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Anthony Modeste turning back the clock in Cologne revival

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Anthony Modeste is firing Cologne's European bid, reviving memories of his and the Billy Goats' magical 2016/17 campaign.

Modeste has supplied almost half of the Billy Goats' goals this season, including four braces in all competitions - two of which came in the space of just four games. A week into the New Year, he also has more headed goals (nine) than any other player across Europe's top-5 leagues.

After netting a brace to earn Cologne a draw in the Rhine derby against Bayer Leverkusen - and make it to 50 goals for the club - he chipped in with two more to see them past VfB Stuttgart in the second round of the DFB Cup and then single-handedly earned the Billy Goats a draw against Union Berlin, with another brace.

When Cologne last qualified for Europe in 2016/17, the 25 goals that the French forward steered in were, again, almost half of their total 51, and there are several other suggestions that history is about to repeat itself with Modeste turning back the clock this term.

Watch: Modeste brace rescues Rhine derby draw against Bayer Leverkusen

"I might never have predicted I would score three braces in four games, but there is one thing I did know, and that was that I would never give up," Modeste told Cologne's Express newspaper.

Modeste left Cologne in 2017 off the back of those 25 goals which saw him finish behind only Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (31) and Robert Lewandowski (30) as the third most prolific goalscorer that season; one that saw Cologne finish fifth.

The lure of China was too strong for the forward but, although he scored 11 goals in 20 games for Tianjin, life in the Far East was not entirely Modeste's cup of tea and he returned to Germany's Cathedral City in 2018, initially on loan. He scored six goals in 10 games to help them earn promotion back to Germany's top flight, and him a full-time return to the club.

The magic of the first marriage was not quite rekindled, however, with Modeste scoring just four in 2019/20 and moving to St. Etienne on loan last season. What he lacked was the kind of faith Peter Stöger had shown him back in his first spell with the Billy Goats, and which he has rediscovered under Steffen Baumgart this season.

"Come to Tony!" Anthony Modeste is the talk of Cologne once again in 2021/22. - DFL

"Peter Stöger and Steffen Baumgart have both given me the faith that I need," Modeste said. "Both understood how I tick. They may be completely different kinds of coaches, but they got through to me in their own way.

"Steffen Baumgart told me that I should show my critics what I can do. When I feel this faith and appreciation from my coach, then I would go to war for them; that's how things are with me. If somebody gives me a hand, then I pay them back. I just need to feel we're going in the same direction.

"When the coach puts his faith in me, I pay that back and I really put in a lot of hard work over the summer, so it's no real surprise to me that things are going so well."

Modeste felt that as soon as Baumgart called him in the summer and convinced him they could do big things together. Modeste worked harder than ever and the fruits of his labour are now there for all to see.

Anthony Modeste is flourishing again at Cologne under the guidance of coach Steffen Baumgart. - via www.imago-images.de/imago images/ActionPictures

With 12 goals from the first 18 Matchdays of the campaign, Modeste trails just Lewandowski, Patrik Schick and Erling Haaland in the scoring charts.

"I wouldn't have anything against [finishing in the top three goalscorers]," Modeste said. "When you work hard, you also get a lot back and the last two or three years were very difficult for me, which is why I'm now enjoying how things are going."

So too are Cologne. With Modeste in such form, the Billy Goats have kicked off 2022 by jumping into sixth-place. They did so by coming-from-behind to beat Hertha Berlin on week one of the New Year, with Modeste's ninth header of the campaign levelling the scores at 1-1 and setting Cologne's course for a 3-1 victory.

Watch: Baumgart responds to Modeste 'hat-steal' celebration

Modeste's contribution of 40 percent of Cologne's goals belies his name, with his trademark 'glasses' celebration becoming a spectacle in itself. He even drew Baumgart's ire by stealing his hat in celebrating against Berlin and while he won't humour his coach again, he cannot rule out finding a new way of celebrating – especially if he has many opportunities to be creative.

"I just do what feels right in the moment," he said. "I stole the gaffer's hat spontaneously and things like this just come from my emotions."

Whatever he does come up with next, Cologne's fans will be more than happy to see it as they revel in Modeste turning back the clock this term.