Things could hardly be going better for Anatoliy Tymoschuk. A regular for both Bayern Munich and the Ukrainian national team, the 32-year-old midfielder also has next year’s UEFA EURO 2012 on home turf to look forward to.
In an exclusive interview with FIFA.com, Tymoschuk discusses his future, next summer's finals in Poland/Ukraine and his ‘lucky’ armband.
FIFA.com: Bayern Munich have made a fantastic start in both the Bundesliga and the UEFA Champions League this season. What are the reasons for the team's current success?
Anatoliy Tymoschuk: The team enjoys a lot more freedom under the new coach (Jupp Heynckes). The players have more belief in their own abilities and we've managed to find the right balance between defence and attack. At Bayern, anything other than a victory is considered a failure. We're top of the Bundesliga and on course to reach our goal, but it's very tight at the top of the table and we have some big challenges ahead. The Champions League is another tournament we could win, but everyone knows how difficult that is.
Your contract with Bayern expires in 2012. Have you had any thoughts about moving on?
I haven't thought about it just yet. I did receive a few proposals from other clubs both in the Bundesliga and abroad over the summer, but at the moment I’m happy at Bayern. I haven't thought about ending my career either because I feel I still have a lot to offer, but as I've said several times in the past, I think it would be fitting to see out my playing days with one of the clubs I enjoyed success with in the past.
You are the vice-captain of the Ukrainian national team. How much does it mean to wear the armband?
The role of captain is a great responsibility for any player, although it's hardly anything new for me. I've played in a lot games as captain for my clubs and for the national team. The most important thing is to give your team-mates the support they need and help them to adapt, especially in the national team where there is often a lack of time to prepare. You have to set a good example to help the team reach its potential.
Does it make you proud to be Ukraine's record caps holder with 111 international appearances?
It’s great to have played so many games for the national team. It’s quite an achievement, but I’m not one to rest on my laurels. I'm thankful every time I pull on the blue and yellow jersey.
Ukraine take on Germany in a friendly on 11 November. Will it be a particularly special match for you considering you know the likes of Neuer, Lahm, and Schweinsteiger from Bayern?
It's a very important game for us because the German national team is one of the strongest in the world. And yes, the match will be special for me because I know a lot of their players from Bundesliga. Many of them played or play at Bayern, so it'll be interesting to go toe to toe with some of my club colleagues. When we exchange shirts, I think I'd like to add Miroslav Klose's to my collection because we're good friends.
Ukraine have lost games against France, Uruguay, Czech Republic and Sweden in recent months. Do those results reflect the strength of the national side?
If you consider the skill of our players and how well we played, we didn’t deserve those results, but these things happen in football. Our upcoming fixtures will show whether we've learned from the defeats and where we go from here. The Ukrainian national team is physically very strong and we always show the required desire and commitment because it’s never nice to lose.
What can Ukraine achieve as co-hosts of UEFA EURO 2012 next year?
It’s a home championship for us, so we should try to enjoy it and get the results our fans deserve. Our main priority is to get out of our group. None of our players have played at a European Championship before, so we have to make use of the experience we’ve gained in our international matches to date and make sure the younger players get used to the level of the national team. Then we can show what we’re really capable of.
How much have things changed in Ukraine since it was announced the country would be a co-host of the tournament?
Several new stadiums have been built, including the one in Kyiv where we will play Germany. Stadiums, airports and infrastructures should all be ready in time to satisfy visitors from all over Europe. The atmosphere of the tournament will convince our guests to come back again and again.
The next major international tournament after the European Championships is the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ in Brazil. Ukraine have been drawn alongside England, Montenegro, Poland, Moldova and San Marino in qualifying. What are your thoughts on the group?
It's undoubtedly one of the strongest groups, and we're going to have to perform at our very best if we want to make it to the World Cup. We must show our best football in every game. We played England few years ago, so it'll be interesting to play against them again, although most of our attention will be on the two games against Poland.
You will be 35 in 2014. Are you hopeful of playing at the FIFA World Cup in Brazil?
Any player who has taken part in a World Cup and experienced the unbelievable atmosphere will always want to do it again at least once. I can’t predict what will happen, but I feel great and I’m in good physical condition. If there is a chance I can be a part of it, I'll grasp it with both hands. Brazil is a football country and I'm sure the tournament will make a positive impression on everybody.
Finally, there is an interesting story that when you were captain at Shakhtar Donetsk and at Zenit St. Petersburg, you wore Lothar Matthaus' armband from the 1994 FIFA World Cup.
That’s right, I wore the armband for the first time as captain of Shakhtar. The assistant coach, Alexandru Spiridon, played for Moldova and when they played against Germany, he exchanged armbands with Lothar Matthaus after the game. When he found out that I’ve always liked Matthaus, he gave me the armband. It brought me lots of success too: the Ukrainian league title, the Ukrainian Cup and the Super Cup, as well as the UEFA Cup and the UEFA Super Cup. I think it brings me good luck. It's in a bank safety deposit box at the moment.