Benji, what are your first impressions of your new head coach David Wagner after a few sessions?
He has a positive energy and gives us new ideas. He’s also very active in his communication – always looking to talk to the team and individuals. The team spirit at the first few training sessions has been great. I have a very good feeling about the new coach and I think we’ll have a good season with him.
Last season was disappointing. Have you reviewed it again?
Especially at the start of my holiday I couldn’t really get away from it. The way I see it, there were several reasons for the disappointing campaign – the bad start of five consecutive defeats made everything much harder going forward. We had a lot of midweek games, so never really had the chance to improve at training. Once one game finished, it was often time for the next one. Aside from the odd good result, this made things increasingly difficult. In the end we got off lightly. We should shrug off the season quickly, but also learn from our mistakes.
We have to learn from our mistakes.
Where did you spend your holiday?
I was in Uzès almost the whole time, my home town. It’s a small place near Montpellier – my family still live there. For me it was just fantastic to spend the holiday with the people who mean the most to me. My parents, grandparents, my brother, my uncle, my nephew – they were all there. My family visit me in Germany more often, but it’s been a long time since we were able to spend a whole month together.
How did you keep fit?
I played a lot of football in recent years, but I let that be this year, because I was afraid of injuring myself during a kick-about. I was desperate to start pre-season fully fit and niggle-free. Every player received an individual training plan after the end of the season. I completed mine and feel good.
Did you stay in touch with your teammates during your holiday?
We’ve got a Whatsapp group where a lot of silly pictures and videos got sent (laughs). Weston McKennie especially has been sending a lot of videos from the Gold Cup in the US. I’m crossing my fingers for him and his team at the tournament.
For me it was just fantastic to spend the holiday with the people who mean the most to me.
Schalke have signed a talented player in Ozan Kabak, who plays in defence, just like you. Did you know him personally before the transfer?
We played against him in the Champions League last season – Domenico Tedesco had singled him out to us before the game. He spoke of a very young centre back, already very mature in his game, and one of the team’s most important players. Kabak proved this to be true out on the pitch. He was one of Galatasaray’s best players. I’ve spoken to him a lot over the past few days. I think he’s a top bloke. Unfortunately he sustained an injury the other day – I hope he recovers quickly.
On Sunday you play your first friendly of the pre-season, and not so far from Gelsenkirchen. Are you looking forward to the game in Oberhausen?
Definitely. I think a lot of fans will be there and I am especially looking forward to playing in our new kit.