With Kylian Mbappe, Edinson Cavani and Neymar, Paris Saint-Germain have assembled a €500-million ($600 million) strike force. Julian Draxler spoke to DW about competing against such big stars – and captaining Germany.
DW: You’ve been at PSG since January. Tell us a little bit about your experience in Paris so far.
Julian Draxler: First of all, it was a huge step from Wolfsburg to Paris. The city, as well as the club, is very different. But I'm really enjoying it here. The city is really nice and of course I have a lot of fun playing alongside great players in a great squad.
How does Ligue 1 compare to the Bundesliga?
We have six or seven really good teams in Ligue 1. They are competitive in Europe as well and it's hard to play against them. The smaller teams are also very challenging as they are really focused on defending, so it's not easy. Many people say the quality of the league is not that good and I think at the moment the Premier League is better, but we are developing well here in France.
Did you have to adjust your game when you came here? Was there any element of it that was different to what you expected?
Not really because with PSG we play like the German national team. It's really similar, so I don't have too many problems. It wasn't that difficult for me but in some matches the teams are really focused on defending so it's not easy if you play against 10 defenders. You learn how to handle it from game to game and we know how to play against these teams.
PSG obviously have many big name stars. How do you feel about that? Does that help you or do you see that as a challenge?
I think everyone knows that Paris Saint-Germain has the biggest ambitions in club football. We want to win everything and we've spent big in the transfer market. I think now we can compete with every team in the world and we have to show that. We have to prove that we are a strong team.
Of course for me, it's not easy because we have Neymar, we have (Angel) Di María, we have (Javier) Pastore ... and many, many more, so it depends how you train, how you feel. You have to show the coach, that you are the right man for the match and that's what I will do. I came back late from the Confederations Cup this summer so I was a little behind the other players in terms of fitness. I had to work in training but now, step by step, I'm coming back. I will do everything to be in the first 11 and I'm sure I'm good enough to do that.
As you say, the team looks stronger this year. How difficult was it to recover after failing to win the league last season?
I came to Paris when we were in third place after Christmas so it was already difficult to catch Monaco because they had a wonderful year, that's true. I lost two games last year, one was against Barcelona and the other against Nice - both were matches that cost us titles.
It was hard for me because I didn't know that feeling, that you only lose two games, and you lose two titles. So it was difficult. You have to congratulate Monaco for last year but that's done now. The new season is underway and I'm sure we're going to make it. We will win Ligue 1 and of course we have also big goals in the Champions League.
Let's talk a little bit about the German national team. You were captain as Germany won the Confederations Cup in Russia. That must have been a huge honor.
Of course. When I talked to the coach about that, I was really excited to be the captain of the German national team. I think it's very special. Of course, I know that many of our big German players weren’t in the squad for the tournament but it doesn't matter for me. I was in a good position. I was one of the most experienced guys in the team, so the coach placed his trust in me. In the end we won it, and the coach made the right decisions. I was happy with my own performances at the tournament and I was happy to help the team as well.
Being captain is a new responsibility for you, especially for Germany. Has it changed the way you approach a game? Did it change your mentality in some way, because you, at had to look after these younger guys?
Yeah, it was a different role for me, definitely. When I first joined the German national team, I was 18. And of course, you look up to all the big stars we had at that time, and still have. This summer, I was in a different position because we had many young players, some of whom hadn’t played in the German national team before. I was one of the most experienced guys and tried to show them how you have to conduct yourself as a German player, and of course, the most important thing is how you perform on the field. That's what I wanted to do and I think I did well.
What kind of captain are you?
I would say I'm a quiet leader, but for me, it's still important to perform on the field. The team has to know that you are always there for them if they're not sure. "Okay, what should we do with the ball?" "Give it to me." "Give it to him, because he always knows what to do with the ball." I think that's really important. That's how I feel on the pitch, when I have the armband, and of course, if anyone has questions or problems off the field, you try to help them.
We saw the depth of German talent at the under 21 Euros. So it looks like German football has quite a bright future?
Definitely. And you can add all the great young players we have in the regular first squad so I think, yeah, we are ready for the future and we have big goals. In Russia, we want to show, that we are able to defend our World Cup title and I think we are moving in the right direction.
Only two teams have ever retained the World Cup in history, Italy and Brazil, so it’s not easily done. What's more, Germany have lost key veterans like Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Miroslav Klose ...
Of course it's difficult because each of them was a really huge personality and great player. But that's football! Players get old and new players arrive. That's what we need right now. There were a lot of younger players who didn't play a big role at in Brazil, like me. I played only one game - the semifinal against Brazil. But now I'm four years older and I want to make the next step and be an important part of the team. Of course, we will miss those older players but I think we're well prepared.
Julian Draxler, 24, is a product of Bundesliga club Schalke's academy. He made his first appearance in the senior side in 2011 – at the age of 17. In the summer of 2015 he moved to Wolfsburg, before demanding a transfer one year later. In January 2017 he moved to Paris Saint-Germain. He has made 37 appearances for the German national team.
The interview was conducted by Michael da Silva.