Breel Embolo: True friends stick with you through everything

Whoever watches Breel Embolo train, watches a young player who wants to constantly improve. Confidence and team spirit are particularly important to him on and off the pitch, he told schalke04.de. In his interview, the 21-year-old lets us in on the reason behind the team’s success. He also emphasises that given the choice again he’s still always opt to wear Royal Blue.

Breel, you’ve been regularly part of the starting XI once again. Are you finally back to being 100% after such a long time on the sidelines due to injury?
The preparation in the first half of the season was important. I felt back then that I wasn’t far away and that the hard work had paid off. I continually received positive feedback from Domenico Tedesco too. After a serious injury, it’s always important to find your feet once again. To do that, you have to play. I’ve got the chance in the last few games. If results go our way at that time too, that gives you that little extra confidence boost.

After your return to the starting XI in Munich, you scored your first goal in the VELTINS Arena a week later in the win over TSG Hoffenheim. After the final whistle, you were the happiest person in the whole stadium…
It was a great evening for me. I’d be happy if each game went like that! What was most important though was the win not my goal. If I score but we lose 2-1, I’m not happy. It’s not important who scores, it’s about winning.

If I score but we lose 2-1, I’m not happy.

Breel Embolo

How long does it take you to digest a game?
After the final whistle, you’re fully of adrenaline. Sometime, it’s not easy to go to sleep. The day after, we normally go over the game together before we run. How did the game go? How can we improve? At the latest, I’m over a game in two days time – whether it’s win, lose or draw. My focus then turns fully to the next game.

A team needs more than good individuals though.
That’s true! If you want to be successful, you have to have good chemistry in the squad. That’s certainly the case at Schalke. We have a good mix of young and experienced players who all get on well. The more senior players like Naldo and Ralf Fährmann are our leaders and are a big help. Everyone respects one another.

Do you stick together off the field?
Absolutely. We do that a lot. Either we go out to eat or go for coffee ourselves or we have activities together scheduled for us. For instance, a few days ago, when we had an afternoon off training, we went paintballing together. Also, we often play PlayStation together. I find it very important that we get on well off the field. If we get on off the pitch, it makes things on the field easier.

Shortly after your long-term injury, you said Schalke isn’t like a normal club. You compared the club to a big family. What did you mean by that?

When everything’s going well, there are always people at clubs who are telling you how great everything is. However, you only know your true friends when you’re going through bad times. That’s when you see who’s really fighting your corner. To be brutally honest, after the diagnosis I was realy down in the dumps because I knew I wouldn’t be able to play football for a lengthy period of time. Schalke supported my family and friends the whole time!

Your teammates even made a video for you. One or two of them even sung for you alongside the well wishes!

The lads felt they had to give me a lift. I didn’t think they’d do anything like that as I’d been here for only three months. Clemens Tönnies came to visit me in person after the operation in the hospital to tell me how the whole club was behind me the entire way. On top of that, I received lots of get well soon messages from the fans. I realised that my decision in summer 2016 was the right one. I would always choose Schalke again and am just glad to be a part of this fantastic club!

I would always choose Schalke once more!

Breel Embolo

Your former club Basel face Manchester City in the Champions League. How hard is it to watch European matches in front of the TV?

Last season, we had the chance to be in Europe once again but didn’t manage it. It hurts sure to not have midweek games, while other teams compete in the Champions League and Europa League. There’s no point in moaning about missing out last time. We have to look ahead and want to put it right this season. I think we’re heading in the right direction certainly.

As it stands, you’re second in the table. It’s incredibly close in the top half of the table. Every matchday it seems to change. Why is no team able to break away and make second place their own?

The competition is fierce. Some people say it’s because the teams behind Bayern aren’t good enough. I don’t think that’s the case. It’s the opposite in fact. As I see it, there are lots of teams with quality players in the Bundesliga which means practically anyone can beat anyone in this division. Every matchday brings a new challenge which requires you to perform to your optimal level to get points on the board. It’ll be tense right until the last matchday.

On Friday, we head to play 1. FSV Mainz 05. On paper, we’re favourites…

Stop right there! That’s the wrong mindset to have. The next two game (trips to Mainz and Wolfsburg) will be very tough for us. Both those teams are fighting for points like us. Both teams will be giving their all – we’re not going to be gifted a result. We have to play to our maximum potential.

Playing well at club level is also the best way to get into the squad for the World Cup this summer for your native Switzerland.

That’s very true. In 2016, I was able to experience the European Championships in France. It was a crazy experience. I can’t imagine what a World Cup will be like as it’s another step up! To be honest, at this moment in time, the World Cup isn’t something I’ve thought about too much. Schalke comes first right now. In the Bundesliga, we’ve put ourselves in a good position. Likewise, we’re in the semi-final of the DFB-Pokal.

Nonetheless, have you stayed in contact with Switzerland head coach Vladimir Petkovic?

We talk regularly. He’s following my journey and is fully supportive of me. He supported me just as much as the people at Schalke while I was out injured. I was even part of the national team set-up, although I couldn’t play yet. He still made me feel like I was a key part of the team. It’s so relieving to know you have the whole team and coaching staff behind you. It makes you perform at a higher level right away.

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