Niklas Süle: I'll come back stronger
Niklas Süle has been working hard towards his comeback for months, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. The 24-year-old talked about his rehab at the Säbener Strasse, the postponed Euros and his overriding goal of becoming the world's best centre-back in an interview with club magazine '51'.
Niklas Süle interviewed
Niklas, you've been at Säbener Straße almost every day even during the coronavirus restrictions. Did it feel pretty lonely?
A bit. At times there were only four of us here, the garage was empty. Still, we worked well and with focus. Besides me, there was only Ivan Perišić going through his rehab after his ankle operation. So at least there was one teammate there, and I could talk about other things with him. It was fine on the whole. Everyone in my family is healthy and I'm on course with my rehabilitation. Even though times are tough, I feel good.
One silver lining in this crisis is that it's given you a bit more time to work on your comeback.
It's a difficult situation, this pandemic has taken on unprecedented dimensions for all of us. But I'd be lying if I didn't say it's earned me some crucial time for my rehabilitation. I'm sure I would've made it to the Euros with my normal schedule, but this has made the window much bigger.
This is the second time you've torn the cruciate ligament in your left knee. How have you dealt with it?
It was irrelevant that it was my second cruciate ligament tear. On the contrary, I knew what was coming and that I'd already overcome it once before. I was always a positive guy, and the fact I was operated on by Professor Fink in Innsbruck on the very first day was important for my psyche. Not waiting long and then getting on with it. When something bad happens, I try to make the best of it, whether in sport or my private life. Of course, there were days during my rehab where I would've preferred to stay in bed, especially when there wasn't any visible progress, but I was always motivated and kept going. That's also thanks to our physios and fitness coaches.
When you joined Bayern, you were behind World Cup winners Jérôme Boateng and Mats Hummels, but you quickly earned your place in the team. Now you're starting from the chasing pack again, or do you have a different standing?
Back then I wasn't starting from scratch. Even though I knew who was in front of me, I backed myself to apply pressure. I've never lacked confidence, otherwise I wouldn't have joined Bayern. I'm 100 percent convinced that I'll come back stronger after my rehabilitation. I'll need time but I've got no doubt.
Would you say you're now an old hand or still someone who has to learn?
You never stop learning, but as a Germany international and in three years with Bayern, I've been able to gain experience at the very highest level. I don't see myself as a promising young player anymore. I turn 25 in the autumn and my goal now is to be a leader. I'm not that vocal but I get on very well with all the players, so I can do my bit for the mood within the team. I'm not the captain type like Manuel Neuer and Thomas Müller, or like Joshua Kimmich certainly will be one day, but I want to lead from the front with my performances and help the team with my body language.
You've said you want to be the best centre-back in the world. You were making good progress, but are you starting anew?
Virgil van Dijk joined Liverpool at 27 and has made the step to becoming the best defender in the world. He's now at the top at just under 30. Centre-backs reach their peak from their mid-20s. You have the necessary experience and calmness, as well as being at your physical peak. I want to take the next big step in the next two, three years. And if people say that I'm among the best in the world, I'll be happy. That's my aim.
In contrast to van Dijk, you don't need to move club for that...
Exactly. He wasn't on everyone's radar at Southampton, but he was able to step it up a notch at Liverpool. I have every chance at Bayern. I'll work hard on myself, and then it's all in my hands whether I become one of the best centre-backs in the world or not.