Paris Saint-Germain and Germany goalkeeper Kevin Trapp has a big season ahead. Having recently made his debut for the national team, he is has his eye on a place in Joachim Löw's World Cup squad. He talks exclusively to Rabona about battling for the #1 jersey at PSG and the changing role of the goalkeeper.
RABONA: The ambitions seem to be getting bigger and bigger each year at PSG. How have you felt that change over the last three years while you've been here?
KT: The ambitions haven’t changed that much during my time here. The biggest ambition is to win the Champions League and with the team we have it's possible. We all know that's not easy because there are a lot of good teams in the competition, especially Real Madrid as they've won it twice in a row now. So it's not gonna be easy but I think we’ve showed that we have a strong team and that we're able to play the big matches and to win them and of course the goal remains to win the Champions League, besides the domestic goal of winning the league title and the Cups in France. That is the minimum requirement.
R: It's often said that being a goalkeeper is the loneliest position on a football field. Do you agree with that, and how do you deal with the pressure of playing sometimes and not other times?
KT: The position is very specific, it's very special. It was my first choice when I started playing soccer and was always my dream and now I can live this dream here in Paris. Of course, as a player, you always want to play, it's normal. But there are decisions you have to accept but then you have to continue to work hard to train and to show that you want to play again. I would never give up and you have to be ready all the time. So that's how I think, that's how I handle this situation when I don't play. Honestly, last year wasn't easy, but the secret was to keep on going, to work hard and then to be ready when you're needed and I think that was one of the most important points for me last year. Last season, to be ready when I was needed. And in the end it worked well.
R: Do you think this is a big moment in your career, perhaps a defining one where you can really fight for your place and show that you should be the number one in Paris?
KT: My ambition is to be one of the best goalkeepers in the world. My goal is to put myself here and to be the number one goalkeeper for Paris because it's a fantastic club, it's a very big project, an incredible team and very talented players in this team. It's fun to play here and at the same time, we all cheer for the same goals and that's the most important.
R: There's a new goalkeeper coach here at PSG. What are your first impressions of him, has he helped you a little bit?
KT: We're working a lot, we're communicating a lot and I'm very happy with the training because I feel I can progress with him. He’s focused on the details, he really tries to improve me in every single detail. That’s the way I like to work too and it's a lot of fun. I enjoy working with him because we understand each other. It didn't take so much time which is not always the case because sometimes you need some time to get to know each other. But we were very open to each other from the beginning and that helped us a lot.
R: The role of being a goalkeeper has changed a lot over the past few years. You're expected to use your feet a lot more and come out of your goal more often. Is that how you've always played the game as a goalkeeper? Or have you had to adapt your game?
KT: I’ve played in teams where it was helpful to be able to play with both feet. That's what demanded here in Paris. We play very high, we press the other teams very high, therefore you have to always be close to your teammates, reading the match and anticipating situations. We have a team that’s technically very strong and we always try to solve the situations by playing the ball.
R: You mentioned that being a goalkeeper is a very specialist position. Do you have any special routines, anything that you go through every game to make sure that your mind is right?
KT: I had a routine. It was always the same music to enter the stadium, then the same way to change clothes, to put the clothes on, the warmup clothes, the jersey. I don't know how it's happened, it started once. We started to win and I kept on going and then there is a moment you realise, "Okay, maybe it's a little bit too much.” I think every footballer has some kind of superstition Mental strength is very important in football, and for a goalkeeper it's the most important part. If your head is strong, you're able to perform better.
R: You made your debut for the German national team this year. What was that experience was like?
KT: It was incredible. It was also kind of unexpected. After last season we had one week off and then a friendly match before the Confederations Cup. We arrived in Denmark and the goalkeeper coach Andreas Köpke asked me if I was ready for my first match. I said “of course, yeah”. I was ready because I had trained and was working so much for this, for this moment." To step on to the field with the national team for the first time was an amazing moment. The match itself was good, we had a different team, a lot of new players and we played in a new formation. So it was a very good experience. And of course at the end we won the Confederations Cup so it was a great four or five weeks for us.
R: We've got the World Cup coming up quite soon. Do you think you can be a part of that?
KT: That's the goal. I played my first match and have been part of the national team for two years now and to play or to participate in the World Cup is one of the biggest things you can reach in your career. Germany won the last World Cup and now we want to defend it, and I’d like to be a part of that. But of course I have to perform at club level, to show myself to the coaches here that I want to be part of the team. We have a long season ahead here in Paris.
R: What is it about Germany that makes the country produce so many world class goalkeepers? There are four or five of you fighting for three places, and ultimately, one place.
KT: I think for the coaches it's quite difficult, but a good situation too. What the secret is, it’s difficult for me to explain. With the current generation, it started Manuel Neuer and Rene Adler. For a long time we’ve have a really good development system for goalkeepers. When you're young you can already play at in a high level in the youth teams, and you get the opportunity to improve a lot. It’s very important that young goalkeepers get the chance to play a lot. The fact that Manu and Rene did that in the beginning probably changed the way coaches viewed goalkeepers and at what age a goalkeeper was considered young. Before it was 27 or 28, now goalkeepers tend to be younger.
R: It seems Neuer came along and just changed everything, especially in Germany…
KT: He was more or less the first young goalkeeper. I think he was 20 or 21 when he started playing regularly in the Bundesliga for Schalke. It was unusual because that hadn’t happened before, but that was the start and then there was wave after wave of young goalkeepers coming through and getting game time. And of course Neuer also improved the way goalkeeper’s play, he was revolutionary in that respect. He changed the role of the goalkeeper.