Blendi Idrizi: It’s fun being a part of this team
A Bundesliga debut, a maiden top-flight goal, an international debut for Kosovo and a first professional contract – Blendi Idrizi has had an eventful few months. The 23-year-old spoke to schalke04.de about his path to the first team, Gerald Asamoah’s support, his goals for this season and the pride he takes in wearing Royal Blue.
Blendi, do you sometimes have to pinch yourself when you think about what’s happened in your life recently?
That’s not an easy question to answer. I think my brain is still processing it all! I’ve really enjoyed the last few weeks – at some times, it’s felt like I was in a dream. Now it’s important that I don’t relax, but continue to work hard.
Did you have to think long about the club’s offer of a professional contract?
I was really excited by it. I said from the start that if Schalke wanted to keep me, then I’d definitely stay here. I owe the club a lot and I know what I’ve got here. Although I only joined two and a half years ago, I knew right away that Schalke and me is a good fit.
Although I only joined two and a half years ago, I knew right away that Schalke and me is a good fit.
Your contract in the U23s was due to expire on 30th June. Did other clubs get in contact with you after your impressive performances?
One or two yeah. But Schalke was always my priority, which is why I didn’t think about moving to other clubs.
How has pre-season been for you so far?
I feel good. After the international games at the end of last season, I had less than two weeks to recharge the batteries. That was enough, though, because I just wanted to get back on the training ground with the lads. This training camp offers us the chance to grow into a team. We’re together almost 24 hours a day and that allows you to get to know each other better off the pitch.
What do you do in the evenings when there’s no training?
Not a lot! Normally, we train twice a day and the sessions are pretty full on. As a result, I’ve been pretty happy to go to bed recently. There are still moments where we can socialise together in the hotel. I think we’ve got a lot of good characters in the team and it’s fun to be a part of this squad.
Have you had any feedback from Dimitrios Grammozis over the past weeks?
We’ve spoken on several occasions. He’s explained to me what he wants from me: I should be a box-to-box midfielder and make runs deep into the opponents’ half. I am trying to put his instructions into practice and to improve my game every day.
Now I need to keep on going and show that I can improve on how I’ve done so far.
Is playing as a box-to-box midfielder your favourite position?
I feel really comfortable in this role, but I can also play on the wings too. Ultimately, I’ll just play wherever the coach puts me and where I can help the team out the most.
You’ve made three appearances for Schalke’s first team so far. What are your expectations for the new season?
I want to get as many minutes as possible. I enjoyed those three games and they’ve left me wanting more. Now I need to keep on going and show that I can improve on how I’ve done so far.
You managed a goal too, in that crazy 4-3 win over Eintracht Frankfurt. After scoring, you ran straight to the bench and hugged Gerald Asamoah. Was that celebration planned?
No, it just happened during that moment. I was just so happy and thankful. I wanted to thank the people that made it possible for me. That’s Gerald Asamoah, the coach and the staff. They helped me realise my dream.
How many messages did you get after the game?
I didn’t count them, but there were a few. I didn’t look at my phone much in the days after the game because I didn’t want to lose my focus on football. I then slowly started to reply to everyone who had congratulated me.
Gerald Asamoah was also the man that brought you to the U23s in January 2020. When you moved from Fortuna Köln, did you have hopes of breaking into the first team?
I did think that maybe I could get a chance at the right moment. Mainly though, when a club like FC Schalke 04 comes in for you, you can’t say no.
Do you know how you impressed the scouts?
Torsten Fröhling and Manfred Dubski (U23 coach and scout) watched me play against Rot-Weiß Oberhausen. Manfred then also attended a few more games, including one in Rödinghausen. I must have impressed them.
Players like Nassim Boujellab, Timo Becker and Matthew Hoppe are good examples of how you can break into the first team from the U23s.
A few days before your debut, Florian Flick also appeared for the first time in the Bundesliga. Did that provide you with an extra bit of motivation?
First of all, I was really pleased for Flo after his first game. We had both been training with the first team for a few weeks at that point. Players like Nassim Boujellab, Timo Becker and Matthew Hoppe are good examples of how you can break into the first team from the U23s. We have all believed in our chances and taken them.
You wear the number 36 – does that have a particular meaning to you?
It was just given to me last season when I became a part of the first team. Things have gone well for me while wearing it, so I would like to keep it.
What does FC Schalke 04 mean to you?
This is such a huge club. The fans in particular are incredible. A few days after signing in January 2020, I was at the VELTINS-Arena for the DFB-Pokal game against Hertha BSC, which we won in extra time. The atmosphere that night simply blew my mind. At that point, I just thought imagine playing on that pitch with 60,000 fans behind you. I hope that I’ll get the chance soon to play in front of fans in this fantastic stadium.
Do you have a role model?
I really like the way Thiago and Coutinho play, although I wouldn’t describe them as role models. I do try and learn things from them though.
Are there any games that you’re especially looking forward to next season?
The first game against Hamburger SV will be a cracker. It promises to be a really good match. I obviously hope we end up winning it and we’ll do all we can to achieve that.