Gelsenkirchen - A fine run of form after the winter break last season saw FC Schalke 04 clinch third place in the Bundesliga and with it an automatic UEFA Champions League group stage berth.
Mixed take on World Cup
Far from resting on their laurels, the Royal Blues are beavering away on and off the pitch in preparation for their next attempt to break the FC Bayern München/Borussia Dortmund stranglehold at the top of the German game. And in summer signings Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Sidney Sam, head coach Jens Keller already has two fresh options to help ease the burden on Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Jefferson Farfan up front.
A World Cup tour of duty with Cameroon delayed Choupo-Moting's start in pre-season training with his new clubmates and although the 25-year-old Hamburg native “could maybe have done with another week or two off,” as he explained in interview on the club website, “I'm really looking forward to playing for Schalke, so a slightly shorter holiday's no big deal.”
The stopover in Brazil proved for the Indomitable Lions and Choupo-Moting readily acknowledged that, “as a team it didn't turn out too well for us, we didn't perform as we'd expected." That said, from a more personal point of view, "I did get a run-out in all three games, which was good for me. The tournament was a huge experience and I'm glad to have been a part of it.”
His transfer from 1. FSV Mainz 05 was completed after the World Cup exit during a family holiday in Greece, where he otherwise managed to “put football to one side for a while and do something else”. Now, though, it's back to the hard grind of core preparations for his first season with “one of the best clubs in Germany”.
On the back of a fine season for Mainz, in which he scored ten goals and laid on three more, Choupo-Moting had options of his own when it came to moving on. It was, he said, a “great honour” to be the subject of such persistent interest from the Schalke management and in the end, “the decision to come here was the one that gave me the best feeling.” Not least because of his “ambition's to play at the highest level and I can achieve that here - not only in the Bundesliga, but in the Champions League as well, which is something special for any player.”
Able and willing to adapt
As to the specific role he might play for the Royal Blues on the domestic and European fronts, “I don't really have a favourite position. I operated mostly down the left for Mainz and felt right at home there, but I enjoy heading up the attack as well. That's where I played a lot of the time for 1. FC Nürnberg. It basically doesn't matter which position the coach puts me in.”
That will be music to Keller's ears, no less than Choupo-Moting's evident hunger for tangible rewards: “I'd like to win a few titles, that goes without saying. Schalke are a club that need to have that aspiration, and do have it. We want to be in the mix at the top again this season, although to talk about actually winning the league is going over the top. Mind you, I wouldn't turn my nose up at the opportunity,” he concluded with a chuckle.