The 26-year-old signed a contract until 2022 on Monday, becoming the first signing of 2020 and reuniting with his former Wolfsberger head coach Gerhard Struber. Ritzmaier is a former Austria under 21 team-mate of Barnsley goalkeeper Sami Radlinger, while they also have Austrian striker Patrick Schmidt.
Ritzmaier told the Chronicle: “I know Sami from the national team and I played against Patrick in the Austrian Bundesliga. It makes it a lot easier. But it is up to me to integrate with the rest of the team, give everything in training and show I have quality.”
Ritzmaier was recruited by Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven as a teenager and spent eight years there, playing 27 matches and being loaned out to other Eredivisie clubs Cambuur, NEC Nijmegen and Go Ahead Eagles. He returned to his home country in 2018 to play for Wolfsberger for whom he netted five goals in 57 games. Ritzmaier – who can play anywhere in the midfield diamond and left-back – has appeared in the Europa League for both PSV and Wolfsberger. He has played more than 200 games in the top flights in Austria and the Netherlands.
“I was surprised when he (Struber) left because it went really fast, in about three days. In football you know that kind of thing will happen and everyone was really happy for the coach. From what I have seen, he is exactly the same in Barnsley in how he trains and how he wants to play. His mind is always thinking of football. I love it. We have a good relationship and he tells me just positive things about the club and the Championship.
“Physically it is more than in Austria and the quality is a little bit higher. “It will be a big challenge but I am confident we can hit our target. We have to make a lot of progress but it is possible.”
Ritzmaier – who had a trial with Everton aged 15 – is now the third oldest player at Oakwell after Radlinger and out-of-favour left-back Dani Pinillos. He said: “It is unusual for me. In the Netherlands I was one of the youngest then in Austria I was in the middle because we had quite an experienced group. It’s different but I am looking forward to help the team with my experience.”