Ilkay Gündogan und Shinji Kagawa don't just line up alongside each other in the Borussia Dortmund midfield - they also spend a lot of time together and are both aspiring to achieve big things in the coming season. The pair are on the same wavelength too. "Surprisingly we had a good understanding right from the very beginning," said Gündogan.
The dynamic duo made an appearance at today's press conference held as part of the Black and Yellows' training camp in the Swiss resort of Bad Ragaz, with Jumpei Yamamori still translating for Shinji Kagawa. That could soon change, however. "That's an area in which I need to make an improvement," said the Japan international, before adding: "I want to understand every last word of the coach's instructions."
Shinji Kagawa is aiming high for the new season: "As an attacking player there are certain things that are expected of you. I didn't do these things sufficiently well last season. Overall, I don't think that my performances were consistent enough. There were highs and lows. This season I'd like to change these two things and to help the team to as many victories as possible."
Ilkay Gündogan, who only returned to first-team action last October following a 14-month lay-off with a serious injury and is understandably not yet performing as consistently as he would like, said: "I want to use this time to get back to a top level and to help the team out." The fact that he made a late U-turn by deciding to stay at BVB "perhaps creates more pressure than normal", however the Germany international was quick to add: "But I've also received a lot of encouragement from fans who are delighted that I'm here for at least another year. I feel really at home here at Borussia Dortmund. I think I'll be able to win a few of the fans back over."
Good performances, spectacular passes, goals and assists will be the key to winning over the fans - and the groundwork for that is already being laid in Bad Ragaz. "Each coach has their own approach in terms of content," said Gündogan of the change of regime. "But in terms of intensity there''s little difference in comparison to before." Kagawa, who spent three pre-seasons in England, said: "The pre-season preparations at Manchester United were much less intense. Getting used to the intensity of the training sessions has been a small adjustment for me. It's an important time. We need to work really hard now in order to make the best possible start to the new season."