- Malli aiming to climb the table with his new club.
- Turkey international already has six goals, six assists this season.
- Wolfsburg currently training in La Manga.
It was 14:20CET on Thursday afternoon when Yunus Malli's career at 1. FSV Mainz 05 came to an end. The Turkey international departed his club's winter training camp in Estepona and travelled north up the Spanish coast to La Manga, where VfL Wolfsburg are preparing for the second half of the Bundesliga season.
"It all happened quite quickly," said Malli after putting pen to paper on a deal running until 2021 with Wolfsburg. "I sort of had to go with my gut instinct."
Since leaving the Borussia Mönchengladbach academy at 19 to join Mainz, Malli has developed into one of the Bundesliga's finest attacking midfielders. Now 24, he has already scored six top-flight goals this season and laid on a further half-dozen.
"It's always been my aim to be one of the top scorers in the Bundesliga," Malli said. It is, however, now Wolfsburg for whom he will be hoping to find the back of the net, and no longer the club that formed him as a footballer.
His 11 Bundesliga goals in 2015/16 helped Mainz to qualify for the UEFA Europa League group stages for the first time in the club's history. Malli scored once in the competition this season, although Die Nullfünfer exited early after finishing third in Group C.
Having tasted European football once, showcasing his wares on a continental stage on a regular basis is now the aim for the Turkey international, even if joining a team currently three places below his former employers in the Bundesliga standings may seem a strange way to go about achieving that objective.
"I wanted to take the next step in my career," said Malli. "Wolfsburg aren't really where they belong at the moment. It was always obvious that if I left Mainz, it would only be for a top-six club. That's where Wolfsburg belong and that's why this is the next step in my development. There are plenty more games to climb back up the table. Things can change quickly in football."
How Malli helps Wolfsburg return to the top six is an intriguing question. He has made an active decision to take the number ten shirt at the Volkswagen Arena, a number that was vacant after the departure of Julian Draxler to French side Paris Saint-Germain.
"It was important for me to have this number," Malli said. "I see it as a motivation and not as a burden. My strengths are best used in the number ten position."
Indeed, Mario Gomez will be one of several Wolfsburg players licking his lips at the thought of playing in front of one of the Bundesliga's most creative players and best set-piece takers. It was, in fact, Valerien Ismael who best summed up the range of attacking qualities that Malli will bring to the Lower Saxony club.
"He's dangerous in front of goal, but is also capable of creating as well as being a good set-piece taker," said the Wolves head coach. "Of course, it's also a bonus that he knows the Bundesliga well and won't need any time to adapt."