Kevko, the home game against Augsburg went very well for you with a goal and an assist. Also, you have played often recently. How are you feeling at the moment and what does personal success like goals and assists mean to you?
It is definitely a nice feeling scoring goals. Unfortunately, I couldn’t really celebrate because the wind had just been knocked out of me. Overall though, goals don’t mean that much to me. I know that I’m not a player who’s going to score 25 goals in a season. At the beginning of my career in Fürth, Osnabrück and Salzburg I played more offensively, so I picked up a goal or an assist more here and there.
Even if I was positioned a bit further forward again against Augsburg, my main strength lies playing further back. I am a six that likes to actively play a part in the game, in and out of possession.
But I still really enjoyed the goal against FCA. My wife had her birthday the day before and my children were at the ground for the first time in a while. Because of that, it was something very special to score on that day with my family at the Red Bull Arena. It is always special to then take my kids onto the pitch after the game, and obviously I was really pleased that I was able to further help the whole team with a goal.
Bayer are the most in-form team in the Bundesliga, and haven’t lost in 11 games (eight wins). What makes them so strong?
I think that this change in form has come through changing the head coach. Bayer had a relatively poor start to the season, but Xabi Alonso’s handiwork has been clear to see for a number of months. They set up to play high tempo football, but are also very strong in possession and trust their abilities with the ball at their feet. With players like Diaby, Frimpong or Adli, they bring a lot of speed from out wide.
They play very directly towards the goal and create lots of triangles in different thirds of the pitch, as well as one-on-one situations because they know that they have technically versatile players in their ranks. When you win a couple of games in a row in football then self-confidence follows. This has been good to see with Bayer in the last few weeks.
Recently, they’ve been unable to get the win on a couple of occasions. We know how we can play against them.
Wir kommen mit drei Siegen im Rücken nach Leverkusen, wissen was wir können und verfolgen klare Ziele.
Bayer is your youth team club. Are you looking forward to going back to your old stomping ground?
I was at Bayer Leverkusen for 16 years in total and the BayArena is only 15 to 20 minutes away from my parents’ house. Large amounts of my family and friends still live in the area; lots of them will be at the ground on Sunday. I feel like I know everyone at the club, I joined Bayer at U9s and played for every team up to the first team, so I still have a special connection with Leverkusen.
You’ve had two spells at Leverkusen during your career (1997-2009 and 2015-2017). How do you look back to your time at the club?
I left Bayer at a really young age and returned there as a recognised professional after time with Salzburg and Dortmund. I enjoyed two good years there after returning and it was a successful spell – it was really enjoyable. I’m looking forward to returning, but I’m very happy to be doing it as an RB Leipzig player.
Our record in Leverkusen is good; we’re unbeaten in six away games (3 wins, 3 draws). Why can our unbeaten record continue on Sunday?
We’re heading to Leverkusen on the back of three consecutive victories, we know what we’re capable of and we know what our goals are. We want to qualify for the Champions League due to by finishing in the top four again and we want to maintain the distance between us and Leverkusen. We also have some important players returning for us – we’re even better with Christo Nkunku and Dani Olmo in the side.
Homies: Kevin and Emil
Within the team, it’s often said that you can imagine moving into coaching at some point. You live and breathe football. On Sunday, we’ll come up against an exciting coach in Xabi Alonso, who is in charge of his first professional club in Bayern Leverkusen. What do you make of him?
Correct. I spend a lot of time considering potentially becoming a coach after my active playing career comes to an end. I would really enjoy it.
Xabi Alonso is someone who experienced an incredible amount as a player and played at the absolute top level for years at clubs like Liverpool, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. Under the coaches across the various clubs he played for, such as Guardiola, Ancelotti and Benitez, he was able to learn a lot for his career as a coach.
Additionally, as a former world class player, he has a reputation that has an effect on his players. He’s developed his playing idea over the past few years and has continued to promote his philosophy. He’s on a good path and is doing a great job in Leverkusen. I’m enjoying watching his career.
Emil Forsberg has entered the room during the interview. Emil and Kevko have been two of the faces of the club for some years, and have a real connection both on and off the pitch. When asked if we could see the duo together after their playing careers, Kevko doesn’t need long to answer.
Yeah, at some point we’ll see Kevin Kampl the head coach with his assistant Emil Forsberg on the sideline, but there’s a bit of time until then (both laugh).