James Rowe interviewed FC Dallas’ Swiss defender Reto Ziegler, discussing his experiences in England and Italy as well as gaining an insight into his appearances with the Swiss national team.
You signed for FC Dallas in January 2017. How are you enjoying life in MLS? Do you notice a difference between MLS and European football?
I am enjoying life a lot playing football, and I am happy off the pitch too.
Here at FC Dallas we are a competitive team and we are challenging for honors. That is why I came here to MLS.
MLS is a very physical league with good quality. The skill of a player can make the difference here, and fortunately for us we have many skilful players in our squad.
You played three seasons for Tottenham Hotspur. How do you look back on your time in England and what were your highlights?
I was very young when I went to England. I was only 19 at the time and people were doubting whether such a young player from abroad could play well in the Premier League, but I proved everybody wrong.
Tottenham fans even voted me as their best young player, which was a great honour.
It was a dream come true for me to play in the Premier League as I have always loved it, and especially Tottenham Hotspur.
You went on to spend 5 seasons with Sampdoria in Italy. As a defender did you learn a lot from Italian football?
Yes I did, Italy and Sampdoria was the best football school for me. Before I went to Italy my play was a bit wild, with not much structure, and I learned a lo about how to move and defend in Italy.
I also grew as a man as well as a defender thanks to the Italian school of football.
How would you describe Sampdoria as a club?
Sampdoria is a club that are always fighting for the Europa League places, and they have a fantastic history.
They also have one of the fiercest derbies in Italy, against Genoa. It is a very special feeling to play in that match.
I enjoyed life in Genoa. It’s a nice place by the sea, and Sampdoria has fantastic fans, too. I can only speak highly about the club.
You signed for Fenerbahce and scored in the Istanbul derby against Galatasaray. What it is like to play and score in that match, and how did you view the level of the Turkish League?
When you score in the derby it is the best way to enter into the hearts of the Fenerbahce fans.
They told me that if you want to enter into our hearts you have to score in the derby and that is what I did.
You won 35 caps for Switzerland. How do you look back on your time with the Swiss national team?
In my mind I still believe that I have the quality and potential to play for the Swiss national team.
They changed the manager and since then I did not get a chance to play, so I am a bit disappointed with that.
It was fantastic to represent my country in two World Cups and it is something that will stay with me me forever.
Can you tell me as I player what are the qualities that Ottmar Hitzfeld has?
He is a manager that won the Champions League three times. He also selected me for the Swiss national team so I have to thank him for that. He always believed in me.
Unfortunately he stepped down after the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, which did not work in my favour because he was someone that always believed in me.
You have built up a lot of experience in your career could you tell me who is the best player you have played with so far?
I could pick a best 11 in all honesty, but if I had to pick one player it would be the Brazilian former captain of Fenerbahce, Alex de Souza.
He was the same generation of Ronaldinho and other great Brazilian players. He was so skilful, and he saw everything on the pitch so you did not need to wave your hands or shout.
He also provided the assist when I scored the goal in the derby of Istanbul match that we were talking about earlier.
#TexasDerby: Swiss flair to pit best friends Reto Ziegler and Philippe Senderos against each other.
📝: https://t.co/vlNcmNB3Rm pic.twitter.com/vNSzfjtFA6
— FC Dallas (@FCDallas) July 20, 2018
Who is the most difficult opponent that you have faced so far in your career?
It’s tough to say a name because all the opponents are so different, but in terms of physicality it would have to be Zlatan Ibrahimovic because he is so tall and skilful.
I faced him many times and he is still at the top of his game, but when he was in Italy he was one of the best in the world and it was difficult to defend against him.
Finally, who are the managers that have been the most influential in your career so far?
Ottmar Hitzfeld is definitely one, and also Luigi Delneri at Sampdoria. He was the manager who took me to Juventus and he really wanted me to play for them.
I must also mention Aykut Kocaman at Fenerbahc. He was a former striker of Fenerbahce and helped me a lot.
I must also thank Swiss manager Marcel Koller. He was the man who gave me my chance in professional football. As a young player it is often difficult to make the step from the youth team into the first team and he gave me my first chance. He gave me the opportunity to become a professional footballer.