"To be here and playing is insane!" the Leipzig midfielder says ahead of Tuesday's UEFA Champions League semi-final.
Leipzig midfielder Marcel Sabitzer is instantly recognisable. He was sporting an Alice band to keep his flowing locks in check long before they became post-lockdown chic among footballers denied access to barbers.
Yet it is the 26-year-old's performances on the pitch that have been catching the eye this season, particularly in the UEFA Champions League. His contribution of four goals and three assists has tempered the loss of Chelsea-bound Timo Werner and helped set up a last-four date with Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday. We sat down with Leipzig's key man; this is what he had to say.
On beating Atlético in the quarter-finals
We had a very good day and fully deserved to reach the semi-finals. After the game, the relief was massive, the elation was massive. We were rewarded for our hard work. Coming into the stadium [on Thursday], it felt special. Sure, there were no fans but still, it's the quarter-final of the Champions League! When the anthem started, I had goose bumps. The emotions at full time, the feelings of happiness, I cannot describe. It was like a movie.
On the semi-final against Paris
Paris are favourites: with their top players and their team as a whole, that much is obvious. We will need a similar day to the one we had against Atlético to stay in the game. But we are not in the semi-finals to make up the numbers: we want to win this match. We are focused on our performance and we want to prove to ourselves that we can compete with these teams. We won't only need our feet but our brains too. If we believe, I am convinced we can prevail.
On his best season to date
I have had a very good season in the Champions League. I've scored lots of goals, made lots of assists and helped the team. The coach [Julian Nagelsmann] gives me a lot of freedom; he trusts me. I always try to push forward and help the team with commitment, passion and, if possible, by getting involved in goals. So far I have done a good job, and I hope to continue in the same vein.
On making a mark as a club and individually
It is already this young team's biggest success. If, after only 11 years [since Leipzig were founded], you are in the semi-finals of the Champions League, it is already a big statement. A Champions League semi-final is the sort of thing you normally dream about; to be here and playing, that's insane. We want to show what we can do.
On why the new format suits Leipzig
The way the competition is being finished off [with single-leg ties] is an advantage for us. So, too, is playing in front of empty seats. We are relatively inexperienced at this stage, and if the atmosphere is like a cauldron it can be intimidating. Other teams have experienced players who have gone through that many times already. Perhaps it's less us having an advantage as them losing theirs.