Breel Embolo: I couldn’t have made a U-turn
Breel Embolo, who recently became a father, has returned from his post World Cup holiday and joined his Royal Blue teammates in pre-season training. The Switzerland international spoke to us at schalke04.de about his newborn daughter, Naliya, the tournament in Russia, the short time away from football, his new hairstyle and his first days back in Gelsenkirchen.
Breel, temperatures have barely dropped below 30 degrees this week. Are you also grumbling about the heat wave?
I’m very happy to see the sun shining in Gelsenkirchen (laughs). Everyone likes to step outside to blue skies, it motivates you. Especially during pre-season, it’s always better to have such nice weather. Of course, it is really hot at the moment, but that’s how we get used to playing at a high level even in extreme conditions.
How fit are you?
That’s difficult to say at this stage. It’s still my first week of training, so the strain is being carefully monitored. My lactate test on day one was as good as usual, on Wednesday we had a little training session with Thilo, Salif and the coach and then a 5K run in the afternoon. On Thursday we had to lower the intensity a little – you can’t forget that Salif and I were still at the World Cup a few weeks ago. There’s not a long way to go, but you can notice the difference between us and those who have been training for four weeks already. I hope to get a few minutes of game time in Aue, whether it’s 45, 20 or 10, we’ll see. At the very latest, we should catch up to the rest of the team after the training camp in Austria.
My lactate test on day one was as good as it always is.
On your 5K run you were talking to Salif in French. What’s your impression of him?
Salif is a really laid back guy. He’s very pleased to have moved here and we are equally happy, because we’ve seen in the last two games against Hannover what a fantastic player he is. We have a very strong team this season, but we have a lot of work to do. Every little improvement is important, especially for young players such as myself to develop. Salif and the other new signings have been integrated very quickly – which is something I’ve said a lot, because it’s very important to me and I too was integrated into Schalke very quickly after signing for the club.
Mark Uth could be another role model for your development as a striker.Mark Uth is lethal in front of goal – he takes no prisoners up there, like another Burgstaller. He reminds me a bit of Yevhen Konoplyanka as well. For young players like me, who try the odd step-over and back heel in front of goal, players like Mark, who are calm and composed in front of goal are very important as role models. My international teammate Steven Zuber from Hoffenheim also had only good things to say.
A few weeks ago, you became a father. How are you and your little family doing?
It’s still a new situation for me and I’m learning something new every day. I’m happy now that Naliya is here with me and I can see her every evening. That helps me leave the house a little more relaxed. I admire how well she’s coped with all the chaos in the last few days. We travelled here, then went on holiday for a while and had a lot of visitors, because she’s the first baby in the family. At the moment she’s still sleeping well, which makes it easier for me to relax and recuperate (laughs).
The harder we work now, the easier it will be once the season starts.
That’s not the only new thing in your life, is it? You’ve got a new hair colour!
My girlfriend has said it is not even as bad as she’d feared it would be (laughs). I’m probably going to shave all my hair off soon anyway. And if they’re coming off, I might as well make it worthwhile. Not many people have the courage to have their hair done like this. Before going on holiday I just gave it a go. I had a few friends with me, so I couldn’t make a u-turn.
After your appearances at the World Cup and the birth of your daughter, was there even enough time for you to properly recharge your batteries?
A lot of people have asked me that. When I moved to Schalke two years ago, I’d come from the 2016 EUROS as well. The World Cup was fantastic and we can be proud of what we achieved, despite our exit being very disappointing. That chapter is behind me now though – in football everything happens so quickly: the Bundesliga starts again in four weeks. I’m very excited for that and I want to be at 100 percent in time for it.
What targets have you set for yourself this season?
As a striker you obviously want to score goals, but in order to do that you have to stay fit and healthy. The last few games I’ve played for Schalke were very good: I was getting closer and closer to my level. Unfortunately some muscular problems set me back a bit towards the end, so staying fit and healthy is a priority for me now. The season is long, and the harder we work now, the easier it will be for us when it starts, especially for the weeks with midweek games. At the moment though, I am focusing entirely on pre-season.