two years, but you did play here during your spells with FC Bayern Munich and FC Schalke 04. Has the atmosphere changed since your departure?

"As a visiting player, I quickly noticed it's become more intense and louder. That's certainly down to our recent successes in part, but also to the growth of the club in general. You notice it on the pitch; even at the match in Frankfurt, there were a lot of away fans that made for an atmosphere. This will definitely get even better."

"I had seven wonderful years here"

You were away for the two seasons in which TSG played European football. Looking back on it, was that a shame for you?

"I had seven wonderful years here. Playing European football was always an objective for me and I'd have liked to do it with TSG. But after a few difficult years, I made the decision to leave the club after we had qualified for the Champions League play-offs. It was a nice way to sign off, even though I would've liked to have played in both those matches for TSG. But it was simply a case that the time had come for me to try something new and to get some new experiences under my belt. Now I'm happy to be back here and I'm trying to resume from exactly where I left off. I have even more experience now and I will pass this on in order to help the team. I'll do everything in my power to play European football again  this time with TSG. I mostly only watched Hoffenheim's previous European games at home and cheered them on in front of the television."

You were welcomed very warmly and applauded at the season opening friendly against Sevilla and on your home debut against Bremen. As an experienced professional, were you moved by this show of appreciation?

"There were lots of different reactions on those occasions which made me very happy. The applause at the stadium, but also the chats I had at the autograph signing session: a lot of people said that they were really excited to have me back at the club. That's obviously really nice to hear and is encouraging. I also recognised a lot of the fans. One of the things that's special about TSG is that everyone knows each other here. I really love that."

How did you feel when you pulled into Zuzenhausen for the first time?

"It just felt familiar. I felt a lot of excitement to go back into the changing rooms and to get out onto the pitch, to see the staff. And once I was there, it felt as though I'd never been away. The squad has obviously changed slightly in the last two years, but many of the management personnel, physiotherapists and doctors are still here. It was very, very nice to see their faces and the people at headquarters too."

How was the introduction to the team?

"The lads gave me a superb welcome, I knew most of them already anyway. I actually wanted to get in a round of drinks but the other new signings already had done and time was running out. That's also how I got out of singing a song in front of the team. But I'll make up for all that at the winter training camp."

What song would you have sung?

"At Bayern and Schalke, I sang 'I believe I can fly'. There were a few weaknesses vocally, (laughs) but the performance was okay both times. There are videos too, but fortunately they're under lock and key. In Hoffenheim, however, I would've sung a different song. But I want that to be a surprise so I won't reveal it now."

"I'm absolutely delighted to be back here"

Was your time in Hoffenheim the best of your career?

"One hundred percent. The seven years I spent here were very special for me. I'll never forget it. That's another reason why I'm so happy to be back. It was an active decision on my part to return. I hold the club and the region very close to my heart. I have a lot of friends, the people here are truly lovely; it's just a good fit. The efforts TSG made were a real boost for me too. So there were no doubts about where I wanted to continue my career."

TSG have a purchase option for you. Would you like to stay here for longer and even end your career here?

"I'd definitely like to stay for longer and I can easily envisage ending my career at TSG. But I'm not thinking too much about the end of my career just yet. I'm only 29 and I'd like to keep playing as long as I feel good and am not in any pain. I still want to stay here for a long time and give everything. My wife and I would like to settle down here with our son. We've now found a nice house and we're now searching for a property for the future."

Alfred Schreuder has also moved to the Kraichgau region with his family. You previously worked alongside him when he was still an assistant coach in Hoffenheim. What's it like working together? 

"Alfred knows me well and knows exactly what my strengths are. He convinced me immediately in the talks we had in person: how he wants to play, what he wants to do and what he expects from me. I believe my strengths fit his expectations and I'm delighted to be playing under him as head coach here. He works very meticulously and explains to us very precisely what he wants to see. Even beforehand as an assistant, he spoke a lot with the players, worked on a lot of details and gave us assistance. He's a very positive person and is good for TSG."

"I gained a lot of important experiences"

As an FC Bayern player, you played in the Champions League. In addition, you fulfilled your dream of taking part in a World Cup and won the Bundesliga. How do you assess your time in Munich?

"It was a very positive year for me. I learned a lot, took a lot from it and I played a lot especially at the beginning. At Bayern, you get a different view of the Bundesliga and you play alongside world superstars. Everyone at the club has extraordinary quality that make the respective players unique. I don't want to miss out on this kind of experience and I'd make exactly the same decision to move to Munich all over again: I gained a lot of important experiences and I became a better player as a result."

In hindsight, did you fall out of favour once Jupp Heynckes replaced Carlo Ancelotti, under whom you were a first-team regular?

"It went very well at the start, but in football things often happen very quickly – although I wasn't expecting there to be a change of coach at the time. But then things went very badly afterwards. I accepted the change and tried to make the best of the situation. Everyone obviously wants to play and as a result everyone gets frustrated when they are not involved. But that also increased my motivation to improve and to get the absolute maximum out of myself, so that I could play better than the others. That was my objective and that's how I approached training."

You picked up your first Bundesliga winner's medal. Is there much satisfaction when it is decided at such an early stage?

"Absolutely. It's a career highlight – and one not many players get to experience. I did, and I'm very happy about it. The emotions at the celebrations were absolutely genuine too. I was incredibly delighted, but that goes for the entire team – even for the players picking up their second or even their eighth title. The celebrations obviously weren't too boisterous as although we had wrapped up the league early, we still needed to concentrate on the Champions League. Then we lost at home to Stuttgart before our planned celebration, which was obviously a minor mood-killer. A party directly after winning the title in Augsburg would definitely have made for a better atmosphere."

You didn't manage to get a World Cup winner's medal, but you did fulfil your dream of taking part in a tournament.

"I'd narrowly missed out on the two previous tournaments, so it was satisfying enough to simply be involved at the World Cup in Russia. Unfortunately, though, it didn't go well for the team and I personally had a bit of bad luck because I started the second game but then broke my nose and had to be substituted off after 25 minutes. That was very bitter, as I missed out on the second group match against Sweden. A day later, my mask was ready and I would've probably been ready. But I'm nonetheless happy to have been involved and to have been able to gain this experience. It's not something I'll ever forget."

"The German national team is still on my mind"

At present, you're not playing for the national team. There's been a real upheaval. Is the topic off the agenda for you?

"The German national team is still on my mind. But I obviously know that I'll need to play very well at TSG consistently to play my way back into contention. However, I'll do everything in my power to draw attention to myself. Playing for the national team again is one of my objectives."

How does one find out that he is temporarily not in the frame? Is he removed from a WhatsApp group?

"There's a new WhatsApp group per international break and tournament. So you don't suddenly have to read: Joachim Löw removed you." (laughs)

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