Gelsenkirchen - FC Schalke 04's season so far may have had its ups and downs, but one constant throughout the campaign has been the superb form of striker .
'Perhaps we lacked a bit of desire'
In an exclusive interview with bundesliga.com the 25-year-old talks about settling in at Schalke, his budding partnership with and his hopes with Cameroon at the forthcoming Africa Cup of Nations.
bundesliga.com: Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, you recently said that you wouldn’t class yourself as a classic centre forward. After scoring nine goals, making four assists and winning a place in bundesliga.com’s ‘Team of the Week’, that description seems rather apt, however…
Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting: I’m happy with that return and of course I see myself as a striker. But I’ve played in various positions in attack in my career so far, and in that interview I wanted to make sure I was seen as flexible attacking player, and also wanted to differentiate myself from Huntelaar. For me, Klaas is your archetypal centre forward. He’s been showing us for years that he knows exactly where to be when the ball comes into the box.
bundesliga.com: You had productive spells at Hamburger SV, winning the Young Player of the Year in 2006/06, and at 1. FC Nürnberg and at 1. FSV Mainz 05, but you seem to have exploded into form since joining Schalke. Or would that description belittle what you achieved at your previous clubs?
Choupo-Moting: Schalke has definitely been a major forward step in my career, and that’s exactly what I wanted. I’m now playing for a top international club and one that’s regularly competing at the top end of the Bundesliga. Now I want to establish myself and develop over a longer period of time. At the moment I’m doing that very well but I never considered my previous clubs as stepping stones to better things. I learned a lot at all of them, things I’ve been able to draw on in my career.
bundesliga.com: Did your goal in the derby against Borussia Dortmund open the floodgates?
Choupo-Moting: I don’t think that goal has made much of an impact on my performances. But I did feel what it means to the region to win that game.
'We want to set the record straight against Real'
bundesliga.com: In the last few years, Schalke have always been at their strongest when there was outside pressure on them and they created a siege mentality. Even in your short time here, have you noticed that phenomenon?
Choupo-Moting: That’s very hard to put into words, and if we knew why it was, we’d have put a stop to that months ago. I do think, though, that in the last few weeks we’ve been more consistent and played better football than at the start of the season. We know we can improve though.
bundesliga.com: You’ll need that fighting spirit in the Champions League especially against Real Madrid, whom your team-mate Huntelaar knows well of course...
Choupo-Moting: They are giants, everyone knows that. But that’s exactly why you compete in the Champions League, to play in games like that. Personally I’ve never played against them and I can’t wait for it. We want to set the record straight after last year, that’s obvious, but even if they’re the clear favourites, football is always unpredictable.
bundesliga.com: You’ve often talked about how good your understanding is with Huntelaar, so you must be delighted that he’s signed a new contract…
Choupo-Moting: That’s true, we get on really well, and everyone knows he’s a quality player and has done a lot with this club. And I think the club can look forward to achieving success with Schalke for a long time to come.
'Cameroon can win the Africa Cup of Nations'
Choupo-Moting: My first impression was that he’s a very quiet guy and exudes a lot of authority. He’s very considered whenever he speaks and it says a lot about him that he’s won the Champions League and has worked with some of the best players in the world. I think he can still achieve a lot with us.
bundesliga.com: Will you be taking part in the first game of the Rückrunde, or will you be going to the Africa Cup of Nations?
Choupo-Moting: At the moment, I’m fairly certain I’ll be at the Africa Cup of Nations.
bundesliga.com: That means you’ll have played an entire year straight, taking into account the FIFA World Cup…
Choupo-Moting: To be honest, I feel the extra burden of games even playing for Schalke after the englische Wochen this season, which I’d not experienced before. Gradually your body gets used to it though, and the important thing is to go about the situation professionally and make sure you always recharge your batteries. And sometimes if you are tired, you just get over it.
bundesliga.com: You made a decision to represent Cameroon even after having played for Germany at youth level. With the knowledge you have now, the player you’ve become and Joachim Löw’s lack of strikers, would you have made a different decision?
Choupo-Moting: I’ve never regretted my decision and I don’t think I ever will. Obviously there are a few things in Cameroonian football that could work better, like I’ve said, but those are things you have to work on. Cameroon was close to my heart, though. I know the country well because my dad took me there all the time when I was a kid. I can separate the two nationalities easily. I cheered a lot when Germany won the World Cup, but the national team here is a bonus for me. My bread and butter and my priority is the Bundesliga.
Interview by Andreas Kötter