For the time being, Pál Dárdai does not particularly miss coaching. He has enough to do: for example, he keeps the garden of his Berlin home tidy (PHOTOS: ATTILA TÖRÖK)

– If you had not called Ádám Szalai in September 2014, maybe he wouldn't have announced on Wednesday that he would retire from the national team after the Nations League matches against Germany and Italy.
– Not maybe but almost certainly – Pál Dárdai told Nemzeti Sport in an exclusive interview in his home in Berlin. – Before I was entrusted to take charge of the national team, Ádám canceled being a national team player. After I became the head coach, he was one of the first ones I called because I wanted to bring him back. I told him my ideas and asked him to reconsider his decision. The next day, he notified me that he would return. Something tells me he has no regrets. I'm glad that, over the years, he has been able to contribute so much to the national team's success. He has played in two European Championships, which is something only a few in Hungarian football can boast about. Hats off to him!

– As a coach, do you think there was nothing more to this story?
– Look, sooner or later a player will reach the age where, even if he knows in his head what to do, the legs don't move like that. My own experience tells me that after the age of thirty, we slow down. If a footballer understands this and reacts properly, there is nothing wrong with that. Ádám is actually at the peak of his national team career, and his decision must be respected to the fullest. I only feel sorry for the national team because it will be poorer not only with a good footballer but also with a leader personality. Anyone who knows anything about football could see that Ádám was the coach's extended arm on the pitch. His role was not visible, but he could be trusted with all the tasks. He was to the national team what Thomas Müller is to Bayern Munich. One word was enough to let the others know what to do.

– Under your guidance, the national team started on the road to the European Championship in France, but Marco Rossi has also achieved better and better results as national team head coach. Would you be in the Italian coach's shoes now?
– No. What I have achieved is a good memory, and to this day, I am glad that everything happened the way I said at my introductory press conference. I had a wonderful time on the national team bench, but that's in the past. I've never wanted to take anyone's place, and that's no different now. Marco Rossi really deserves all the credit and I wish him all the best. However, you have to know that many people use the Nations League to build up their team for the European or World Championships. Of course, if we stay in League A, it would be a brilliant achievement. We'd be in a good place here in the next season too. All the more so because in the last one or two decades, the Hungarian national team has never had the strength of an attacking game based on possession. When we were the favorite team, when we had to attack, we often were in trouble. Just think of the last two World Cup qualifiers against Albania. Nevertheless, the direction is good, and Hungary has earned the respect of many in the last year or two. As for me, thank you, I am in a good place at home for the time being.

Photo: Attila Török

– But are you still traveling to Leipzig Friday afternoon?
– I will be there for the game, yes. I'm warning you, the Germans are taking us very seriously now. Nevertheless, I don't rule out that we'll get at least one point. For that, we need to be in the lead because that could lead to a draw, but if Germany takes the lead, it will be difficult. The Hungarian national team is so solid that if they take the lead, the opponents will be in big trouble. Although it is also true vice versa.

– What are the Hungarian national team's chances against Germany?
– We happen to be good at counterattacks. A draw wouldn't be great for Germany, they have to win. I wonder what tactics they will choose. If the match was at the Puskás Arena, I would be more relaxed. I was there for the opening game against Uruguay three years ago, and the atmosphere was such that I could already tell that the visiting team would not get much here. When the stadium is filled with almost 70,000 Hungarian fans, it gives our national team an incredible energy boost. It's like when eighty thousand people cheer in Dortmund. You can't hear your own voice, and the coach is better off sitting on the bench and sitting back because his words don't reach the players on the pitch anyway. So, the Puskás Arena has a magical power that makes the team fly. We don't have that away from home, which is why we don't always perform as good as we did last time at Wolverhampton. And there's something else: the absence of Roland Sallai is a big blow for us. When we are in possession of the ball, we often play him first, he leads the ball for thirty or forty meters, which ends either in an opportunity or in him being brought down. In the latter case, at least the others can take a little break... But seriously, Roland hardly loses the ball, it's going to be difficult without him. He's useful, he's a good player, and he's spoken of with praise in Germany as well.

