In November 2010, Andre Schurrle made his international debut for Germany against Sweden. The 21-year-old has been a key fixture in coach Joachim Low’s squads ever since and participated in his first major international tournament at UEFA EURO 2012 in Poland/Ukraine.
The Bayer Leverkusen midfielder, who was on the radar of several top European clubs in the summer transfer window, so far has 17 caps and seven goals for Germany.
FIFA.com spoke exclusively to the forward about his aims for his second season at Leverkusen, the attentions of top European clubs, the disappointing UEFA EURO 2012 exit and his FIFA World Cup™ dream.
FIFA.com: You only had a short break after EURO 2012. How did your preparations go?
Andre Schurrle: Having a holiday after the tournament was really important as I was very tired. After the preparations I feel good again. I did a lot of individual training and am fit for the season.
In your first term at Leverkusen you finished in fifth. This year many people expect the team to reach at least fourth. How do you think your club compares to the rest of the Bundesliga competition?
We don’t need to be scared of anyone. Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have the best chances of finishing at the top, but then there are seven or eight teams who are at the same level. At Leverkusen we don’t have a huge squad, but we have a lot of quality. If we can show that out on the pitch then we’re capable of anything.
On the European stage Leverkusen are taking part in the UEFA Europa League this season. History has shown it's a competition where anything is possible.
We reached the last 16 of the Champions League last season despite being in a very tough group. We’re going into the Europa League with a lot of confidence. Our first aim is to reach the knockout rounds.
Many experts were dissatisfied with your performances in your first year at Bayer. However, the statistics tell a different story: seven goals and six assists represent a very good haul. How satisfied were you personally?
I know that I’ve still got plenty of room for improvement, even if the stats aren’t all that bad. However I’m the kind of person who always demands the best from himself. I push myself a lot and that’s how I know that I can still do more. Physically and technically I’m at a very high level and I hope to get more goals and assists in order to help the team.
The 2014 World Cup is my main aim. It’s a much bigger tournament than a European Championship.
How did you cope with the pressure following your €10m transfer from Mainz to Leverkusen, a Bundesliga record for a 19-year-old?
Pressure is part of everyday life in professional football and was automatically there after my transfer from Mainz. But I can handle it well and don’t put myself under pressure as I’m confident in my own abilities and know my strengths.
Other top European clubs are aware of them too. How flattering is their interest in you and how does it affect your concentration?
Offers from big clubs are a confirmation of the work I’ve been doing. It’s a huge honour for me. At some point it’s a step I’d like to take, but right now I’m focusing entirely on Bayer Leverkusen.
Moving on to the national team, how did you get over the disappointment of being eliminated in the semi-finals at EURO 2012?
At first it was hard to take in. As a young player, getting knocked out for the first time at a big tournament made for a tough few days. But after a while I was able to look back and take lots of positives from it. As a team we played very good football and I was very satisfied on a personal level too. Now I’m concentrating fully on new targets with club and country.
Just six months ago you said in an interview that your aim was to be in the first 11 with the national team. How do you view your progress within the side since then?
I view it very positively. Recently I’ve played a lot, have performed well and even managed to score a few goals. I feel good within the national team setup and it’s a lot of fun to play there. In the future I’ll give everything as well, but you can’t forget that we have a huge amount of quality in the squad. Everyone is replaceable because we have such strength in depth.
How do you see the team developing further? Critics are currently talking of stagnation.
It’s easy to see how much the team has progressed. Increasing numbers of good players are being called up to the side and our statistics have also improved. At the Euros we had more possession and more shots on goal than at the 2010 World Cup. You can’t say that’s stagnation. In the semi-final at the European Championship we didn’t play our best and we lost to a very strong Italian side. It’s as simple as that.
The next big objective is the FIFA World Cup 2014. In qualifying Germany face Sweden, Republic of Ireland, Austria, Faroe Islands and Kazakhstan. Is it a manageable group?
Of course our group is manageable. We know we have lots of quality and we have a very strong team. Nevertheless, we can’t take any of them lightly. We’ll need to give everything, especially in the games against Sweden, Ireland and Austria, as they all have very good players.
Brazil 2014 would be your first FIFA World Cup. How eager are you to play there?
The 2014 World Cup is my main aim. It’s a much bigger tournament than a European Championship. It would be great to be part of it, especially in Brazil, where they absolutely love football. In the next two years I’ll give everything to get there.