Dilemma for Swiss skipper as World Cup looms

Vogel (right) receives instructions from Swiss manager Köbi Kuhn Keystone

The captain of the Swiss football team tells swissinfo about life on the bench at AC Milan, overtures from Manchester United and his hopes for the World Cup.

This content was published on February 13, 2006 - 10:00

Johann Vogel joined Milan from Dutch club PSV Eindhoven in May but says he is frustrated by a lack of first-team opportunities.

The Swiss midfielder is currently experiencing one of the most testing periods of his career. After a successful spell with PSV, he caught the eye of Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti when the two clubs met in last season's Champions League semifinal.

But life in the northern Italian city has been anything but smooth since Vogel joined the Rossoneri on a three-year contract at the end of last season.

Competition for midfield places is tough at the San Siro, and Vogel has made only 11 appearances this season in Serie A, the Champions League and Italian Cup.

Manchester United recently expressed an interest in signing Vogel, but Milan are refusing to let go of the Swiss captain, who will be leading the national side at the World Cup finals in Germany.

swissinfo: You were a first-team regular at PSV but now you are spending a lot of time on the bench. Do you regret moving to Milan?

Johann Vogel: I knew things would be difficult here, but it's not every day that a big club like Milan comes in for a player. I remain confident and I believe in the future.

swissinfo: What is the best thing about playing at Milan compared with another club?

J.V.: It's training each day with the world's best players and learning a great deal at a technical and tactical level. The organisation at this club is something special. Just being part of the set-up is a plus.

swissinfo: The World Cup lies just around the corner. Italian international Christian Vieri asked to go to Monaco because he is not playing regularly at Milan. How are you coping with playing so little first-team football?

J.V.: Of course I would like to be playing more often with the World Cup coming up. But that would be the same whatever the circumstances. If this isn't possible at Milan, then perhaps I can do so somewhere else.

swissinfo: Can you confirm that you have been approached by Manchester United?

J.V.: Yes. United asked Milan if I could move to England, but Milan didn't want to let me go. I'm happy here, but I would like to play a little more often.

swissinfo: National managers always keep a close eye on their players. Do you think [Swiss boss] Köbi Kuhn has asked Milan to give you more games?

J.V.: I honestly don't think he has been in touch with the club. I know the manager well and he wouldn't ask something like that of a club. I'm the one who has asked Milan for more games.

swissinfo: How do you rate Switzerland's chances in Germany?

J.V.: We played France twice in the qualifiers and drew on both occasions, so I think we can certainly pick up a few points against them.

We don't know Togo too well but we will be expected to beat them; we also need a win against South Korea. This time they are not playing at home as they were at the 2002 World Cup, and I don't think they will be as strong.

swissinfo: How far can Switzerland go?

J.V.: Realistically, I think we can make it past the first round. After that, we'll have to see what happens. But our first objective is to qualify for the second stage.

swissinfo-interview: Guilherme Aquino in Milan

Key facts

Johann Vogel was born in Geneva in 1977.
He started his professional career with Grasshoppers Zurich where he won the Swiss championship three times.
He was first selected for Switzerland in 1995 and has been captain since 1998.
He joined PSV Eindhoven in 1999 and made more than 100 appearances.
In May 2005 he joined AC Milan on a three-year contract.

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In brief

Switzerland face France, Togo and South Korea in Group G at the World Cup finals in Germany.

The 2006 World Cup marks Switzerland return to top-level competition. The Swiss have not played in the finals since 1994 in the United States.

Prior to 1994, they had played in the 1934, 1938 and 1954 World Cup finals.

Switzerland and Austria are hosting the Euro 2008 football championships.

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