Munich - When Adam Szalai moved to 1. FSV Mainz 05 from Read Madrid's reserves in 2010, few knew what to expect of the young striker. Soon enough, everyone was talking about him. His first goal proved to be the winner against the eventual Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund, but a torn cruciate ligament brought about an abrupt end to a promising start under head coach Thomas Tuchel.
However, after making his return against Bayer 04 Leverkusen on 29 January 2011, having spent over a year on the sidelines, the 24-year-old is now hoping to put his injury troubles behind him and fire Mainz back up the Bundesliga table.
In an exclusive interview with bundesliga.com, the Hungarian international discusses the mood in the Mainz camp, the reasons behind his recent contract extension and what it's like to work with Thomas Tuchel.
bundesliga.com: Adam Szalai, what is the mood like within the Mainz squad after your 1-1 draw with SC Freiburg on the opening weekend of the 2012/13 Bundesliga campaign?
Adam Szalai: It's good. It's all very calm right now. We've taken a point with us away from home and we can look at the result positively. Of course we expected a little more from ourselves and we'd hoped to play somewhat better in Freiburg, but now we've got the opportunity to raise our performance on Friday.
bundesliga.com: You recently signed a new two-year contract extension at Mainz, keeping you at the club until 2015. What were the main reasons behind your decision to stay with the club?
Szalai: I feel very comfortable in Mainz. It was here that I became a Bundesliga professional and when I was injured for so long the whole club and team were completely behind me. I believe I can develop myself further here and this was the best opportunity for me to be playing regularly as I continue to improve.
bundesliga.com: What are you hoping to achieve with Mainz over the next three years?
Szalai: When you look back at the last few years at Mainz it's clear that a lot has happened. We finished fifth in the Bundesliga and now we've got a new stadium. Last year was a bit difficult for the club, but I believe that Mainz 05 will continue playing in the Bundesliga for a long time. After finishing in fifth place [in 2010/11] it's obvious that the fans and the public expect more from us now, but that's why I'm convinced we can achieve better results over the next three years.
bundesliga.com: Can Mainz potentially compete for a place in Europe with the current crop of players?
Szalai: That's a difficult question. The squad is definitely strong and we've known each other for a long time now. Very few players left the club and there also weren't that many new signings. The fact we know each other so well will definitely be one of our strengths this season.
bundesliga.com: What was it like being part of Mainz's infamous Bruchweg-Boys alongside Lewis Holtby and Andre Schürrle two seasons ago?
Szalai: [laughs] Well a couple of years have passed since I was part of the Bruchweg Boys. Naturally that was a super year and an incredible experience. However, now that it's in the past, I want to create new experiences and new realities to remember.
bundesliga.com: With such a young squad can Mainz still "rock" the Bundesliga?
Szalai: Yes, why not? We have a very young team of players on board and I think there is definitely a lot of unearthed potential within this side, which I'm hoping we can demonstrate to the fans this year.
bundesliga.com: What makes Thomas Tuchel such a standout head coach?
Szalai: What he's achieved with Mainz 05 has set him apart. Since he became head coach and took up the fight, you have to recognise that more people are talking about Mainz 05 and our style of play, how we perform and the fact that we finished fifth. I've known him for a very long time and he's the consummate professional. We know everything there is to know about our opponents before the match and we're always fully prepared for the next game.
bundesliga.com: What were you personal goals coming into the 50th Bundesliga season?
Szalai: My personal aim this season was to be able to finally play through a whole campaign without getting injured and as a result to help the team as much as possible. I want to play a big part in this side.
bundesliga.com: What can we expect from Mainz when you host SpVgg Greuther Fürth on Matchday 2?
Szalai: We definitely want to dominate and of course we want to hold onto all three points in front of our own fans.
Interview by James Thorogood