Tanguy Coulibaly has been just one of the many young talents who have shone for VfB Stuttgart in their first season back in the Bundesliga following promotion last season. The young Frenchman has already experienced some special moments in the German top-flight.
From scoring past Manuel Neuer with his first Bundesliga goal, to firing home past Borussia Dortmund at the Signal Iduna Park in a 5-1 win, Coulibaly discusses his first season in the Bundesliga with bundesliga.com, as well as his journey to Stuttgart and why he's so happy in Germany...
bundesliga.com: Your next match is away to Borussia Mönchengladbach - what are you expecting?
Tanguy Coulibaly: "We'll give our all for the three points, against a good team. We have played them in the cup and once in the league this season - it wasn't easy. But if we're able to play as a team, and defend and attack as one, then I think we can get a good result against Gladbach."
bundesliga.com: What are your objectives for the remaining matches of the season?
Coulibaly: "The objective is clear and that is to pick up as many points as possible. We have three matches left. We'll give everything to get three wins out of three."
bundesliga.com: What are your aims for next season?
Coulibaly: "Next season will be about improving all the time. We're a young side, and we're beginning to gather real experience. It will be important to ensure we're well-prepared for next season. Why not do even better than we did this season? That means finishing even higher in the league table."
bundesliga.com: What sets your team apart?
Coulibaly: "We're very young as a team, but we also have some older players with lots of experience. Like Gonzo [Castro] or [Daniel] Didavi. They have lots of experience and they help us on a daily basis. They help to guide us younger players, as we don't have much experience so it can be difficult sometimes. But that's how we're able to produce the football that we do - that blend between youth and experience."
bundesliga.com: How much has the injury to Silas Wamangituka impacted the team?
Coulibaly: "In an offensive sense, without a doubt. We all know how important he is for the team. He has shown that through his performances, goals and key passes. His absence has affected us and you could see that in recent matches. Also in terms of athleticism, we have missed Silas. But we don't want to use this as an excuse - we have lots of other quality players who are able to make a difference on the pitch in key moments."
bundesliga.com: How big a role has the head coach played in your team's success?
Coulibaly: "He has brought his philosophy of football to the club. He's a coach who works very hard on the tactical side. We focus on that and always look to execute the things we work on during training. Tactics is his area of expertise and that is what he looks to impart."
bundesliga.com: What are your personal objectives?
Coulibaly: "Personally, my objective is to play as many games as possible, to gather experience, and to get my numbers up. I'm an attacking player, so my numbers are important. But I'm looking to improve every single day. That's it."
bundesliga.com: What makes you special as a player?
Coulibaly: "I'm a player who likes to have the ball. I like taking on my man on the wing, I like playing with speed on the wing. I can play on the right and on the left. Shooting, dribbling, the technical side of the game. But I need to keep improving and that's what I try to do every single day in training."
bundesliga.com: What are your dreams in football?
Coulibaly: "I think my dreams are the same as every other footballer: European Cup, World Cup. That's what we dream about as kids. But for the time being I'm just focused on working hard. I have no doubt I will reach my objectives if I give my all."
bundesliga.com: Like Silas, there is another player who has been fantastic in his debut Bundesliga season. How important is Sasa Kalajdzic for the team?
Coulibaly: "He's a real striker. He's a striker who is hungry, and we need that. If the ball doesn't come into him, he gets annoyed. It's very normal for a striker to want to score goals and to help his team. He's a player who helps us a lot during game with his stature. He does not stop; he works hard to get on the end of long balls. He helps us a lot. He has the most goals in the team - that is no accident. He's important for us."
bundesliga.com: Who is your best friend in the team?
Coulibaly: "I get on well with everyone. I try to speak German too. But there are lots of French speakers in the team. Orel [Mangala] welcomed me on the first day. But honestly I get on well with everyone, absolutely no problems."
bundesliga.com: You joined VfB Stuttgart in the summer of 2019, transferring from an U19 team in France to a Bundesliga 2 side aiming for promotion. Back then, did you expect to achieve this goal in such an impressive manner and then to have such a solid first season back in the Bundesliga?
