Jochen Tittmar published a wonderful interview with Jonas Hofmann on spox.com. The midfielder talks about his time in Mainz, his injury trouble, BVB’s previous season, new beginnings and his own ambitions. Here is the English translation.
Spox: Mr. Hofmann, after one season at 1. FSV Mainz 05 you’re back at BVB. What went through your head when Jakub Blaszczykowski, your rival for the position in right midfield, suffered a long-lasting muscle tear right after your loan move to Mainz was completed?
Jonas Hofmann: That was obviously unfortunate for me. Jürgen Klopp and Michael Zorc underlined at the time, that the loan deal wouldn’t have happened, if Kuba had injured himself a couple of days earlier. Either way the stint in Mainz was good for me. I gained a lot of experiences, even though I was injured for a longer time.
Spox: You signed for Mainz on the very last day of the transfer period last summer. Was the loan a topic throughout the entire off-season or was it really decided at the end of August?
JH: When it was clear, that Shinji Kagawa would come back, the club reached out to me and told me, that my chance to get match time had decreased. They left the decision to me, whether I would look for a one-year loan in order to pick up more match experience. So it was up to me to decide what would happen next.
Spox: Were you surprised?
JH: Admittedly, it wasn’t a nice moment at first. I had to let it sink in for a while. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that a loan move under these circumstances would be a sensible decision.
Spox: Did the option to got to Mainz already exist?
JH: No. Mainz inquired about me in the summer of 2013 and actually made a good case for a transfer. I find the club also very cool. I sat down with Michael Zorc and looked, whether there was still a possibility for a loan deal. There were a few other clubs up for consideration, but my gut feeling said Mainz all along. The deal was closed in the last couple of hours of the transfer period. (laughs)
Spox: Under which conditions did the BVB officials let you go?
JH: It was clear from the getgo, that I would come back home after eight months. Mainz didn’t have a buy-option. It was very accommodating of Mainz to embark on such a short term loan deal.
SPOX: You were nearly gone, when an unforeseeable crisis emerged in Dortmund. How ‘glad’ were you in retrospect to not be present in last season’s squad?
JH: I think, that it was good for my moral to be intact. Especially, if I had only played few matches and would have been dragged through the season, so to speak. Instead I took the next step in my development as a footballer in Mainz.
SPOX: What did you think about Dortmund’s demise?
JH: The demise practically started with the loss in Mainz. It wasn’t easy for me. You want to help, but you are occupied somewhere else. Obviously I was in contact with the boys. Before every weekend I thought: This time they will win again and then nothing would go right. I was downright scared for Borussia Dortmund and had to endure the whole thing like every other BVB fan.
Spox: Meanwhile you started strong in Mainz and were a regular starter from the getgo. Then followed a ligament injury in your knee, surgery, a tendon rupture and another surgery. In the end you could only play 12 of 32 possible games, how disappointed were you?
JH: I was disappointed that I often had to read “Hopefully he will stay injury free for once.”, although it was my first injury. I was never injured during my time in BVB’s youth.
Spox: And shortly the second surgery followed….
JH: The second surgery was psychologically a bit easier to deal with, because I already knew what was ahead of me. The surgeon predicted, that I wouldn’t be sidelined as long as after my first surgery, which calmed me down a lot, since the summer break was already looming. It was important for me to know, that I wouldn’t lose too much time.
Spox: Would you address reproaches to yourself during that time?
JH: I was simply too driven after my first surgery. Maybe I entered the training too early. The right time to come back is always hard to estimate after such a long injury break. What I’ve learned: Even if you feel fit and ready, less is sometimes more.
Spox: How is your knee at the moment, are you taking any precautionary measures?
JH: I have to do special exercises so everything will stay permanently stable. Currently everything feels good and I don’t have any muscular repercussions.
Spox: Before your injury you played with a lot more confidence in Mainz than you’ve played in Dortmund. How do you explain that?
