Ligue 1. RC Strasbourg – AS Monaco, this Saturday (5 p.m.)
How did you experience the first full season of your career, with Strasbourg?
Very well ! I had a sense of accomplishment. Before, I had not had the opportunity to chain the matches and to be able to perform. It was my goal for the start of the season on a personal level, and I took it up. I was happy, but it makes you want to continue. We play for that: to know the victories, the defeats, and to be an integral part of the adventure. When you play very little, even if you know that you are part of the group, you have this feeling of not really contributing your stone to the building.
A year back, do you think you will succeed in imposing yourself to this point?
My mentality, already long before, when I was 21 or 22, was to tell me that I had to play. At one point, I was very frustrated. So when I arrived here, I didn’t want to waste a minute, I had this objective to play everything. I had spoken with the coach, but he didn’t promise anything. You had to prove your worth in training.
How do you explain that the mayonnaise took so quickly, when you have just arrived?
Exactly, it plays! When you are brought from another club, logically, it is that you are given importance. Me, I had done everything in Rennes, I had been at the club since I was six, so it’s different, it may have a link. I may not have seen it at the time, but maybe I wasn’t mature enough, seasoned enough. There were also the choices of coaches, who preferred someone else to me. I’ve always respected those choices, but I wanted to leave, to look elsewhere.
Do you need to get out of your comfort zone, to do violence to yourself?
No, it didn’t happen that way. To be honest, I’ve wanted to leave Rennes for a long time. It’s not that I don’t like this club, on the contrary, it’s my favorite club. But I said to myself that, for my career, if I didn’t have playing time, I had to look for it elsewhere. The workforce meant that I had to stay, to be in the rotation. I was happy to play there. But I needed to emancipate myself.
What do you notice that is different at RC Strasbourg?
I am from Rennes, I spent 24 years, including 18 years at Stade Rennais. I had only known that. There, it’s another environment, the city is different… I was ready for that, so I took it in the best possible way. I arrived in a family club, with a good atmosphere in the locker room, the players welcomed me very well. And as a result, I found working methods, a coach and a staff that I knew. I very quickly melted into the decor and adapted. And the first matches that I made here really put me in the bath. The atmosphere was “phew”, we were winning, I had played well.
The man flourishes as much as the player, in this new city?
Yes, it is a beautiful city! It reminds me a bit of Rennes, only bigger. I like the architecture, there are really nice little places. There is attractiveness, linked to the fact that it is a border town: there are Germans, Belgians… The people are quite simple, so I feel good.
I have a good relationship with him. He tells me things when there is a need to do so, whether they are good or not so good. And for my part, I think I can afford to tell him what I felt at times, while staying in my place. As we have known each other for a long time and I had him in U17 and U19, there is a real relationship of trust.
Do you measure the contribution of playing alongside experienced defenders like Djiku or Le Marchand?
Of course it brings. You have to analyze and learn from others all the time. So playing with Ligue 1 regulars helped me. But as I had just arrived, I had to prove my worth. And as I get on well with them, these are elements that pull up, so it’s beneficial.
Become the “rock” of a team at the top of the L1 table, do you know you can do it?
I am an ambitious person. I don’t talk a lot, I don’t reveal my ambitions all the time, but I’ve always thought about it. When we played in the Champions League in Rennes, I said to myself that I would also like to play elsewhere. I wanted to make my career, too, that’s just it! Playing at the top of the table in Strasbourg, even if we didn’t expect it at the start of the season, it didn’t surprise me. And that was a goal.
The season starts this Saturday for you, against Monaco (5 p.m.). What goals are you setting?
I stayed in the dynamic of last season: that the collective and I make good matches. We have to perform. But personally, in addition to the other daily objectives, I would add scoring goals, even if it’s not what I’m asked first. I’m big, there’s a way to score a few goals.