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

Anthony Modeste turning back the clock in Cologne revival

Whisper it quietly, but Cologne fans have reason to believe the good times are coming back thanks to a man who may be modest by name, but is anything but modest on the field of play.

Anthony Modeste has supplied almost half of the Billy Goats' goals this season, including three braces in his past four outings.

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.

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

The lure of China was too strong for the forward, who had played his way into the hearts of Cologne's fans and has already repaired the breakage his departure caused. 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 initially on loan in 2018, scoring six goals in 10 games to help them earn promotion back to Germany's top flight, and him a full-time return.

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.

Modeste (l.) says that Cologne coach Steffen Baumgart (r.) is bringing out the best in him this season. - via www.imago-images.de/imago images/ActionPictures

"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."

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 are now there for all to see.

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.

Watch: Modeste brace earns Cologne draw with Union

With eight goals, he trails just Lewandowski and Erling Haaland in the scoring charts – another parallel with 2017.

"I wouldn't have anything against [finishing in the top three goalscorers]," Modeste said. "As I've said, I've invested a lot and it doesn't surprise me the way things are currently going. 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 four points separating them from the top six are all the fans are focusing on, and not the five-point gap back to the relegation zone – even if they have not won in their past four Bundesliga fixtures.

That is something they plan on rectifying against Mainz, Borussia Mönchengladbach, Arminia Bielefeld and Augsburg in their four games following the international break.

Modeste (l.) has scored 66 goals in 134 competitive appearances for Cologne. - UWE KRAFT/AFP via Getty Images

"We know how the situation is and when we lose or draw games, of course we're not happy," Modeste said. "But I think we could have got much more out of our recent games, we just kept conceding early on and only managed to get back on terms.

"That feels like a win, though, even if you don't get three points for it, and if we can start going in front rather than falling behind, then we're going to get back to winning ways. We've got 14 points and mustn't forget where we're coming from. We only narrowly avoided relegation last season, so I think things are going in the right direction."

Thanks to his eight goals from 43 shots – fewer only than Lewandowski – Modeste's contribution of 47.1 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.

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

"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.