Exclusive Interview: Julia Simic

James Rowe for The Secret Footballer

JR ''Hi Julia, thanks for taking the time to talk to me at TSF this morning!  Let's start at the end for a change.  You signed for AC Milan in 2020, how are you enjoying it so far?

JS   "I am really enjoying playing over here in Italy because for me it is a completely new experience. I have previously played in England and Germany, and for me it was a great opportunity to join AC Milan and to experience another country.  The football philosophy and the footballing culture, together with learning a new language, is really exciting too.  Getting an insight into another footballing philosophy was one of the main reasons why I signed.  And obviously because AC Milan is a huge club with a great history, mainly on the men's side of the game, because their women's team is quite new, they have only existed for three years on a professional level.  So, it is great to experience that history and to see big European clubs investing on the women's side of the game. The culture is very male dominated especially in football"

JR  ''AC Milan is not the only European giant you've played for though. Eight seasons at FC Bayern Munich!  How do you look back on your time with the German giants?

JS '' Yes, I spent the longest period of my career at one club, FC Bayern Munich, and I grew up at FC Bayern Munich.  I had my first experience as a professional footballer at the club. I also finished school and my studies while I was there, so I still have a big connection with the club and I am still a huge fan of FC Bayern Munich.  Right now the men's team are doing great, in fact they have probably never been more successful than they are at the moment, but for me it's even more important what they do with the women's team.  It's great because they are also striving for a lot more and they are now going for big titles at domestic level and in the Champions League. 

Everybody can see the importance of having a women's team at such a huge club.  When I started playing for FC Bayern Munich, the club was on a completely different level, but now, the women can make use of the great facilities, great physicians and they have professional staff around them.  If I go back 14 years to when I played for the club, there was a difference in atmosphere, and it is great to see that the club is going somewhere and that FC Bayern Munich are now at a level where they can compete against every team in the world. 

A big highlight of my time at the club was when we won the DFB-Pokal in 2012, beating Eintracht Frankfurt in the final.  It was completely unexpected because we were not the greatest team, but we always had a great team spirit which you really saw when we won a title together.  When we won that DFB-Pokal you could feel that it was a turning point, it was when the responsible people at the club realized that we had a great women's team here as well, and that if they invested and gave it more attention then it could win titles.  I think that was the beginning of a great journey and it is still not finished.  It is great to see the club doing so well ''

JR  ''It must be incredible knowing that you were involved in the pivotal moment of such a big club.  You've also been capped by Germany, the ultimate recognition for any player, surely?"

JS  ''When I look back on representing my country earlier on in my career I would say that I am a bit unhappy to have only accrued two full international caps.  I always wish that I could have had a couple more but I was plagued by injuries at times when international squads were being announced.  I have fond memories of the times I met up, trained and played with the squad and represented my country. It was always important to me to prove to myself that I can play at that level.  But I just wish that I could have a few more caps on my CV.  

It was great to be part of such an international setup and just hearing the anthem...  representing your country, whether that is the youth team, but especially for the first team, is always special.  I think that it is the biggest achievement as an athlete in whatever sport you are doing.  One of the greatest memories and experiences in football so far in my career has been representing the German national team'' 

JR  ''New fans coming to womens football for the first time are always keen to know who the best players are.  You are obviously one, but who would you say are the best players that you have played alongside?''

JS  ''I won the most titles at club level when I played for VfL Wolfsburg with current German national team captain Alexandra Popp, an amazing player.  Also Lia Wälti who is now playing for Arsenal, we played together at FFC Turbine Potsdam and at the time she was only 18 years old, just a baby, but she made such a positive impression.  Sometimes you play with players who progress and later they become big players in the game.  Today, Alisha Lehmann is very much a rough diamond, she just needs a good spell in order to break through fully''

JR  ''Football goes through phases of producing exceptional players for a particular position.  During your career women's football has produced an abundance of world class midfielders.  Given that's your position, which opponents stand out?

JS  ''I will have to go through different leagues. In England when we would play against Chelsea FC they had great defenders such as Millie Bright and Magdalena Eriksson. I remember playing against Wendie Renard who plays for Olympique Lyonnais Féminin and it is hard to play against her.  When I played in Germany I played with and against Nilla Fischer, she was always a really hard opponent, also at Arsenal FC they have Kim Little who is unreal on the ball and tough to play against and I also played against the Brazilian Marta and you can't just get on the ball when these players are on the ball.  The same with Ramona Bachmann who plays for Paris Saint-Germain Féminine and the Switzerland national team. I played with and against her and she is a really talented footballer"

JR  ''That's some list of players to be fair!  Julia, I really appreciate your time today, just finally... Which coaches have played a key role in your development as a professional footballer?''

JS '' I would say that I have been lucky enough to have a couple of really good coaches so far in my career, both in Germany and also with the national team.  For example Thomas Wörle who was the coach at FC Bayern Munich and I had a kind of crazy coach at FFC Turbine Potsdam in Bernd Schröder, he was 70 years old at the time and he was the toughest coach in terms of physical training and getting the maximum effort out of us as players. I have never trained more in my life than in the one and half years I played for FFC Turbine Potsdam but you could also see how much your body is able to bring on the pitch. 

When I went to England I played under Matt Beard at West Ham United. He was the coach who I learned the most from in terms of the human side of football.  He was so good to the players and he always saw the human side of the players, not just the performances on the pitch either.  I really appreciated his kind of communication and I wanted to go out on the pitch and win for him.  He was really good to me during the time that I was injured and he was always so supportive too, he still made me feel like a valued member of the squad and that is really rare.  He created a family environment and I had never experienced that before, although I was injured half the time I played under Matt, he still made me feel valued and gave me great support and I will never forget that"

James Rowe is a Dutch Football expert based in the Netherlands, professional writer and translator for The Secret Footballer. He has featured on talkSPORT and regularly features on talkSPORT 2 and Love Sport Radio. You can follow him on Twitter here.