"The legs are heavy," said Kevin Grosskreutz, "that´s the way it is in a training camp. We have a tough season ahead of us. We have to get through it." On Monday, the second day in Bad Ragaz, the players of the German champions were already having their practice sessions four, five and six. For Jürgen Klopp, this week is about "contests of the will."
Boris Rupert reporting from Bad Ragaz
Saturday´s friendly against Swiss runners-up FC Zurich was the first of them for the players. "We played under difficult circumstances," said the BVB coach. Earlier that day, his side had been put through a tough training session in Dortmund before travelling by plane and bus to Switzerland where the game took place in midsummer temperatures. "We played with two teams who both had to summon up a contest of the will for 45 minutes." The first friendlies of a pre-season are less about finding form and more about the "physical element" - and about "match competitiveness". Klopp said: "In difficult situations we must be prepared to make the next step. The qualification hurdle to get into the team is clearly defined."
For Kevin Grosskreutz, who´s having his third pre-season under Jürgen Klopp, this is nothing new. "After the sessions we collapse into our beds totally exhausted," said the German international. "This is unusual for the new boys, but for the old ones nothing has changed: pre-season is always a tough time."
The new faces - Ivan Perisic, Ilkay Gündogan, Chris Löwe and Moritz Leitner - are starting to blend in nicely, and the coach is pleased to see that the chemistry is right. "The lads who were here last year," said Klopp, "have warmly welcomed the new ones." For Wednesday afternoon - if the weather allows - a rafting tour is planned to bolster community spirit. However, it´s not a "team building exercise" as Klopp clarified: "Team building is something different than just paddling around in an inflatable boat." It´s rather a daily process, "and we are on the right track." Grosskreutz confirmed this, saying, "We have strengthened greatly. They are great lads - and we need every one of them!"
Training camps are also often used for setting the course for the future. This year, an early contract extension with Shinji Kagawa has become a favourite topic for the media. "The coach," sporting director Michael Zorc said with a smile, "has thwarted my plans by scheduling so many training sessions." The talks with Kagawa and his agent Thomas Kroth have been postponed "for a few weeks."
In Switzerland, Zorc prefers to deal with current issues and he praised the exceptionally good conditions of the training camp in Bad Ragaz - from the hotel to the training ground to the pre-season opponents FC Zurich, FC St Gallen and Polonia Warsaw. "And the best part is," said BVB´s sporting director, "that it doesn´t cost us anything. Everything´s perfect, and we save some money."
The training camp is organised, and also financed, by the International Football Management GmbH (IFM), an international sports agency based in Winterthur (Switzerland) which has been in the business of consulting football players, clubs and association for 20 years. Head of IFM is Wolfgang Vöge, who played for BVB between 1975 and 1980. "We must pay him and his associates a huge compliment," said BVB boss Hans-Joachim Watzke, "Everything is perfectly organised."