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On the spot

Zvjezdan Misimovic

Wolfsburg's Zvjezdan Misimovic has been one of the big revelations of the season. With five games to go, table-toppers Wolfsburg are hot favorites for the title, an accolade the 27-year-old won with Bayern in 2003.

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DW: What qualities does a great playmaker need?

Zvjezdan Misimovic: I think a playmaker always has to be available to take passes. If the team is in possession of the ball, the playmaker has to help his teammates, setting up the strikers, or working in defense to close down the opposition. You never have time to rest, you always have to work for the team.

It's often said the playmaker determines the rhythm of the game. What does that mean?

For example, if you're under pressure you can keep the ball or provoke a foul, simply to break your opponent's rhythm. There are other situations you have to read, like when you spot a gap. You have to be quick and be the one who sets the pace of your team.

Which players do you look up to?

Zinedine Zidane was my role model in his playing days. Watching him play was a feast for the eyes, the way he controlled the ball.

Is his style of play comparable with your own?

It's always hard to copy other players. You have to have your own style and play your own game and not try to replicate another player. I have a couple of DVDs of him and I watch them now and again before games, or when I feel like it. But you could never copy him and shouldn't even try.

So you watch DVDs before games for inspiration?

Yes, sometimes, to see his movement. But not before every match. Maybe once a month or once every two months, depending on whether I'm in the mood.

It seems to work. Misimovic has set up 18 goals this season, more than anyone else. His sumptuous passes have been converted by Grafite and Edin Dzeko. The two Wolfsburg strikers have scored 38 goals between them, another Bundesliga best. The three players are the most formidable attacking force in the league.

How is it playing with those two?

It's loads of fun. They complement each other very well. Both Grafite and Edin Dzeko move well. They're always looking for gaps in the defence and sometimes you just have to play the ball into the space and they're right there. Edin is the more elegant of the two. He can do more on the ball and has great control over his body. And he's made huge improvements in his heading game. Grafite thrives on his athleticism. If he has space he's almost impossible to stop. Both of them know exactly where the goal is and harmonize really well.

You're often praised for your skills but you're often criticized for being slow. Is that true?

I'm certainly not the fastest player. I'm aware of that, but I think there are other players who aren't fast and play at European level or at the highest level of the game. I think you can compensate a lot if you simply think quicker, if you react quicker. Then maybe you can make up a couple of milliseconds.

How difficult is training under Felix Magath?

Pre-season training isn't much fun, no doubt about it. There aren't many people who really enjoy running around or carrying medicine balls. But it's part of the process. That's the way it is.

How does Magath make the team strong?

I think the coach has a big impact. He has a concept and he looks for players who fit into that concept. His track record shows he's right. Wolfsburg almost got relegated twice. He came to the club last year and took it straight into the UEFA Cup. This season we are well on our way to getting a European spot for next season as well.

Last year, Wolfsburg were resurgent after the winter break. It's the same this year. Why?

Because we are physically fitter and that carries us through the whole season.

Five teams are in contention for the Bundesliga title, who will win it?

I think if everything goes as normal Bayern Munich will win it. They certainly have the best quality squad, and probably the most experienced as well. They know how to deal with these kinds of situations. Our goal wasn't to be German champions and we're still a long way from that.

But hand on heart, you're ahead of Bayern, you beat them 5:1 and you're still not talking about winning the Bundesliga?

The league is so even. Every team is capable of beating every other team. Stuttgart were already written off and now they're back in contention. Hoffenheim were top before the winter break, now they're eighth. Things can change very quickly, so we have no need to talk about it yet. I've always said if we're still up there shortly before the end we can aim for the title, but not before then.

How do you feel about the euphoria surrounding Wolfsburg?

It's nice for the supporters. When you're up at the top you're treated very differently, by the media and by people generally. The most important thing is where we are at the end. Of course it's nice at the moment but we can't let it go to our heads. We have to keep our feet on the ground and keep working on ourselves. The difficult thing is to maintain this level and make sure it's not just a one-off. I think we have the potential and psychologically are able to cope.

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