Andre Schurrle's reputation in Germany was pretty undisputed when he packed his bags for England in July 2013. He had dazzled as he helped Mainz to a UEFA Europa League finish while still only 20, then last season was one of the driving forces behind Bayer Leverkusen finishing within a point of second-place and making the cut for the UEFA Champions League.
However the now 23-year-old attack-minded midfielder, whose direct style of play has been seen all across the Chelsea frontline this season, took time in finding his form from the German Bundesliga. That has begun to change though, with five goals since the start of March – including a crucial strike against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League quarter-finals, as he rediscovers his golden touch.
Ahead of Chelsea's semi-final tie with Atletico Madrid, Schurrle discussed his move to the English Premier League, their challenge for honours in Europe and casts his eye towards the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ with FIFA.com.
FIFA.com: How have you found making the change from the Bundesliga to the Premier League and have you found your style of play has changed since the move?
Andre Schurrle: It was difficult of course, you need time to adapt to the league, to see how they play here. It’s faster and more physical, you need to use your body more. I expected this, I knew the Premier League from watching the games on TV and I think I’ve adapted well. My game has developed a lot, I feel much stronger on the pitch, my body is more stable and I feel more confident. I am always developing but I’m happy with how I’ve developed so far with Chelsea and in England.
How has the process been of slotting into this Chelsea side? Was it beneficial for you to join as the club was having a fresh start under Jose Mourinho, with you his first signing?
It was actually very easy but I did not expect that because you see the big players and you don’t know what to expect. It was easy because the players were all friendly and the big players like [John Terry] and [Frank Lampard], they helped me a lot. With the new manager and new coaches arriving in the summer, I think for a new player it is easier because every player has something new to adapt to.
How have you found Jose Mourinho as a coach and what has struck you most about his management style so far?
What is very good is his will to succeed – he is here to win titles and his winning mentality is what impresses me the most. He’s a very experienced manager and has coached the best football players in the world so he can help a lot of the young players and me of course. It’s very good to have someone like this because he knows what to do and what to say to help young players succeed.
How difficult a decision was it to make the move away from Leverkusen? Have you been following their progress this season?
In the end it was not difficult for me because I wanted this so much. I wanted it one year earlier but it didn’t happen, and that last year in Leverkusen was important for me and it was very good for me. At the end I wanted it so much that it wasn’t difficult. I have a lot of friends in Leverkusen, players and staff, I always keep an eye on them and I hope they do well and qualify for the Champions League next season.
You're in a dressing room that doesn't have much of a German flavour to it, but there are quite a few of your compatriots around London at Arsenal and Fulham. Do you all spend time together and did they help you settle in?
I don't see the other German players too much, although I've shared a few dinners with Lewis Holtby who’s at Fulham now, but before was at Tottenham. He is a very good friend of mine and we have known each other for a very long time. I don’t see the guys at Arsenal too much but always enjoy it when we meet up with the German national team.
It’s difficult to say if we have closed the gap on Spain, I hope we have but we will have to see when we get to the World Cup.
The team looks to have become more and more fluent as the season has progressed, is there a feeling that the collective are playing at full capacity as you enter the climax of the season?
I think this is the most important time of the season and I think it helps if the team has good form in this period and if we keep this form, I think we can have something in our hands at the end of the season. In the beginning, you try to get the points so that now near the end of the season, you can challenge for the title and challenge for the Champions League. You feel a development in the dressing room and everyone is focused for this crucial period.
Where do you feel Chelsea rank when it comes to favourites for the UEFA Champions League and does having so many team-mates with recent European success give you an advantage?
From the names that are left, all four are at a top, top level. Bayern Munich are probably the best team in Europe at the moment but in two games at this stage of the competition, anyone can beat anyone. We have to play well against Atletico in these two legs and then if we can get to the final, we know whoever the opponent, they will be a top team. It’s always good to have players with a lot of experience because they’ve seen everything. A lot of the players here were in the final in Munich in 2012. They won it, they know how difficult it is and they know how it feels to come through it and to win it.
In Atletico Madrid you face one of Europe's form teams, with a better defensive record than Chelsea's in the league. How do you intend to tackle such a well-disciplined unit?
I think the manager will find a plan and will tell us how to play against them and how to score goals. We’ve all seen Atletico this season - they are very aggressive and have a strong will to defend and fight for every ball. We have to use our offensive players and show our quality to score goals.
What can we expect from Germany that will be different from UEFA EURO 2012? Do you think you have closed the gap on Spain as the top European nation?
Our players are better than in 2012 – Bayern Munich won the Champions League in 2013 which gave a lot of the German players experience of winning big titles. We are very motivated – we have a lot of young players playing in the big leagues of Europe and we have a lot of experience, a lot of quality and some exciting young players. It will be a different team than in 2012. It’s difficult to say if we have closed the gap on Spain, I hope we have but we will have to see when we get to the World Cup.
With the backbone of the side built around that all-conquering Bayern side, do you feel that familiarity will be beneficial in Brazil?
I think this is good, a lot of the Bayern Munich players are in central positions – in midfield, in defence and the goalkeeper so they know each other and how to play with each other. It is good to have a skeleton from one team and around them we have so many good players, I think it is a positive thing.
There is also a lot of competition for your position in the national side, do you find it a positive or negative thing having that much talent in this area of the team?
With so many good players playing on the wings, it’s positive for everyone because there is a lot of pressure and you have to be at your absolute best to get in the team. I think the national team coach likes the way I play offensively and defensively so I’m not scared, I’m really looking forward to it.