After close to 100 appearances for Bayer Leverkusen and at the age of 22, Moussa Diaby recently received his first call-up to the France senior squad. Diaby believes the opportunity to play with the World Champions has come from his hard work in the German top-flight.
Sitting down with bundesliga.com, Diaby discusses the emotions that came with his first call to join the France senior squad, whether or not Leverkusen can challenge for Bundesliga and UEFA Europa League titles and his journey into football from the streets of Paris.
bundesliga.com: How did your coach and your teammates react when you received your first call up to the French national team?
Moussa Diaby: "Everyone was very happy for me. It was my first call up so I was obviously very happy. It was the coach who first informed me, then I saw it on TV and my teammates congratulated me at training. The president, the Sporting Director - everyone was happy, the whole club. I was happy too. It's my hard work paying off."
bundesliga.com: How did you react? Did you hold a little party?
Diaby: "No, I didn't have a party. But I was happy. It shows that I'm doing well in training and in matches at Leverkusen, who are a good club. Like I said, I was very happy - I felt very emotional. It was the reward for all the work I have put in so I was happy. As were my family and friends."
bundesliga.com: After Peter Bosz and Hannes Wolf, you now have a new coach in Gerardo Seoane. What is he like as a coach?
Diaby: "He's a coach who likes to be close to the players. He appreciates hard work at training. He gives a lot of advice and is always smiling. He's someone you can approach about issues on and off the pitch. He's a very good coach and I'm sure he will give us a lot. He already has given us a lot - we had a good start to the season and that's thanks to the coach and his staff."
bundesliga.com: How is he different from his predecessors?
Diaby: "The main difference is that he's a bit closer to the players. And is a bit more jovial. Though it was the same with Peter Bosz. Hannes Wolf was a little bit different - he came straight from coaching Germany U18s. But all three are good coaches and we're very happy to have had them. We're happy to have Gerardo today."
bundesliga.com: Where can you still improve as a player?
Diaby: "I think all players have to aim to improve - every single day in order to get stronger. For me, I need to work on my defensive game and on being more decisive for my team up front. Being more precise in the final moment."
bundesliga.com: You are now the quickest player at the club after Leon Bailey's departure. How does that feel?
Diaby: "Yes, I am now the quickest player I think. But there is good competition with Jeremie Frimpong and Mitchel Bakker. I'm happy - that's one of my qualities so I try to use that to the advantage of the team."
bundesliga.com: On Matchday 8, you face Bayern Munich at home. You won in Munich back in November 2019. So anything is possible, right?
Diaby: "We're playing against Bayern, they're just like any other team. Though they're used to playing in the Champions League every season. They're a good team, with good players. But we're also a good team with good players. We'll approach the game like any other. We'll play to win, we won't go in hoping for a 0-0 or hoping to avoid defeat - we'll go into the game to win. It'll be a great game."
bundesliga.com: Can Bayer Leverkusen challenge for the title this season?
Diaby: "Anything is possible. We're working hard every day to improve. So of course winning the league this season is a possibility - why not? We have to be ambitious."
bundesliga.com: What can you achieve in the Europa League this year?
Diaby: "If you ask me, anything is possible. Our first objective is to qualify from our group, to win our group. And then we'll take things match by match. This team has the potential to go far in the competition. We will give 100 percent and we hope to be successful."
bundesliga.com: Do you prefer to score or to assist?
Diaby: "Both. If one of my teammates is in a better position, I'll pass them the ball. If I'm in the best position, I'll shoot. But I enjoy both - providing the assist and scoring the goal. The important thing is that the team are successful and that we win matches. If the attacking players have this mentality, I think we'll go far."
Watch: Diaby bagged a goal and an assist against Gladbach this season!
bundesliga.com: What has been your favourite moment in the Bundesliga so far?
Diaby: "Like you said, it was the 2-1 win away to Bayern. It was a great game, though it was difficult. But we won the match and that was my highlight so far at Leverkusen."
bundesliga.com: What would you have done had it not worked out with football?
Diaby: "To be honest, I don't know. I have always played football since I was a little boy. It was football or nothing. I was 100 percent focused on football in my head. So thank you - I'm in a good place and I hope to have a long career."
bundesliga.com: Where did you start playing football?
Diaby: "A club in the 19th arrondissement. A club in Paris called Esperance - that's where I started playing football."
bundesliga.com: How did you first become interested in football? And when did you start playing?
Diaby: "I've played since I was little, perhaps seven or eight years old. I played at Esperance for four or five years before joining the PSG academy. I played there for six or seven years and then I came to Leverkusen."
bundesliga.com: What are your memories of joining PSG?
Diaby: "The best moments with my friends there? We were like a second family to each other. We had some good moments and some bad moments. But the good memories have stuck with me."
bundesliga.com: What was it like playing in the PSG academy?
Diaby: "It was the period in which I discovered the world of professional football. I was there to learn. I was part of a very good group of players at PSG. I was very happy, I learned a lot, and it allowed me to make the step to Leverkusen. Had I not gone through the PSG academy, I wouldn't be here at Leverkusen today."
bundesliga.com: Do you look back at this period fondly?
Diaby: "I have positive memories. Like I said, it was a period of my life where I had to learn in order to become a good professional player. So I look back on it only positively."
bundesliga.com: To what extent did the high degree of competition at PSG shape you as a player?
Diaby: "The championship was very interesting and PSG played in the Champions League too. So I was able to experience the Champions League as well. Like I said, I was there to learn. From the very start, I was learning at the highest level. You only have important matches when you are at PSG."
bundesliga.com: What role did your family play in your journey to becoming a professional footballer?
Diaby: "Family comes before everything. They're there in the good and in the bad moments. They'll always be there for you. When things go well for you, they're there and happy, and when things go badly, your family are who you turn to. It's thanks to them that I became a professional footballer."
bundesliga.com: Are there any specific coaches or friends who helped you in your journey?
Diaby: "I think all the coaches I had while at the PSG academy - they were the ones who pushed me to become professional. The coaches are who form us and teach us the basics of football. So if professional footballers have anyone to thank, I think it's the coaches they had while they were youth players."