Simon Rolfes’ decorated playing career saw him earn 26 caps with Germany, play 288 times in the Bundesliga, and finish runner-up in both Germany top flight and the German Cup.
[ MORE: Premier League stats ]
Now the sporting director at Bayer Leverkusen, the club he led to the 2009 German Cup Final, Rolfes will hope he’s put together a championship side when Kai Havertz, Leon Bailey, and Bayer meet Bayern Munich in Saturday’s final (2 p.m. ET).
ProSoccerTalk caught up with the former Bayer and Werder Bremen playmaker before the final.
PST: What would a first German Cup in 27 years mean for Leverkusen and also to you as a former player?
Simon Rolfes: It would mean a lot to us. People here in Leverkusen have been waiting for a trophy for a long time. I feel that the organization is ready for a title. We have been working a lot to improve and develop this outstanding club, and the tradition is there. Right now we have a team that has shown its skills on the highest level several times.
PST: What are your top memories of the 2009 German Cup run? Beating Bayern? Scoring in the semifinal? The atmosphere of the final against your former club?
SR: That semifinal against Bayern was very emotional. And then the final in the huge stadium with the crowds was very impressive. I really felt the intensity and the importance of that game. I said to myself that I want to get back to a final soon again. It took some time in the end, and I am in a different role, but here we are now, reaching out for that cup.
PST: That (2009) team was crazy and had some very young talent in Toni Kroos and Arturo Vidal. Are there similarities between that team and the one from today?
SR: I am not one who likes to make comparisons. Each team is unique and has its own personality. But as we did in 2009, we now have a brilliant and talented squad, capable of creating big moments at any time. We’ve showed that throughout the season.
PST: Do you think this Cup final experience can help the club in its pursuit of the Europa League next month?
SR: That’s really hard to predict. It might also depend on the outcome of this game. Anyway, though, all teams will need to adapt to totally new situations in these unprecedented times. We’ll have a full month between the German Cup and the Europa League.
You need to adjust plans for rest as well as for preparation due to earlier or later endings of your domestic season. Whoever hits the right planning will be in a good position to win that Europa League trophy next month.
PST: What’s next for Bayer? What should we be on the look out for?
SR: We don’t see this final berth as a historic moment, at least not in a way of it being a unique and one-off situation. We are ambitious and eager to create more of those title chances in the future. We will continue building up a highly talented and hungry squad for these kind of opportunities. And we are ready to be judged based on the outcome of the games.
How to watch Bayer Leverkusen v. Bayern Munich
What: German Cup Final – Bayer Leverkusen v. Bayern Munich
When: 2 p.m. ET Saturday
TV Channel: ESPN2