Leonardo Bittencourt’s arrival from Hannover 96 was a happy surprise “cherry on top” of what had already seemed to be a successful summer transfer window.
Because he joined the team just before training camp in Kitzbühel, he hadn’t really yet had a chance to stretch his legs along the Rhine until the club returned at the end of the weekend.
Now back in town, Bittencourt had an introductory interview with local newspaper Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger, from which we learned . . .
- He made the move to Köln because he’s serious about his own professional development.When the recruiting pitch was delivered to Bittencourt by effzeh representation, it was not the flattery that made 1. FC Köln so attractive to him.”It was not just, ‘Yes, Leo, you’re great,’ and this and that,” says Bittencourt of how he was won over by his suitor. “I can only improve myself if you tell me in no uncertain terms what should I change and learn. It was crucial for me that someone be prepared to, and have the desire to, develop me further.””I get a sense that Peter Stöger takes it very seriously.”
Because almost the entirety of his experience of the club has been at training camp, which has been universally reported as being very demanding of the players, Bittencourt was instantly thrust into close quarters with his new teammates and in an atmosphere of stiff competition.
“I have been made to feel really welcome. The guys are very open, which makes it easy for us new players to come here. I am also an open type. It is a young team that is hungry. You can see this from the quality at training, where everyone digs in.”
- He not only respects the importance of being useful on both ends of the pitch, but considers it part of his footballing make-up.Despite being with a club battling its own relegation concerns last season, Bittencourt is not unaware of how 1. FC Köln managed to go from a promoted side to a club fairly comfortably settled into the middle of the table. He recognizes his role in an expanded offensive philosophy, but knows he can’t utilize it at the expense of defensive responsibilities.”The team would like to continue to develop and play more-active football,” says the left winger who arrives with a reputation for offensive flourish. “but one should’t forget how they retained the class last year: with team spirit and good defense. This should be maintained. Only then can we also play more attractively up front.”Bittencourt told KSTA interviewer Christian Oeynhausen that two-way play is part of who he is, having developed at Energie Cottbus, where they had to keep pace with more talented A- and B-Youth Bundesliga sides through team collaboration and hard work.
“It was all about team spirit and defensive effort,” recalls Bittencourt of his developmental years. “Because I have the ‘German School’ in me, it goes without saying that I must work defensively.”
- He has quickly found his fondness for the unique nature of planet effzeh.“You can tell how much people here live and breathe their football and with 1. FC Köln.”Of course, one doesn’t have to play in Köln to know the reputation of the fan base, which is well enough known, but has the recent front-office stability and lack of drama surrounding the club led the fans to also become more grounded?
“Someone told me that the fans in Köln have become very realistic,” says Bittencourt of his new fan base, adding that while it may be that the fans he has met so far are genuinely realistic about their club, the outward optimism remains.
“I find it good when the fans sing of ‘European Cup’ and ‘German Championship.’ The FC has already achieved these in the past, which nobody can ever take away from the club. The people are justifiably proud of that; it need not be hidden. But at the same time, they know that, though they sing about it, we are not playing toward the German championship this season. I like this.”
- Like any good footballer, he just hopes he can help the team.Despite the positive reception he has received, Bittencourt realizes that he’s not here to provide miracles.”I’m no ‘wonder man.’ It’s all about the team performance,” says Bittencourt. “I feel no pressure. If I settle in quickly and get through the preparations well, then I hope that I can help with my quality.”