In a way, the situation between SC Freiburg and the Austrian national team is already comparable – two surprise teams that make life difficult for more highly rated teams.
“Despite everything, we are David, so to speak the Gauls,” grins Michael Gregoritsch before the showdown with world champions France in the UEFA Nations League, in which the ÖFB team could achieve relegation with a sensational victory in Paris.
Without any magic potion, the striker presented himself in top form – on the one hand mentally thanks to the self-confidence he had at the club, on the other hand physically.
Gregoritsch has gained muscle. The new fighting weight is 91 kilograms instead of the previous 85.
The game changes
“I’ve changed my game a bit,” says the Styrian, “also in terms of position, I’ve moved from behind the strikers to the front. I’ve gained a little weight, gotten better with my back to goal and got up “My greatest strengths are limited and that’s in the box. Thank God I’ve also learned to attack better and to put as much pressure on the opponent as possible, which is very important in football today.”
After “Gregerl” could be assumed to have had a stubborn career low in the meantime, he will present himself from his unerring side again in the 2022 calendar year.
It feels easier
This also helps the self-image in the national team. There is currently more basic trust in the red-white-red football public:
“Of course it feels easier if it doesn’t say: why Gregoritsch? It’s better if you come here and it says he deserves it and is probably even an option to play. I’ve always known that I have a certain justification for being there – I don’t know whether it was always 100% right and fair.”
“Five years ago, for example, I didn’t personally cancel in Freiburg, I did it through my advisor.”
But of course he always wanted to prove that it was right. This has always been successful, for example with the goal in the EURO opener against North Macedonia.
Thanks go to ex-team boss Franco Foda, who always kept him there. However, it is clear that you cannot show this self-confidence and, above all, self-image in the national team if you do not play in a club.
Where would Gregoritsch be if he had already gone to Freiburg in 2017?
Gregoritsch is currently radiating this self-confidence. Because after his move to SC Freiburg, things are going well for the attacker with five goals in the first ten competitive games.
Previously, it was running again in Augsburg after a long dry spell. With nine goals this season, seven of them in the spring, he made a fitting farewell to his long-standing employer.
Freiburg knocked on the door in 2017. At that time the choice fell on Augsburg. It would be pointless to speculate where he would be in his career if he had made a different decision at the time:
“I also played well in Augsburg for the first year or two. The path I took with mistakes and good things was okay because it got me to where I am now.”
The maturation process
Now at 28, Gregoritsch really feels at home. And matured. Because a lot has happened, especially with regard to the degree of maturity:
“Five years ago, for example, I didn’t personally cancel in Freiburg, I did it through my agent. Three years ago, there was the matter with Werder Bremen, after which I was no longer able to emotionally concentrate on Augsburg. That is Certainly things in which I have matured. I have now solved this in a completely different way from the start.”
What is meant is the farewell to FC Augsburg: “I called the people in charge in Augsburg after the first contact with Freiburg and said: ‘Take care, I’d like to do that, we’ll find a solution.’ A year and a half ago it was perhaps not foreseeable that we would part on good terms.”
In Freiburg, on the other hand, all expectations have been confirmed so far: “I even underestimated how good it is there.”
This does not even mean the trust that veteran coach Christian Streich obviously has in him. He also enjoyed the same in his final half-series in Augsburg.
But the overall construct Freiburg noticeably impresses Gregoritsch:
“It’s incredibly fun. The quality of the squad is extremely good. And I would almost say that overall it’s the best club team I’ve been to.”
This is of course closely linked to Streich’s management style, which has characterized this club since he took office at the end of December 2011.
Conversations with Prank
“He is obsessed with detail and clear about the things he wants to do. Together with those responsible, Clemens Hartenbach and Jochen Saier, a structure was put together that really is a team. From the doctors to the physios – there are no fights among each other “Everything is addressed quickly. Of course, the coach is the one who sets the pace,” says Gregoritsch.
“I have a lot of conversations with the coach that actually have almost nothing to do with football.”
Streich would, however, set the pace in a way that the ÖFB legionnaire “has not yet experienced”.
“He’s really very communicative. He’s always asking himself what he could do better. I feel really comfortable with him, I have a lot of conversations with him that actually have almost nothing to do with football.”
The fans embody the city and the club
Gregoritsch is also good at playing in other regions of the table than he usually experienced in Augsburg.
“In the decisive games against relegation there was also a great atmosphere, but in Freiburg the fans embody the city and the club. It’s an incredible atmosphere, which is never aggressive, but is characterized by friendliness and openness. The euphoria is immense – when we get out onto the pitch, the fan block is already full,” says the man from Graz, describing the enthusiasm.
Freiburg were in the final of the DFB Cup last season and were fighting for a place in the Champions League until late in the season. Therefore, the third place in the table may come as a surprise to many, but it is no coincidence. Five times to zero in seven rounds also speaks for itself.
Streich is nevertheless known for not letting too much euphoria arise. “If the coach says so, staying up in the league is the goal. He’s the boss,” smiles Gregoritsch.
Not just the usual suspects
Whatever the real goal, the striker can probably live with the fact that he is currently only behind Christopher Trimmel and leaders Union Berlin in the table of his ÖFB colleagues.
“He’s one of my best friends in the national team, we also have a lot of personal contact. In the end, of course, I’d prefer it if Freiburg were ahead of Union,” laughs Gregoritsch, who is objectively good at the current table situation:
“It’s funny, isn’t it? Well, I think it’s cool when one or two other teams are up there after the 7th matchday and not just the usual suspects. You’re always longing for things to get more exciting.”