Nassim Boujellab: Always believed my chance would come
Nassim Boujellab successfully made the leap into the first team a few months ago. In an interview with schalke04.de, the midfielder spoke about his first few months as a professional, his favourite position, the support from Gerald Asamoah and Torsten Fröhling, as well as his new jersey number.
Nassim, you were promoted twice this past season: into the Regionalliga with the U23s and into the first team as a player. Your year couldn’t be going any better, right?
A lot has gone right for me personally. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to end the Bundesliga season as strong as we would have liked. That bothers me a bit. It was the first time ever that one of my teams has been in the bottom third of the table. I hope it remains the only time.
This is your first pre-season as a professional. When did you first realise that you have what it takes to reach the top?
I realised that I could potentially make the leap to the Bundesliga during the rückrunde in my second season with the U19s. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to become a part of the first-team squad. But, I accepted it, continued to believe in myself and put in my time with the U23s. I gave it my all in every training session and every match, and was rewarded for that. I got a lot of support, especially from team manger Gerald Asamoah and U23 head coach Torsten Fröhling. They believed in me and made it clear that I would get my chance.
Your previous contract would have ended on 30th June. What was your plan if becoming part of Schalke’s Bundesliga squad hadn’t worked out?
Signing a professional contract at the start of April was a dream come true for me. To be honest, I didn’t really have any alternative plan in mind. I just wanted to make it at Schalke. The club means a lot to me, after all, I’ve been playing here for over five years now.
The club means a lot to me.
You received a lot of positive feedback from Huub Stevens, who took over the team during a difficult phase last season. What sort of reaction have you gotten from David Wagner so far?
The coach shows how much faith he has in us every day. David Wagner has a clear philosophy and a clear vision of how he wants to play. The parting advice Huub Stevens gave me was to show what I can do in every training session. I’ve taken this advice to heart. I give it my all and make myself available. In the end, it’s the coach who will decide if I’ll play or not.
Are you sometimes approached by older players who give you advice?
I am always grateful when I get advice from more experienced players and I happily approach my teammates too. For example, Benjamin Stambouli and Matija Nastastic are important people I can go to, even though they play in my position. They have already experienced a lot in their career.
Which is your preferred position?
Central midfield. However, I can also play more defensively or offensively, and have no problem playing on the flanks. I am just pleased whenever I make an appearance and can help the team as much as possible.
You missed the first part of pre-season with a tendon injury. Are you completely pain-free now?
I can feel something slightly in training, but overall everything is fine. I can play without problems.
I believe that every footballer has the aim of being a key player in the team.
What went through your head when you realised that you would have to miss an important part of the season?
It was tough. Firstly you have to sit out and then ease yourself back in cautiously. You have to accept the situation and take the positives.
Last season you wore the number 41 shirt, and this season you’ve taken no. 16. Why did you decide to do so?
I wore number 16 in the second team, and it went well for me there. It was free this season, so I decided to take it.
Do you have any personal objectives for this season? Under Huub Stevens you played almost every game towards the end of the season.
I believe that every footballer has the aim of being a key player in the team. We have a good side and that definitely won’t be easy. But I believe in myself and will give it my all.
You’ve played several times for the Morocco U23 team. Have you been in contact with the first team?
Yes – I’ve had a few chats with Hervé Renard. He was most recently the head coach but left after the Africa Cup. I’ll have to wait and see who succeeds him. I’d like to be called up to the next national team squad – that would be a proud moment for me.