JH: I was allowed to play.
Spox: Was that the only factor?
JH: I believe so.
Spox: But it doesn’t automatically happen, that you feel more confident in your own capabilities.
JH: That is true. I was very happy, that it worked out so well for me. I want to feel needed as a footballer, which I think is true for every footballer. I felt comfortable and welcomed at Mainz right from the start and played 90 minutes every week. Suddenly things started to work, which I couldn’t pull off beforehand. On top of that, it was really going well in the entire club. We set a new starting record for Mainz with eight games unbeaten.
Spox: When it was all working out so well for you, did you ask yourself, whether a return to Borussia Dortmund would make sense?
JH: I would lie, if I said that I never thought about it. I think that is only human. On the other hand: If everything went the way I had intended, I wouldn’t have played for Mainz in the first place. I always felt completely at home in Dortmund. Also BVB is simply a whole different beast and I’m hoping to play internationally this season. I’m glad to be back at BVB.
Spox: Would you have also returned, had Jürgen Klopp stayed at the club?
Spox: How did you take it, when Klopp announced his departure?
JH: I had no clue at all and learned it like everyone else from the press conference. Naturally I thought at first: BVB without Klopp? Unthinkable! You had to digest the news at first. On the other hand, it’s not the world’s end. Now a new era can begin.
Spox: Would your restart have been possibly harder under Klopp, as you would have had your ‘old status’?
JH: Hard to say. After such a terrible season, everything will be reset. Jürgen Klopp indicated himself, that change is necessary. Change happened and now everyone is starting from scratch again.
Spox: Klopp had just resigned, when Thomas Tuchel was already designated as the new coach – and you were currently playing for his old club. Did you get any feedback on Tuchel in Mainz?
JH: The players and officials had only pleasant things to say. They told me, that the training will be interesting and diverse and he’s an easy character to deal with. I can reaffirm that now. They were immediately sure that he would fit into Dortmund and would be able to help the club.
Spox: You mentioned Mainz’s interested from two years ago earlier. Tuchel wanted to sign you, why didn’t it happen in the end?
JH: It was Jürgen Klopp’s veto. He public said, that ‘flirting’ was allowed, but nothing more. In retrospect I’m thankful, because my career would have taken a different turn instead.
Spox: When Tuchel became the Dortmund coach, did you personally meet beforehand?
JH: We spoke on the phone once. Since he had already shown interest in me in the past, I knew how he regards me as a player. There wasn’t too much talk necessary.
Spox: What does he like so much about your playing style?
JH: He values vertical runs and directness. I think I’m not one for step-overs and other shenanigans, but consequently going for goal.
Spox: Tuchel lauded your adaptability, after he tested you up top in the striker position against Luzern. Do you have a favourite position or do like your versatility?
JH: I would claim that every player has his favourite position. Since I wouldn’t call myself a seasoned Bundesliga player, I don’t want to reveal my preference. The main thing is that I play. That’s what counts for me. The position is irrelevant, I would even play in defense, if it has to be (laughs).
Spox: You just mentioned it: You haven’t managed to be a regular starter over a longer period yet. How important is it to achieve that for you and for your status as a player?
JH: When I recently turned 23, my teammates joked ‘Congratulations, you’re no longer a talent!’ (laughs). This year is extremely important for me. I want to become a regular starter – like everyone else. This is my aim. I really want to integrate myself into a team and become pivotal, so I can say by the end of the season: ‘now I’m truly a Bundesliga player’. I have already experienced a couple of things in my young career, but now it can really take off.
Spox: The competition is enormous at Borussia Dortmund, especially in midfield. What makes you confident, that you will get as much playing time as you desire?
JH: I’m still not even close to a 100 percent after my injury. The saying goes, that you need as long as you were out to fully regain your top form. Tuchel’s feedback is currently positive. I have to make up the missing percentage now, in order to continue convincing the coaching staff. I think, the world will be my oyster if I can achieve that.