First Team

“Always in my heart”

Koen Casteels bids farewell to VfL after nine years with the Wolves.

Koen Casteels has racked up 274 appearances for VfL Wolfsburg since joining the club in 2015, when the Belgian goalkeeper was jostling for the No1 jersey with the Wolves’ title-winning custodian Diego Benaglio. Casteels managed to nail down a first-team spot during the following campaign – and he’s never looked back since. As he prepares to call time on his nine-year stint in Wolfsburg, the 31-year-old looks back on an eventful spell at the club.

Koen Casteels, let’s go back to 2015 – why did you decide to join VfL Wolfsburg?

Koen: “I was at Hoffenheim before I joined VfL. In April 2014, I was out for a long time with a broken leg and wasn’t fit again until October that year. I was 22 years old at the time and was obviously desperate to play. Wolfsburg eventually registered their interest that winter. In general, I was very interested because I was hoping the move would give me more playing time and VfL were having a very good season. Looking back, things have worked out just as we imagined them at the time – for me and for Wolfsburg.”

There were difficult periods too, with VfL facing a relegation play-off in 2016/17 and 2017/18. How do you look back on those times?

Koen: “It certainly wasn’t an easy time for the club. It was a lesson, though, because a lot of things went wrong. Both those seasons were very difficult. The good thing is that we learnt from them, and everyone realised we couldn’t go on like that. It’s never nice to have to sweat until the end and play in the relegation play-off. On a positive note, we survived on both occasions.”

The 2020/2021 season under Oliver Glasner was a very successful one, as VfL qualified for the Champions League for the first time in several years. Was that your most enjoyable season in football terms?

Koen: “We finished fourth and qualified for the Champions League. For that reason alone, it has to be the best season from a footballing perspective. It was a strange season overall, though, with the Covid-19 pandemic and without our fans in the stadium. In the end, we managed to reward ourselves with a place in the Champions league. It was a milestone for us as players.”

What’s next for you? Do you already have a new club?

Koen: “I don’t have a new club yet. We’ve already held initial talks, but it’s not 100 per cent certain which club I’ll be playing for next season.”

How will you look back on your time in Wolfsburg?

Koen: “I definitely have a strong bond with Wolfsburg. My son was born in Wolfsburg, so I’ll always have that connection with the city and the club. When I look back on my career after my playing days are over, Wolfsburg will definitely be the club at which I spent the most time, and which allowed me to transform from a youngster into an established Bundesliga goalkeeper. Wolfsburg will always be the best thing that happened in my career. I’ll always be grateful and will always carry the club and city in my heart.”