Antonio Rudiger: “The first time I heard from Madrid it was like, ‘wow’.”
Antonio Rudiger recently sat down for an interview with MARCA where he discussed his move to the Spanish capital, how eager he is to begin his new adventure in Spain and much more.. Here’s his interview in full:
It hasn’t even been a week since Real Madrid made your signing official. How are you feeling?
I’m very proud and I still don’t realise what this all means, because I haven’t even been to Madrid yet. I will go with all my family as soon as I finish with the German national team, and then I think I will finally realise what signing for Real Madrid means.
Is it clear to you this is the biggest step of your career?
I think that in football, as in life, everything is a chapter, and this is a new chapter for me. Obviously, this new chapter is a big one because it’s a big step for me. It’s probably the biggest of my whole career.
When Real Madrid called you, what was the first thing you thought of?
The first time I heard from Madrid it was like, ‘wow’. They first contacted me in September or October I think. A club like this doesn’t call you many times so it was amazing.
When you played at the Santiago Bernabeu with Chelsea, and you scored, what did you think? What was it like for you in that atmosphere?
It was my first time at the Santiago Bernabeu, and the day before we went to the stadium to see it. You look up and you see the whole structure of the stadium. You realise it’s a special place and you want to play that kind of a game in that kind of a stadium. Not only against Madrid, you want to play for them as well. Unfortunately, that day things didn’t go the way we wanted and then they were champions. So I applaud them.
You liked the stadium, didn’t you?
Yes, yes, of course. I’ve already seen pictures of what it’s going to look like when the work is finished and it’s going to be much better. I’m looking forward to playing there.
After that game, Carlo Ancelotti said to the club: “We have to have Rudiger in this team.”
Yes. Everyone knows who Ancelotti is in the world of football. He is a top coach and he has proven it again by winning LaLiga Santander and the Champions League. I don’t need to say much about him, and I can only say that it’s a great honour for me that a coach like Ancelotti wants me. I’ve watched him on TV since I was a kid. It’s an honour.
Have you spoken with Ancelotti and how was the conversation?
Yes, I have spoken with him. It was a very welcoming conversation. He told me that everyone was very happy to have me at Madrid, and that makes me very happy. It’s clear that Ancelotti is one of the people who make Real Madrid very strong, but he isn’t the only one. There’s Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Casemiro… He told me they were all very happy and that makes me proud. It also makes me realise that I have done well these last three years, and that gives me motivation to do even better at Real Madrid.
You come to a club with 14 European Cups, does that put extra pressure on the new player?
Yes, it is pressure, but it is the history of Real Madrid. They are used to winning and the mentality is that: to win. But their winning mentality goes well with my character.
On the pitch you are a leader. We even saw you on Tuesday arguing with a Spanish referee, Del Cerro Grande, about a penalty…
[Laughs] Leadership is something that comes naturally. As a defender you have to make yourself feel present, talk to your teammates… That’s what I try to do. I like to have good communication, motivate. I think it’s something that comes naturally to me, it’s not an act, it just comes out like that.
And what is Rudiger like off the pitch?
I’m just the opposite of what you see on the pitch. I don’t see myself as a superstar, I’m a normal guy. I’m privileged because I have a good life, because I play for very big clubs and that’s why I like to give back to the community what people and football give me. I like to help in hospitals, to be present in Sierra Leone.
I grew up in a different environment than I can have now. We were not exactly wealthy people, but I have always felt rich because I have been with my family. For me the real wealth is family.
We have seen these days the video in which you asked Hazard not to go to Madrid.
I remember, I remember… and in the end he stayed that year! He left a season later, after winning the Europa League. The day he left we were sad, but then I was happy for him because I knew that Madrid were his dream since he was a kid, he told us. He was a big fan of Zidane.
I’m very happy to be with Eden again, now at Madrid. I know it’s been a tough few years for him, with a lot of injuries and problems, but I still hope Madrid fans can see the Hazard I played with, because he was undoubtedly one of the best players in the world.
You’re a defender who, as well as defending, likes to go forward.
Yes, that’s how it is. There are certain areas of the field in which you can be dangerous and I try to score as many goals as possible. I have almost always played in teams where we had possession and that has helped me to learn a lot. I’ve already said that football is made up of chapters and in each chapter I’ve grown as a player.
How do you imagine your first day at Madrid and your presentation? What are you going to say to the Madridistas? Have you already thought about it?
What I’m going to say that day to the Madridistas and my teammates is easy for me and I can say it here right now. I will give my heart in every match and in every situation. I can promise that. I’m going to give 100 percent every day.
At the World Cup, are we going to see you?
Yes. I’m happy to play against Spain, because if you want to win the World Cup you have to beat the best. Spain is one of the best. The last game against them was very painful (6-0), very tough. And now that I’m going to Spain it makes me even more excited, you Spaniards are coming straight onto me! I’m definitely very happy with the step I’ve taken.