Bavarian Football Works staffer Jack Laushway is attending Bayer Leverkusen’s training camp in Austria and will be interviewing several key players of the squad during this week. Leverkusen are shaping up to one of the most exciting teams in the upcoming Bundesliga season and Granit Xhaka was one of the players who spoke with BFW during the week.
Granit Xhaka had just come off an all-time personal best season with Arsenal FC, and decided to switch it up this summer by signing with the up-and-coming Bayer Leverkusen. The midfielder was signed for 15 million euros and will join former Bayern Munich player Xabi Alonso and Die Werkself in the upcoming Bundesliga season.
When compared to his new manager Xabi Alonso, Xhaka kept it humble despite the similarities in their play style.
“To compare myself with him is an honor, everyone knows what player he was,” Xhaka said in the interview. “When I was first in Germany when I played Bayern Munich, so you can learn a lot of things about this type of players. I think we have similarity for sure, but to compare is really an honor. It is an honor to be a part of his team as well.”
And it sounds like Xabi already has plans to quickly integrate the newly-arrived Swiss international.
“We discussed this before I moved here. He saw me as a number 6, and I see myself there as well. Being an 8 worked at Arsenal but it was a different type of team and different type of formation. Wherever he needs me, I try to help the team. There is freedom as well, we can move around,” stated Xhaka.
But after all such a strong season in the Premier League with Arsenal, why move?
“It was a very simple reason, I didn’t move against Arsenal, I moved for Leverkusen,” explained Xhaka. “It was a special seven years and I felt the love but I wanted to leave and have a new challenge with Leverkusen. I am more than happy with the step I made by coming here.”
While it will certainly be a new challenge for Xhaka — after a special season, to boot — it won’t be his first rodeo in the German top flight. Many Bundesliga fans will recognize Xhaka for his previous stint with Gladbach. The Xhaka that returns, though, will be far more seasoned than the fiery youth of those four seasons (2012-2016), tempered by the experience of his Arsenal years.
“I came in as a boy, in 2023 I’m a man. That is the biggest difference,” said Xhaka. “I had a good time before, but I had actions where I took red cards where you can see I lacked experience, very young. That doesn’t mean I’m not the same player, I will play aggressive and push the team to the limits. We can achieve a lot of things with this team.”
Bayer Leverkusen is now on the radar of all Bundesliga fans, after a serious surge up the table last season and now a plethora of strong signings to strengthen an already good squad. For Xhaka, the sky’s the limit.
“Hopefully we can improve the squad with our abilities. We are here to try our maximum and to improve the team. We have to work hard and respect one another. With that, a lot of things can be achieved. We can win something with this team,” Xhaka concluded.
Want to get more of our coverage of Jack’s experience with Bayer Leverkusen? Check out our stream here.