Andriy Voronin is a more than familiar face in the Bundesliga. The Ukraine international began his career with Borussia Monchengladbach, where he spent five seasons between 1995 and 2000. He then played for Mainz, Cologne and Bayer Leverkusen, before finally changing countries in 2007 and joining Premier League heavyweights Liverpool. He did not last long in England, however, and was loaned back to Germany in the summer of 2008, where he has been an integral part of Hertha Berlin's fine start to the season.
The 29-year-old also has his sights set on helping his country qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, alongside such stars as AC Milan's Andriy Shevchenko and Anatoliy Tymoschuk of Zenit. FIFA.com caught up with the forward for an exclusive interview.
FIFA.com: Andriy, having played in Gladbach, Cologne, Mainz, Leverkusen and now Berlin, you have certainly seen and experienced much of what the Bundesliga has to offer. What are your fondest memories thus far?
Andriy Voronin: I have very good memories from all the clubs I have played for in Germany. Leverkusen was obviously where I had the most success, but I have been very comfortable with all the clubs I have played for in Germany and always given my all for every shirt.
You are currently under contract with the team that has won the most league titles in England, Liverpool. What made you choose to go back to the Bundesliga and Hertha Berlin?
Liverpool made it perfectly clear to me that once they had bought Robbie Keane, I wouldn't get very much playing time - and with Keane, [Fernando] Torres, [Dirk] Kuyt and [Ryan] Babel there were certainly some big names that I would have been in competition with. The most important thing for me was to be playing, and when Hertha came along at the right time, I didn't think twice.
You will have to go back to England in the summer. Could you imagine staying longer in Berlin?
I certainly could imagine that. I feel very much at home in Berlin and Hertha is a very professionally run club. I'm more than ready to sit down and have talks.
Your contract with the Reds goes through to 2011, by which time you will be 32. Is there a particular club that you would still like to play for?
In the football business you never know what will happen next, but I think that I can look back on a good career. With Liverpool, I played for one of the top clubs in England in the toughest league in Europe. If I could choose though, I would like to play for Barcelona.
Two promoted clubs are certainly creating quite a stir at the moment; Hoffenheim in Germany and Hull City in England. Are you surprised that these two clubs are able to hold their own with the top teams?
If you look at how Hoffenheim have invested and how they operate, it's no surprise. We've already played Hoffenheim and I have to say that they do have some good footballers. I'm too far away to comment much on Hull City, but basically there is always a surprise team or two every season in every league.
Having played in both the Premier League and the Bundesliga, which is the stronger?
The Premier League is always described as the strongest league in Europe. The tempo there is very high and everything goes incredibly quickly there. I think that the Bundesliga is also of a very high standard, and I'm very pleased to be able to play in the Bundesliga again.
Moving on to international football. Ukraine are yet to lose in the qualifiers but they are only third in the table behind England and Croatia. What are your chances of making it to South Africa 2010?
Of course we're hoping to qualify for the World Cup in South Africa. At the moment we have a game in hand which should end with us getting another three points. We'll fight right up until the final match.
At Germany 2006, Ukraine made it to the quarter-finals but then failed to qualify for UEFA EURO 2008. Why was there such a difference between the performances?
We had a really strong qualifying group for the EURO. The two 2006 World Cup finalists were in there, namely Italy and France, as well as Scotland. It was an incredibly tough group, and we had virtually no chance of getting through.
What is Ukraine's real level?
It's difficult to say at the moment, since we have a lot of young players in the squad and the team is being rebuilt. I think that the team has a bright future ahead of it but that it needs a little more time.
You have only scored four goals in 47 internationals, whereas you have a far better ratio in domestic football. Why have you not been able to carry over this success into the international arena?
It's down to the fact that I often play in midfield and have to put in a lot of defensive work. Then there is also the different system that we sometimes play, but yes, I definitely need to score more goals for Ukraine.
Back to the Bundesliga for one final question. What can Hertha achieve this year, and who do you think will win the league?
We'll try to make it into the European places, but a lot of clubs who have spent a great deal more money than us have the same idea. There are three or four teams at the top who can do battle for the title. By my reckoning they are Bayern [Munich], Schalke, [Bayer] Leverkusen and [Werder] Bremen, and maybe also Hamburg.