Florian Grillitsch is a regular starter and an important figure in the Hoffenheim team. But that has not always been the case. "It was difficult at the beginning, mentally too. Then there was the fact I got injured early. That was tough, because I was new and I wanted to soak everything up and show what I could do. But I was reduced to watching from the sidelines," said Grillitsch as he reflected on his first six months at the club. He arrived in the Kraichgau in the summer of 2017, but it wasn't until the second half of the 2017/18 campaign that the Austrian first featured.
With Grillitsch in the team, TSG Hoffenheim qualified for the Europa League that season and then made it into the Champions League the following year. For Grillitsch, returning to the European stage next term too is a key objective. The midfielder, who was born in Neunkirchen in Austria, has matured into one of leading figures in the team. "I've developed in a lot of areas since my arrival here, not only in footballing terms but on a personal level too. I see it as my role to accept responsibility. I see myself as one of the senior players and I want to continue to fulfil this role," said Grillitsch.
This season, the former Bremen man has been deployed at the heart of defence too. "I'm an attacking player by trade and so I've had to learn a few things defensively (...) I'm a versatile player and that's definitely not a disadvantage." As a youth player at the St. Pölten academy and then at Werder, Grillitsch mostly occupied attacking roles and scored a lot of goals. "When I joined the U19s at Werder, I scored nine goals in my first four matches and set up many more. My favourite player and role model used to be Ronaldinho. I was a real No. 10 and I played a very offensive role," he explained. "But I like playing at the back too. However, I hope I don't have to go in goal at any point, I'm happy to do without that."
With the benefit of hindsight, the Austria international sees his transfer from Bremen to Hoffenheim as the ideal step. "Hoffenheim have established themselves as a real elite team in the past few years. That's why I decided to join TSG back then. It's the ideal club to continue your development. I don't believe that there are many better training facilities out there than what we have. As far as innovations and training forms go, TSG Hoffenheim is at Champions League level." Grillitsch and his team-mates have not yet entirely given up hope of returning to Europe's top table come September, but they would not be entirely unsatisfied were they instead to book their place in the Europa League. "We have enough quality in the team to get to this region of the table. That's our aim and we believe we can do it."
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