Coulibaly: "I arrived at the end of 2019. It wasn't an easy season in Bundesliga 2, not easy at all. It's a very rigorous division - all the clubs are fighting hard to secure promotion. Our objective as a team was to get into the Bundesliga, we didn't want to stay another season in the second division. That's what we did. We were focussed on producing the kind of football that you need in the Bundesliga. We had some quality players in the squad who helped us a great deal to prepare for the Bundesliga every day in training. We weren't worried about who we came up against, we were just focused on playing our football. We played without fear. That's what we tried to do out on the pitch. I think we deserve what we have achieved."
bundesliga.com: Many young players like yourself have transferred from France to the Bundesliga recently. What are the advantages of playing in the Bundesliga and how do you think playing in Bundesliga 2 helped your development?
Coulibaly: "As you said, there a lot of French players who move to Germany. Why this move? Because there is a lot of faith placed in young players in the Bundesliga. It doesn't matter which team - there are always young players who get minutes on the pitch and are putting in good performances. That's key. Every young player wants to play and wants to show their qualities. That's why so many French players choose to come to Germany."
bundesliga.com: After two relegations in the last five years, VfB Stuttgart have the youngest squad in the Bundesliga and have been successful in the first division. How do you assess the role of VfB's sporting director Sven Mislintat in this transition, given that he also played a decisive role in bringing you to Stuttgart?
Coulibaly: "Everyone knows Sven's qualities when it comes to scouting. He has a good vision of football. He knows the qualities to look out for in players. And that was big for me. He persuaded me to sign my first professional contract with Stuttgart. I try to pay back that confidence every day, by giving my all out on the pitch."
bundesliga.com: You have scored two Bundesliga goals - against Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. You clearly enjoy playing against the big teams. How did those goals feel?
Coulibaly: "I was immensely proud - scoring against the best club in Europe and the best goalkeeper in the world, in my opinion. It was incredible. Those were the teams I watched when I was young. To be able to play against them and score is incredible. I also scored against Dortmund, another big club. But in the future I want to score against every club."
bundesliga.com: What was your high point in the Bundesliga 2?
Coulibaly: "My first professional appearance in Bundesliga 2. It was incredible. We were at home in front of our fans. We ended up losing the game. But that was the best moment for me - my professional debut."
bundesliga.com: What has your high point been in the Bundesliga so far?
Coulibaly: "My first goal. Like I said, against the best goalkeeper in the world, against the best team in Europe. It's a shame we didn't get the win in the end, we played a great match and gave everything. But that's my best moment - my first goal against Manuel Neuer."
Watch: Coulibaly scored his first Bundesliga goal against Bayern!
bundesliga.com: What has been the low point for you in the Bundesliga?
Coulibaly: "I wouldn't single out one moment. Every time we suffer a defeat. The feeling is never good, we question ourselves and ask what went wrong, where can we improve. If you go on a bad run, you allow doubt to creep in. But you need to move on quickly because it's in the past. Every team loses matches. So generally, defeats and poor individual performances. But there wasn't one specific moment where I was at an all-time low."
bundesliga.com: How difficult was it becoming a professional footballer?
Coulibaly: "It wasn't easy - nothing is easy in life. It wasn't easy for me. I had to work hard all the time. I have had lots of coaches who have helped me a great deal. They told me it would work out. I always had this conviction in my head too, I knew I would succeed. I knew I had the qualities - you have to work on that mentality. I never had any moments of doubt, I never questioned my ability to make it, I kept looking forward. Be confident."
bundesliga.com: Who is your role model?
Coulibaly: "I would say Cristiano Ronaldo. There is no better example. He works hard on himself and has improved every year. He's the best player in the world. He's always working hard; he's always looking to improve himself. He wants to perfect himself in every way. That's what makes him such a great player."
bundesliga.com: What is your opinion of Robert Lewandowski?
Coulibaly: "Robert Lewandowski is a great striker. He has a natural goalscoring instinct. Honestly, it's difficult playing against him. Because you focus on him, but you forget the other good players around him. It's very impressive. For me, he is one of the best attackers in the world at the moment. Without a doubt."