– Can he go even higher at Freiburg?
– I'm sure he can, but I think he's in the right place. He is developing with his team, and the style of play at Freiburg suits him. He needs space, that's how he can really accelerate and become dangerous. If he were to transfer to an even better team, to one that has a steady defense, I don't know how much his strengths would come out. But why not? He's got the experience, he's not bad with goals and assists - I'm rooting for him to go far. I'll tell you, when I was Hertha's head coach, he was on my list once, but unfortunately the decision was out of my hands...

– Before the squad was announced, were you hoping that you would see your eldest son in the national team against Germany or Italy?
– Palkó has been performing well recently, but like for him, I have never lobbied for my other two sons either. If the national team head coach thinks he has a place among the best, he will call him. Let him do his job as he has been so far. I can see that Palkó is in good shape, he's put on four or five kilograms of muscle, and he's got stronger in the matches. Now he's become a man. When we went fishing in the summer, I complimented him on his good looks...

On September 6, an era came to an end: by mutual agreement, Hertha BSC and club icon Pál Dárdai terminated their indefinite contract. "That's sport," reflected Pál Dárdai, who has served the Berlin team as a player and coach for almost 25 years. “We can talk about being loyal to the club but if new management isn't interested in you, then bye-bye! My fate has turned out well, though. As a footballer, I had a successful time at Hertha, and as a coach, I have achieved results of which many in Berlin were proud. Not to mention the fact that, in the meantime, we had built the academy from practically nothing to being one of the best. I cannot, and I do not want to, say anything bad about Hertha. Mr. Bobic offered to terminate my contract, and I accepted it – and they even paid me not to go to work... In the end, it was good for everyone."

– Ten months have passed since you left Hertha. Do you not miss working?
– No, because there is plenty of work here at home. Three children, a beautiful wife, a little dog, and a big garden... I've never once felt bored. My friend Zsolti Juhász from Pécs visits me from time to time, and he looks at me amazed and says that for a "retired" person, I'm always in a hurry... The only thing I don't like is January when it's very cold here, and there's nothing to do in the garden. That's when Netflix comes... I'm actually having a good time in Berlin and at home in Zamárdi, not to mention that I can choose between three matches every weekend: if I want to see Palkó, I go to Fehérvár, if I want to see Marci or Bence, I go to a Hertha match. And then we have Teddy, our little Maltipoo. He's smart, and intelligent and follows us around all day so that he doesn't miss anything...

– Do you miss the bench at all?
– No! When I had a year off before, no one wanted to believe that I was comfortable in my own skin, but I was. And that's still the case. Do you know how much it means to live my life stress-free?! I'm not saying that I'll never coach again, but until my mind changes, it's pointless to talk about it. For the time being, however, I don't feel that it would be nice to train tomorrow morning.

– If I know it correctly, there were quite a number of offers.
– I got one or two, one of them even offered me a sum I hadn't seen written down before... I was offered a lot of money, but I've never worked for the money. If I didn't feel like doing it, I wouldn't do it, that's all. If an offer came that would move me, I would certainly think about it, but it hasn't come yet. It's not like I'm stressing over it. On the other hand, I'm stressing over how I should trim the top off the hedge...

– Were there also proposals from the Bundesliga?
– Last year, shortly after I left Hertha, I received two serious offers, and I thought we could come back to it in the summer. But I didn't get a call in the summer. No problem with that either, it's part of the deal. It could also happen that I won't be a coach anymore - I was planning to retire at fifty anyway, but it might come earlier now... but if I do end up doing something, I really want to feel that this is the job I wanted, this is what I want to do! It could be in the Bundesliga, but it could be anywhere.

– Even in Hungary?
– Sure. Maybe in Siófok as it's close to Zamárdi anyway.

– Zsolt Lőw might have once said that he would also coach in Siófok in the future...
– Ah, that's too far from Fonyód for him! I can get on my bike if I have to. But you know what, Zamárdi SE is also good for me. The team is currently in the county league, but on the bright side, the only way is up. The main thing is to have a cozy place where we can evaluate what we've seen in the warmth of a bowl of stew and soft music.

Translated by Vanda Orosz