Created on 12-03-2018 at 14:00 PM
Twenty Bundesliga appearances, five in the Champions League and three in the DFB Cup – Niklas Süle’s first nine months at Bayern have been impressive. In an interview with fcbayern.com, the 22-year-old centre back has spoken about his time in Munich so far, his experience in the Champions League and the coming game away at Besiktas.
Niklas, your parents are currently here visiting. Are they making sure you’re not up to no good?
Süle: “No, no (laughs). My parents visit quite often, especially around matches. I always like when they come. I moved out of our home quite early when I started boarding at Hoffenheim at 14. But I always had a connection with my family – they’re the most important thing for me.”
Your parents are probably your most honest critics. How strict were they with you?
Süle: “I always had a great relationship with my parents. My father really loves football and is my biggest critic, which I think is good. He really supported me in my footballing development. My mother isn’t really interested in football but always placed great value on school and my personal development.”
So did you have problems in school?
Süle: “I kind of neglected that a bit (grins). Thinking back, I can only blame myself. I put all my eggs in one basket, but luckily came up trumps. Nowadays I understand why my parents were so critical of me, and if I had the chance again I’d handle school differently.”
Do you think your parents are proud of you?
Süle: “I think they’re mostly proud that my brother and I have both feet on the ground. We’re open, cheerful and reasonably sensible people (grins). I think they’re proud of what my brother and I have done with our careers.”
In terms of work, things have gone well for you in your first year at FC Bayern. You’ve made plenty of appearances but scored just one goal. You used to be a striker when you were younger…
Süle: “It all started really well. I scored the first goal of this Bundesliga season. Since then I’ve had promising moments, and I do get plenty of chances for a defender, but I don’t score often enough from them. I definitely want to improve there. Things will get better with hard work.”
What do you have to work on first as a 21-year-old coming to Bayern?
Süle: "This club is a completely different kettle of fish. Säbener Straße is known throughout the world and you know the players from TV. First of all, you have to get used to the level of training. Every ball is contested, every situation discussed. That’s what moves you on. And when you see a player like Arjen Robben, who has achieved everything, and how he works every day in the weights room – that’s truly inspiring for a young player like me.”
At Bayern you have to win every game.
Süle: “And I had to learn that as well. We won our first Champions League game of the season 3-0 against Anderlecht, but even then the team’s performance was criticised to an extent. That was unknown for me. I’ve gotten used to that now because that’s how it is at Bayern.”
Speaking of the Champions League, you’ve played European football for the first time this season. Do you get more excited about a game during the week at 20:45 than you do on a Saturday at 15:30?
Süle: “During my time at Hoffenheim, it was always a must to sit on the couch with friends on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to watch the Champions League. Now I’m a part of that. I played in Paris, even if the result wasn’t that good, but it was an unbelievably important experience for me. To compete alongside the best is why you come to Bayern. Then there was the game at Celtic, which was an amazing experience. It’s unbelievable to be able to experience all of this as a young player in my first Champions League campaign.”
You don't seem to have had any problems adapting to the level of the Champions League.
Süle: “The Champions League is really tough. I remember the first game against Anderlecht. Everyone was expecting us to win easily, but then we stepped out onto the pitch and saw that the opposition could also play really good football. In the Champions League, even clubs that don’t have the name of a Real Madrid or Barcelona still have real quality. I’m lucky to play for a team that’s been a part of this competition for decades and always looks to go as far as possible. That makes it easier for me to find my feet at this level."
Now the team is off to Istanbul. What does the clear result from the first leg mean for the second?
Süle: “It goes without saying that 5-0 is a comfortable cushion, but we’re expecting an extraordinary atmosphere, and Besiktas have a good team. We saw that in the first 15 minutes of the first leg when the game was still 11 vs. 11. Nevertheless, we still want to win in Istanbul. We won’t let ourselves get carried away but simply play our game.”
What are you expecting from Besiktas?
Süle: “They’ll try to put us under pressure and win the game in front of their own fans. I’m really looking forward to the stadium, but I think we have enough experience in the team to not be overawed by that.”
The league title is now within touching distance. How excited are you for this title?
Süle: “I’m really looking forward to it. It’ll be my first title, which is something special. The league title is the biggest thing you can achieve in German club football.”
You have a number of tattoos already. Are you planning on adding the Bundesliga Meisterschale to your collection?
Süle: "No, I’m not planning that."
What did your parents say to you when you came home with your first tattoo?
Süle: “They weren’t shocked (smiles). I wanted to get a tattoo when I was 12 but they said ‘You can forget about that. When you’re 18, you can do what you want.’ So they were prepared for me getting my first tattoo at 19.”