Sami Khedira has reflected on the ‘motivational’ pressure in the Champions League for Real Madrid, as well as his backseat role in the team.
The midfielder is a regular for Los Blancos, but has revealed in an interview published this week that he is happy to not take the limelight at the Santiago Bernabeu.
“I understand perfectly that the spotlight is for Cristiano Ronaldo, Ozil and [Karim] Benzema,” commented Khedira to UEFA’s official magazine released this week.
“It's normal – they're the artists, they're the ones who do scissor kicks, nutmegs, incredible dribbling. We have an incredible team with the best attacking players in the world, but we need to win the ball first.
“My strengths? I am reliable, strong and with a great desire to win. During my early years I looked up to Patrick Vieira. He was very involved up front, very strong in defence, ran a lot, was aggressive and had great skills.”
Even so, Khedira also recognises that Jose Mourinho has played a part in the development of his defensive play.
“When I arrived at Real Madrid I had a primarily defensive role. I was there to defend, but with the national team I was always more offensive and José Mourinho realised that.
“I was often too impetuous and he has taken that out of my game. He told me to step back a little, play smarter, use my head more.
“I used to think I had to slog my guts out to help the team the best I could. I play in a subtler, calmer way now.
“He has made me a strategist. He is one of the best coaches there is, and the best I've ever had. He sees the strengths in every single player and always wants to get the best out of you.”
This week sees Khedira and teammate Ozil return to Germany and face Borussia Dortmund in the first leg of the Champions League semi-finals.
“When I came to Madrid, everyone was talking about ‘La Decima’. Since I didn't speak any Spanish, I didn't know what they were talking about.
“It took a while for me to understand, but at Madrid ‘La Decima’ is everything.
“Pressure? The Champions League is not pressure, it's our goal. In the team there is a desire to win the Champions League – our goalkeeper Iker Casillas is the only player who has won any of the nine.
“Pressure is always there at Real Madrid, we are used to it. I want to win trophies – that's been my ambition since the beginning of my career – which is why pressure is not a problem.
“It's probably more of a motivation than a burden.”