Schalke's Rabbi Matondo tells bundesliga.com he has come to Schalke and the Bundesliga to develop as a player and person, and the job is far from done after almost a year in the league.
The Welsh wing wizard spoke about his first year in Gelsenkirchen, the Bundesliga, his personal goals and learning German...
bundesliga.com: You've been at Schalke for almost a year now. How have the first 12 months been for you?
Rabbi Matondo: "Yes, it's been a very good year. There have been lots of ups and downs. I had an injury at the start of this season. I came in and the team wasn't in the best position but I knew that and obviously I knew that Schalke is a big club. So I thought to join Schalke and represent Schalke, knowing that once upon a time we'll get back to the way Schalke used to be and obviously this season we're flying. I scored my first goal, so it's been an up-and-down adventure but it's been positive and I've enjoyed every moment of it."
bundesliga.com: Are you happy with your progress at Schalke so far?
Matondo: "Yes, of course. Since the start of the season little things have changed in my game that I have improved on like the way I work intensively, like running more, running back, pressing harder, things have improved with little details of my movement. That's been a big part of the coach who has come in now and has helped me a lot. Hopefully I can continue to make him proud and hopefully I can keep on improving to help the team as well as myself."
bundesliga.com: Although you're a young player do you expect to be starting more and more games for Schalke?
Matondo: "No, of course, we have a lot of good players at Schalke, so if the team rotates, then you can't do anything. You can't complain, we're all working hard in training, everyone is working hard in training to get the opportunity. And when you get that opportunity, you've got to try and take it. If the manager decides someone else is better for this game or that game, then you've got to respect it and be ready when you're called upon."
bundesliga.com: So you're happy to be patient and wait for your chances?
Matondo: "Yes, of course. Everyone wants to play whether you're young, old – it doesn't matter. But you've got to respect the manager's decision and, like I said, Schalke is a big club with big players, so you've got to be ready for any time the manager is ready to call upon you."
bundesliga.com: As you mentioned you've scored a Bundesliga goal. That must have been a special feeling?
Matondo: "Yes, of course. My first goal in a professional game, my first goal for Schalke. It was a brilliant feeling, especially when going away to a good team like RB Leipzig and getting a goal and obviously the win on that day. It capped off a great day and it was more important that we got the three points."
bundesliga.com: You've played on the wing and as a striker so far. Do you have a preferred position?
Matondo: "Yes, anywhere around the attacking area – on the wing, striker I can play, even in midfield if I have to play. I'll do anything."
Watch: Matondo's first Bundesliga goal in a big win at Leipzig!
bundesliga.com: What would you say are your biggest strengths as a player?
Matondo: "I'd say my dribbling and my speed."
bundesliga.com: And what are some things you'd like to improve?
Matondo: "There's a lot of things I can still work on, even the things I'm good at like my dribbling and my running, my timing of movement. There's a lot of things I can improve on. But, of course, I'm not going to say too much but I'll be working on them. We'll see the difference."
bundesliga.com: The Royal Blues are up in the European places this season. What would you say has been the biggest improvement at Schalke since last year?
Matondo: "Obviously, the new manager has come in and he's had a big influence on all of us. We're playing with so much confidence, we're playing with a style that I don't think we played with so much last season. When you're struggling, it tends to be normal. We tried to change different things but it didn't work. This season our coach has come in and changed a lot of things and we're working so hard and we're all ticking and we know what the manager wants and we're producing on the pitch."
bundesliga.com: How has it been adapting to David Wagner's new style?
Matondo: "Well, it's helping me. Like when I do get the opportunities to play for Schalke, I enjoy playing because I know that the way we play benefits me as well."
bundesliga.com: Would you say this new style and way of playing as improved the confidence in the team?
Matondo: "Yes, it's a positive. As you can imagine, with doing well in the league everyone is happy and we're getting results that are better than last season. So, we're happy."
bundesliga.com: What are your personal thoughts on David Wagner?
Matondo: "He has a special relationship, I'd say, with the whole team. He knows how to deal with players. Of course, he's managed in England and he's got a big reputation and you can see why because of the way he coaches, the way he says things in detail and explains himself. You just understand him and he grips your attention with his passionate way of talking as well. He's changed a lot."
bundesliga.com: Can you see things in David Wagner's work that you also saw while playing in England?
