Xaver Schlager had a very impressive start as a VfL Wolfsburg player last summer. In the 2-1 opening-day win over Köln, the Austrian didn’t just impress with his aggressive work off the ball, vision and energy, but also set up Wout Weghorst for the Wolves’ second goal. However, the 22-year-old was brought to an abrupt halt on only the third Matchday when he sustained a serious ankle injury.
Eighty-five days later, he celebrated his premature comeback at Eintracht Frankfurt before underlining his huge importance to Oliver Glasner’s team in the closing stages of the first half of the season. The midfield all-rounder is now working with the rest of his teammates in Portugal to get into the best possible shape for the second half of the campaign. There was still time for a quick interview between today’s two training sessions, though.
Hi Xaver, it seems like you’ve integrated seamlessly into VfL’s play and immediately become an important figure. What’s your personal summary of your first six months as a Wolf?
Xaver Schlager: “Obviously I’ve not been involved for that long yet because of the injury at the start of the season, but the team have made me feel very welcome and I feel very happy. It was important to me that I was able to start playing again immediately after the injury. I know the system and the style of play, so the switch has been easy for me.”
You returned after your broken ankle in almost record time. What’s the secret to your fast recovery?
Xaver: “It’s a mixture of hard work and positive thinking. For me, that also means enjoying life outside football. Getting away from the daily grind and not having to think about it as much certainly helped a lot. As well as that, I received excellent care during my rehab.”
VfL are currently ninth in the Bundesliga with 24 points, but within touching distance of the upper echelons. In your view, what can VfL achieve in the second half of the season?
Xaver: “We obviously can’t say yet. I think we really need to take each game as it comes. The league is tight, which means if we win a few games we can get back up there. By the same token, it can also go in the other direction. Overall, though, I believe that lots is possible this season. The Bundesliga is very evenly balanced and a good run could move us up a lot of places. We’ll obviously try to win every match.”