When a squad undergoes changes, new roles in the team can open up. The departure of experienced teammates can give other players the chance to step up and take on new responsibilities, developing themselves and helping the team to improve in the process. This is the situation Maximilian Mittelstädt finds himself in ahead of his sixth season as a Herthaner. “We have lost a few leading players, like Per Skjelbred, who were important to the team. So for us this preseason has been about reshaping the side,” said the Hertha academy graduate, who made his Bundesliga debut for his boyhood club back in 2016. Considering how often he has appeared for Hertha, as well as the demeanor he shows during matches, it is easy to forget how young Mittelstädt really is. Aged just 23, he has already represented the club in 86 competitive matches. “I’ve already been here for a long time, even if I am still one of the younger players. I’m happy that I’ve managed to gain so much experience in this time!”
""I want to take the next step this year. My aim is to be a regular starter, and to take on more responsibility!""
Growing expectations for himself
The man from Berlin has set himself some very clear targets for 2020/21. "I want to improve and take the next step this year. My aim is to be a regular starter,” says Mittelstädt. Hertha’s number 17 is clearly eager to grow as both a player and as a person. “I am the oldest of the youngsters right now,” laughs the left-sided player. “We have lots of experienced players who can teach me a thing or two. From the outside I am maybe still seen as just one of the young lads from the academy, but I see myself as an established professional. I feel like I am ready to take the next step in my development, and take on more responsibility out on the pitch.” ‘Maxi’ wants to take his game to the next level and has identified clear areas for improvement to help him accomplish this goal. “I need to improve the physical side of my game, and I need to be stronger in the tackle. I need to make it harder to get past me.” Mittelstädt also sees room for improvement in an attacking sense. “I am a left-back who likes to bomb forward, but I can definitely still improve my crossing and the precision of my final ball.”
Fit again after a tough preseason: “We are ready to go again,” says Mittelsädt.
One sure-fire way to improve as a player and as a team is by focusing meticulously on the details in training – something that Bruno Labbadia and his coaching staff have done throughout preseason so far. “We have worked really hard and pushed ourselves right to the limit at times,” says Mittelstädt. “I feel like we are just recently getting back to full strength, which is what the coaches wanted to achieve, I think. We have taken on board a lot of new information, and now we are ready to get going again!”
Will Mittelstädt be in the regular starting line-up? His ongoing competition with Marvin Plattenhardt, something which has served both players well, is currently tough to call. “Platte started against Ajax, while I was in the line-up against PSV. In training we are constantly swapping around,” says the 23-year-old. “I think that the coach will wait right until the final friendly against Hamburg, and the last few days of preseason training, to make a decision. I am obviously trying to show myself in the best possible light!”
Dreaming of a Germany call-up – Olympic games in mind
The full-back was a runner-up at the U21 European Championship last year, alongside teammate Arne Maier, and is hoping to be able to represent Germany again in the future. "It was always a great experience to be able to go and play for the national team. My dream is to someday play for the senior side,” says Mittelstädt, who is also hoping to be selected for the Germany squad to play in the Olympic Games next summer. “To play at the Olympics would be the experience of a lifetime. I have already spoken about it with Stefan Kuntz, who has given me some positive signs. But right now I just have to wait and see how things develop – things can change so quickly in football. The first and more important step towards achieving this aim is obviously to perform well for Hertha!” Our number 17 will hope to grow even further in the left-back role this season, and thus move a little closer to achieving his dreams. What Maximilian Mittelstädt is capable of, only he knows.