Bayern Munich star Mats Hummels on working with Jurgen Klopp, almost joining Manchester United… and being a German who doesn’t like beer!
It is during a debate about English football and the scrutiny on its footballers that Mats Hummels smiles and makes a surprise revelation.
Hummels recently returned to Munich, his place of birth; the city that gave the world Oktoberfest. Drink forms such a part of local culture there is even a biergarten for fans at Bayern Munich’s training base. But the local produce, it seems, is lost on this particular resident.
‘I don’t like beer,’ he says. ‘I don’t like the taste. I tried it 15 times in my life. I grew up with Oktoberfest but I just didn’t like it. If I put that much beer (puts his finger and thumb close together) and that much lemonade (stretches his fingers apart) it still tastes like beer.
‘If I’m on a night out, I’ll maybe have a gin and tonic but it’s not like I drink five. I just drink lots of water, so I don’t ever get drunk. Most of the time, it is calm and we can go out here in the centre of Munich in peace.’
Rooney, though, is a topic that fascinates him. Hummels explains how close he came to becoming his team-mate at Old Trafford but first he wants to talk about how the England captain has been projected.
‘I don’t like the scrutiny he has been getting,’ says Hummels. ‘I’m very aware of it. I am very interested in what is happening in England. How many years has he played for Manchester United now? 12? How many years has he been a top player for the English national team? 10? Maybe more? You can’t be at your best all the time.’
David Moyes considered signing Hummels for United in 2013 before Louis van Gaal pursued him relentlessly a year later.
‘Yes,’ he says, when asked how close a deal was. ‘Yes, very close. There were talks, several times in the last few years. I had offers from England or one of the three big Spanish clubs. But nothing got close like from England. Van Gaal wanted me but he wasn’t the only one. It is difficult for me to play in England now. I’m 28 next month and I’ve signed here for five years.’
The main reason Hummels never got to test himself in the Premier League was down to Jurgen Klopp. Klopp’s influence on him was huge. When news broke in April that Hummels was to join Bayern, one of the first text messages was from his old manager, offering him support and reassurance.
Without Klopp’s guidance, Hummels is not sure he would have reached such levels.
They had a close bond and the 27-year-old laughs at the memory of Klopp hurtling down the touchline in Hamburg to celebrate a last-minute equaliser, breaking his glasses in the process.
‘He has done that at Liverpool, too, hasn’t he!’ says Hummels, shaking his head. ‘We wouldn’t have had that success with another coach in Dortmund. He is very emotional. All the time. He can’t settle down.
‘How intense? Every day, 100 per cent! The important thing is that when he thinks he made a mistake, he can really apologise to a player — whether that is alone or in front of the whole team. If he says something inappropriate, he realises it afterwards. He doesn’t take things personally.
‘I can’t say I am a Liverpool fan, I don’t have a club in England. I just want Klopp to win. If he was coach of another team, I would support them. I cheer for Klopp!’
Half an hour in Hummels’ company flies by. He talks about conquering the world with Germany in 2014 and describes the 7-1 victory over Brazil in the Maracana as ‘a game for the ages’; he reveals Zinedine Zidane was his idol growing up and that he played as a striker until he was 15. All of it in perfect English. His secret to mastering the language?
‘I learnt it at school, then I just tried to keep it at a high level, just by talking to others whenever I can,’ he says. ‘Watching box sets in English really helps too. Game Of Thrones, right now I’m watching Narcos but most of the time it’s in Spanish — I speak a little bit of that, too. That is good! I watch Breaking Bad, of course. Crazy!’
The prospect of leaving Dortmund to join Bayern caused him two months of torment and in the end he only decided to go ahead with the £30million switch after making a list of pros and cons.
Results have been mixed, yet Hummels is adamant the future under Carlo Ancelotti is bright.
‘I knew how many people would be affected by my decision,’ says Hummels. ‘But I had to think about myself, my wife Cathy; my family and friends. It was a chance to come back to something I’d missed. I just wanted to go to Munich.
‘Finishing second in our Champions League group? It will only become an issue if we get a big team. We could get Leicester, we could get Barcelona.’
HUMMELS ON… WINNING THE WORLD CUP
You get a chance, you get an opportunity and everything comes off. It doesn’t happen that often but when it does… wow! My medal is in the National Football Museum in Dortmund. I have lent it to them for five years. I have been there once to have a look at it. The next time I go will be to get my medal back!
HUMMELS ON… HENRIKH MKHITARYAN
If you let him play, you will see how good he is. I am 100 per cent sure of this. He is one of the best I have played with. But if you can’t play, you can’t shine. It’s easy! It’s really easy! I saw part of the game against Feyenoord. I saw part of the game against West Ham. There he was – always good, as he is always when he is on the pitch. He played at that level (raises his hands) all of last year.
HUMMELS ON… LOSING 4-3 TO LIVERPOOL
A bad game. A bad game… We lost in the last minute and we got kicked out of the competition but the atmosphere before the game, even when we were 3-1 up, was crazy. I loved it! I remember coming through the streets on the bus and there were so many people cheering. It was loud, very emotional. It was something very similar to Dortmund and I think you can compare the two clubs. Liverpool scored with just enough time to make it perfect.
Article courtesy of mailonline.com