Matondo: "No, he's come in and I'm not really thinking about that he was in England. He's at Schalke and he's doing a very good job for us and he's helping us a lot."
bundesliga.com: You've got a couple of games left before the winter break. You'd obviously like to end the year on a high...
Matondo: "I think as I said, we're doing well this season. We all know the last few games will be tough, every Bundesliga game is tough. But we'll give our all, we'll train hard like we've been doing so far and hopefully we can get the results we want."
bundesliga.com: You'll be facing Freiburg for the first time. Had you ever heard of Freiburg before moving to the Bundesliga?
Matondo: "Yes, I think so. Because when I was in England I tended to play FIFA a lot, so I used to come across Bundesliga teams and stuff. So, I already knew Freiburg. Yes, when I played my career mode and stuff."
bundesliga.com: Have you enjoyed playing this season with the top of the table so close between so many teams?
Matondo: "Of course you'd prefer more space but you can't argue with how we're doing so far. Other teams are doing well as well, so it's competition, healthy competition that we look forward to and it's going to be a challenge in these games like I said. But I'm confident that if we work hard, we listen to our coach and we do what we know we're good at, we can get a positive result."
bundesliga.com: What are Schalke's chances of staying near the top of the league until the end of the season?
Matondo: "We'll see. Obviously, I can't make any promises. We'll work hard, I can guarantee you we'll work hard, we'll give our all in every game and hopefully, we can finish high up in the table."
bundesliga.com: What are your personal goals for the rest of the season?
Matondo: "Well, hopefully playing games, that's what we all play football for. Playing games and hopefully score some goals for Schalke."
bundesliga.com: Did you have any footballing role models while growing up?
Matondo: "I had a role model when I was growing up in Thierry Henry. Obviously, right now there are a lot of good players playing that I admire like Kylian Mbappe and these kinds of players."
bundesliga.com: What were the reasons behind you moving to the Bundesliga from England?
Matondo: "I thought it was the perfect time for me to leave Manchester City. I thought I needed to take the next step up from U23's football in England. I thought Schalke would be the right place for me to develop as a player and as a person, moving away from home. I think Schalke was the right decision for me."
bundesliga.com: What have been your impressions so far on the quality of the Bundesliga?
Matondo: "I'm really enjoying it so far. It's been a great experience, I've learned a lot. There's a lot of aggressive teams, there's a lot of hard-working teams. It's a very good league."
bundesliga.com: You've also had your first experience of the Revierderby against Borussia Dortmund...
Matondo: "Yes, of course, we all know it's a big rivalry between Dortmund and Schalke and obviously playing in it not so long ago was fantastic and hopefully many more to come. It was fantastic. It was my first experience of starting in this game and an experience I'll never forget."
bundesliga.com: You'll have experienced one of the loudest atmospheres in German football that day. How have they been for you?
Matondo: "Yes, the atmospheres in Germany are top. It's very good in Germany."
bundesliga.com: After a year in Germany, how is your German coming along? It's a difficult language...
Matondo: "Yes, like you said it's a difficult language, German. I'm trying my best to learn, I'm not the best speaker, I understand more things than I can speak. But hopefully in a couple of months, a couple of years, we can do an interview in German."
bundesliga.com: And how has life been in Germany for you so far?
Matondo: "From my experience right now, I've enjoyed every minute of it and hopefully I keep on enjoying it because it's been a good experience for me."
bundesliga.com: You might have been born in Liverpool, in England, but you're certainly a Welshman, aren't you?
Matondo: "Yes, I grew up in Cardiff. For me I'm Welsh. I grew up in Cardiff most of my life, then obviously my parents are Congolese from Congo, so it's a big part of my life. Family is important to me and obviously growing up in Cardiff and Wales is a big part of me."
bundesliga.com: So you're a real family man. How often do you get to speak to them?
Matondo: "I speak to my family every day. Of course, sometimes I'm busy and they're busy, but we try to keep in contact every day. Without them, I probably wouldn't be where I am today. So I'm grateful to have such a supportive family. I have siblings that are still in high school and primary school. It's harder for my parents to leave them or to come because they have things to do themselves. But when they have time, they do try to come and visit."