Pros 07.04.2021 — 23:35 Uhr

NEW-FOUND FREEDOM

Under Bo Svensson, Leandro Barreiro's role in the 05 game is more offensively oriented: The Luxembourger convinces with both running values and making it uncomfortable for the opponent, and shook off the recent trip to the national team in the shortest time possible.

Barreiro fired three shots on goal against Bielefeld, but narrowly missed scoring his second Bundesliga goal on each occasion.

Even on Wednesday afternoon, Leandro Barreiro's anger is still not completely gone. The midfielder recently dropped points with both Mainz and the Luxembourg national team. "There was more in it," he emphasises. With the Rheinhessen in the duel with Arminia Bielefeld (1-1), with his home country in the clash with Portugal and his idol Cristiano Ronaldo (1-3 after a brief lead). These have been turbulent times, but the 21-year-old 05 home-grown player is still positive about the trend he has set in both cases. Not least because he is making an important contribution with his own development and appreciates the newly won freedom in the centre of the pitch.

With two European Championship qualifiers against Portugal and Ireland (1-0) over 90 minutes each in his legs, Barreiro returned to the Bruchweg in the run-up to the match against Bielefeld. These tests did not prevent him from running more than twelve kilometres against the East Westphalians and setting the offensive tone again and again. There was no sign of fatigue. For him, the only thing that was really exhausting or "annoying" about travelling in Corona times was the permanent wearing of the obligatory face mask. "But if you get to play football for your country, it's worth it," says the midfielder. And for a country that not so long ago was still considered a footballing dwarf and now knows how to annoy even the great nations of the sport. So from today's perspective, the dream of the 05 player and his compatriots no longer seems too daring: "The last few years have been very positive, we can keep up against big teams. Everyone sees it as a dream to play in a major tournament. But there is still a long way to go, we are still developing and we are a young team. If it doesn't work out this time, hopefully I'll have many more chances."

Nothing achieved yet

Until the end of May, of course, the focus is now exclusively on the day-to-day business with his Mainz team, with which he would like to - and must, as he emphasises - continue the trend of the first months of the year. "It's good to see where we are, but the gap is very small. Personally, I'm going about it the same way as before. If we want to keep scoring points, we have to perform the same way as last time. The only thing that matters is where we are on matchday 34, not now or next week. Doing our thing, continuing on our way, is crucial."

When you experience such great games together...

The race to catch up that began in January has now led Mainz to a non-relegation place and has made the team more and more of a close-knit unit from week to week that believes in itself even after setbacks. "We know that we can come back. A sense of achievement helps enormously. In the first half of the season, we often had the feeling that one goal completely threw us off course. When you experience such great games together as we did this year, it's in everyone's mind that we can turn it around. That speaks for our second half, but we still haven't achieved anything yet."

Personally, Barreiro has at least achieved his goal of getting more playing time than in the previous year, when he had to sit on the bench more often or make friends with the role of a sub. Most recently, the Luxembourger was in the starting eleven eight times in a row, with the Zerofivers picking up 15 points in the process. "I'm developing, I'm learning from game to game, I have more offensive actions." Although he has been waiting for goal number two since his debut against Leipzig, he still enjoys the new freedom under head coach Bo Svensson, who appreciates his qualities in the eight position, where he acts as an important starting point, looks for depth and helps to initiate attacks. "He just knew me already and knows that offensive runs are one of my strengths, that I take routes that are not always easy to defend. That's why I play a slightly more offensive role. There I always have free space. That's worked quite well so far, and we're improving as a team in creating scoring chances." Opportunities that have been lacking in terms of coolness or precision in recent times, as Barreiro also admits with a view to his own actions. Here, he emphasises, they need to improve their efficiency. "New game, new luck," says Barreiro casually, radiating calm and confidence.

That hurts everyone

The 21-year-old sees the biggest shortcoming of the current situation not in the sporting sense but rather in the atmosphere during the games in front of empty stands. "You notice all the time that it's not the same. It hurts everyone, the fans maybe even more than us, that they can't support us. It feels different when you score a goal and cheer. I hope we're back together with everyone as soon as possible." In the best case, of course, also in the coming season on first-class terrain, for which Barreiro and his team-mates want to collect further arguments on Sunday evening (6pm CET) in Cologne. They are all aware of the difficulty of the task in this match, he said. "It will be a very aggressive game with lots of duels. In the relegation battle, it's simply about duels, about intensity. I expect a close game that will be decided by little things. Defensively, we have to be as stable as we have been recently and offensively we have to play even better last balls, more accurate balls, strike when the chance presents itself." Given his more attacking orientation in the 05 game, it is not out of the question that Barreiro will have to meet this demand for ice-cold finishing qualities himself in this next important match.