Meet the A-Leagues’ newest playmaker who idolises De Bruyne & starred with Leckie in Germany

Western Sydney Wanderers recruit Sonny Kittel speaks to aleagues.com.au about his first impressions of Australia, what he’ll bring to the A-Leagues and much more.

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“Is this like every game?!”

That was the question new Wanderers signing Sonny Kittel asked teammate Brandon Borrello during half-time of their recent seven-goal thriller with Macarthur FC.

Having arrived in Australia less than 48 hours before kick off against the Bulls, the Wanderers’ new man joined his teammates in Campbelltown to get a first glimpse of Isuzu UTE A-League action in the flesh.

“I see good quality,” said Kittel when he sat down with aleagues.com.au.

“It’s not easy to score, that means you have quality on the pitch.

“You can say the defenders don’t make their job (easy) but I will not say this. I think the quality was good.”

The 31-year-old has certainly been put through his paces since arriving in Australia, a country he and his family will now call home until at least the end of the current campaign.

Still battling jet-lag, Kittel was thrown into the deep end on a typical summer’s day in Western Sydney, undergoing a gruelling individual training session in 40 degree heat in a bid to get him up to speed.

“It was an experience,” laughed Kittel when discussing his new surroundings. “I like the sun, I love the weather but of course in this time, with this weather it was very crazy and hard.

“We were with the Polish club (Raków Częstochowa) for a training camp in Turkey so the weather there was quite warm, 20 degrees. Before it was minus in Poland so we train on artificial grass with snow and everything!”

Now sat in the shade on what was a much cooler day in Sydney’s West, Kittel opened up on his decision to uproot his family from Europe in favour of a life in Australia, revealing he actually almost joined the club 12 months prior.

“It started one year (ago) the conversation with the coach (Marko Rudan),” said Kittel when discussing how the deal came about.

“I had five more months with Hamburg and we got in touch but in the end I decided to stay in Europe.

“We also had a second child and my wife didn’t want to go so far from Germany and Poland was was one hour by plane. The opportunity to play in the Champions League was also a reason.

“I had some other offers from Saudi (Arabia) and MLS but it was too far at this moment and was not the right moment, also the same with Australia. In the end we decided to stay in Europe.”

German born with Polish heritage, Kittel ultimately ended up swapping the country of his birth for that of his parents, signing for Ekstraklasa side Raków Częstochowa, bringing an end to 13 seasons in the Bundesliga.

However the move didn’t go to plan. Having failed to receive regular minutes which subsequently impacted his form, the German youth international took matters into his own hands and re-initiated contact with the Wanderers.

“I think I’m at a good age, in a good part of my career and I try to show this. The last six months I couldn’t show this (with Raków) but before I played like every game 90 minutes in Germany.

“I was in a good moment and in good shape and now these (last) six months give me the feeling I can’t show it because I don’t get the minutes. I feel good and now I want to give my experience to the younger players, to the team, to help.”

Kittel’s first experience of Australian football – or in this case footballers – came during the 2016-17 Bundesliga season where he played alongside Socceroo Mathew Leckie at Ingolstadt, where the duo featured regularly in a season where they battled relegation.

But while he admits he didn’t think to discuss the move to Wanderland with the current Melbourne City man he did pick the brains of three people associated with the club – including a current player – before making the move down under.

“Yes I speak with Alex Meier who played here, I speak with Pirmin Schwegler who also played here. I have very good contact with these guys because I played with them in Frankfurt for a long time.

Kittel (R) pictured alongside former Wanderers Pirmin Schwegler (L) and Alexander Meier (C) whilst playing for Eintracht Frankfurt.

“They told me a lot about the league, about the city, about the team. I speak with Brandon (Borrello) and I asked, of course, I have a lot of questions, my family has a lot of questions but in the end, I will say, football everywhere is the same.

“I see it also here after two, three training (sessions) the organisation and everything is not a big difference to Europe.”

Kittel could be seen practicing freekicks with Borrello after training and has seemingly struck up a good bond with the Wanderers forward, who was a regular opponent of his during their respective careers in German football.

Wanderers fans will now be hoping the duo can strike-up a productive partnership on the field and Kittel believes his skillset can be a valuable weapon in Marko Rudan’s arsenal.

“I would say (I am) a (number) 10,” revealed Kittel. “But it depends on which system you play and who plays next to you – is the connection good? I can also play on the wings, left or right, but I would say as the 10 I feel better because I am everywhere, I can help everywhere.”

Cutting his teeth in the Bundesliga against midfielders like Ilkay Gundogan, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, Kittel certainly had his fare share of players to base his game on but the former Frankfurt and Hamburg man admits to studying two greats of the game, albeit neither was at close quarters.

“To be honest I watched so many players on YouTube,” revealed Kittel. “At this time of 15 years (old) I tried to watch them, try to make the same training that they did. It was like Zidane, Ronaldinho. These old guys give you something and you try to do it in the training.

However it’s a player his own age who he looks up to as being one of his idols, a player who was also trying to carve out a career in German football with the likes of Werder Bremen and VFL Wolfsburg at the same time as Kittel.

“I love Kevin De Bruyne, for me the best number 10 in the world,” said Kittel.

“I watch a lot of his skills but in the end, the last years it’s not like before that I watch every player and try to do the same.

“When you become older you have your own style and you try to find from everyone, also from defenders or strikers, what they do good. You try to be a better professional.”

Sporting a large tattoo of Rocky Balboa on his arm that he now laughs off as being a ‘shit’ decision made when he was 18, Kittel arrives in Australia with a point to prove but more importantly his family’s future to fight for.

“I do my work, I do my job, I try to help to achieve the goals and for my family nothing changes,” he said.

“It’s far away from our parents but in the end if we are a family in one place we have everything we need. I think we can do it.”