Much to the delight of German football followers, and Wolfsburg fans in particular, Diego is back in the Bundesliga and doing what he does best: creating and scoring goals. Forming a lethal attacking trident with Bosnian striker Edin Dzeko and fellow Brazilian Grafite, whose two headed goals in last weekend's 2-1 win over Freiburg were both supplied by the former Werder Bremen playmaker, the diminutive 25-year-old has helped spark a run of three consecutive wins to revive the fortunes of a team that began the campaign with three straight defeats.
In an exclusive interview with FIFA.com, Diego discussed a range of issues including why he left Serie A giants Juventus to return to Germany, a new era for the Brazilian national team and Wolfsburg’s chances of claiming a second ever Bundesliga crown.
FIFA.com: Diego, what’s it been like to come back to German football? Would it be too much to say it’s almost like returning home, given just how well your first spell in Germany went?
Diego: Yes, to a degree you could say that. I was very happy during my first spell here, at Werder Bremen, and I’ve always had a lot of affection for this country. I’m hoping things work out equally well with Wolfsburg. I’m finding it interesting getting to know the club and, while the country is the same, the way things are happening seems different. It’s like I’m discovering it for the first time again.
What was the biggest factor behind your return to Germany?
Juventus didn’t have a good season last term, the team performed well below expectations. I’ve got history here in Germany and Wolfsburg made me a great offer. I was happy to be able to come back.
You’ve said that you always enjoyed a good relationship with the Juve supporters, so did you have any regrets at all when you left the club?
Juventus went through a series of problems. We had a good team that didn’t live up to expectations. Yes, the fans were great to me and they were always asking me to stay at the club, but I didn’t leave Italy with any regrets. I’d have liked to have won some silverware, but it was a worthwhile experience.
Given that Wolfsburg have a new coach in Steve McClaren and new players such as yourself, could the fact that the club are not involved in European competition this season be beneficial for you and the team?
Whenever a team misses out on Europe and changes coach, it always goes through a process of transition. And I think that yes, that will help me settle. That said, I’d still prefer to see Wolfsburg taking part in the biggest competitions, and we’re going to battle to make sure that’s the case next season.
How do you see Wolfsburg’s chances of winning a second Bundesliga title in 2010/11?
We’ve got just as good a chance as any other big club. We’ve had a difficult start but we know that we’ll bounce back. It’s just a question of time before Wolfsburg are battling it out at the top of the table again. And with Grafite and Dzeko, we’ll be more dangerous going forward.
Two factors that set the German Bundesliga apart from other major European leagues are the fact it is so well-balanced and its high average attendance figures. In a nutshell, how would you define German football fans?
Local derbies are really important here. Every city has a team and the fans stay faithful to their side and turn up in huge numbers, even during the bad times. The impression you get is that matches are a compulsory part of the calendar here.
Changing tack a little, one of the trends at the recent FIFA World Cup™ was the success of technically gifted teams like Germany and eventual winners Spain. Do you think this will be reflected at club level?
I hope so. Nowadays there’s a tendency for teams to either put their faith in a skilful approach, which we saw at the World Cup, or in a defensive one like Jose Mourinho used to win the Champions League and beat Barça (his then Inter Milan side beat the Catalans in the semi-finals). It just remains to be seen whether the two schools can coexist.
Turning to the Brazilian national team, since taking the job Mano Menezes has promised to reintroduce a more creative brand of football to A Seleção. After what you saw at South Africa 2010, do you think that’s the right approach?
Brazil are undergoing a process of transition. The national team should put faith in technical ability, but without neglecting tactical strength. I think that Mano Menezes is going to do a good job and I’ll do everything I can to be part of this new era.
Menezes has moved quickly to bring in younger players and, while you’re by no means a veteran, you’re certainly an experienced performer. Given this generational transition, do you worry about being overlooked? By which I mean you’re much younger than the likes of Gilberto Silva, but much older than Neymar for example...
I think I’ve got everything it takes to get back into the national team. I’ll be a good age when the World Cup in Brazil comes around. Aside from which I’ve got plenty of experience, which really counts. But more than anything else, it’s all going to depend on my form. By playing well I can ensure I get back in the squad. I really want to play in the World Cup on home soil.