1. FSV Mainz 05 striker Jhon Cordoba recently made headlines around the world by scoring the winner to help his side defeat Bundesliga leaders FC Bayern München 2-1 on Matchday 24.
In an exclusive interview with bundesliga.com, the 22-year-old Colombian discusses that triumph, talks about his first steps in the game and his progress since moving to Germany.
bundesliga.com: Jhon Cordoba, Colombia has produced a lot of great strikers, such as Faustino Asprilla and Adolfo Valencia, who was known as "El tren" (The Train) and played for FC Bayern München in the 1990s. Are they your role models?
Jhon Cordoba: Didier Drogba is actually my role model.
Cordoba: I just like the physical playing style he had during his peak years at Chelsea.
bundesliga.com: You have a similar kind of physical presence...
Cordoba: Yes, it's something I work on. It suits me and my physique pretty well, which is maybe why I looked at Drogba so closely.
bundesliga.com: You come from Istmina in west Colombia. How did you start out playing football there?
Cordoba: I grew up in a small village where there was no football academy. I started playing when I was seven and when I was 11, I moved to a more professional academy, where I was able to train at a higher level.
bundesliga.com: Did you know as a child that you wanted to become a professional footballer?
Cordoba: My passion for football has always driven me on. It was always my dream to become a pro.
bundesliga.com: Your path to Germany was an unusual one, from Colombia to Mexico and then to Spain…
Cordoba: It's not that unusual. Mexican clubs often sign players from Colombia. I moved to Chiapas because the club wanted me to replace Jackson Martinez, who had just joined FC Porto. I'm similar to Martinez in my style of play, but I had some big shoes to fill there.
bundesliga.com: At just 18 years old, you were still very young. How did you settle in Mexico?
Cordoba: It was the first time I'd been abroad alone, in a completely new country. It was a big step for me, both culturally and in footballing terms.
bundesliga.com: And after only a year, you moved on to Espanyol Barcelona…
Cordoba: I was with the Colombia Under-21s in France and at the Under-20 World Cup in Turkey. That's where I attracted Espanyol's attention and then the transfer happened quickly after that.
bundesliga.com: But after another year, you moved on to Granada…
Cordoba: Yes, Granada paid my transfer fee to Mexico, which is why I went there. I wanted to stay in Europe and prove myself in Spain.
bundesliga.com: And after another year, you moved to Mainz…
Cordoba: Yes, in Granada I wasn't able to play as I wanted to, and things didn't go so well with the team. When Mainz offered the chance to play here until the end of the season I decided to do that.
bundesliga.com: What did you know about Mainz before joining the club?
Cordoba: To be honest I sought advice from Elkin Soto, who has played here for a long time and was a Colombia international.
bundesliga.com: You didn't play much in Mainz initially…
Cordoba: Yes, I had a few injuries and that set me back at the start. But now I'm in the most important league in the world. It was always an aim of mine to play here. I knew I'd be able to fight my way back after the initial difficulties.
bundesliga.com: Would you say you have improved in Mainz under coach Martin Schmidt in the last six months?
Cordoba: I need to keep working on myself. I'm nowhere near where I want to be. I want to be a great player, so I need to keep at it. I'm happy to have scored my first goals. I've improved physically since I've been here and I can handle 90 or even 95 minutes of Mainz's playing style.
bundesliga.com: After the game against Bayer 04 Leverkusen on Matchday 23, you seemed to be exhausted…
Cordoba: Yeah, I was so tired that I needed to support myself during interviews because I had so many cramps. But I was soon OK again after a bit of rest.
bundesliga.com: Would you say that through hard training, Schmidt has helped you to where you are now?
Cordoba: I'm very grateful to the coach, but also to the staff and my team-mates, for having so much patience with me and for trusting me. I'm happy that I can repay their faith now.
bundesliga.com: How does the Bundesliga compare to the Spanish Primera Division?
Cordoba: The two leagues are completely different. In the Bundesliga, you have to go flat-out for 90 minutes, you can't ease off for a second. It's calmer in Spain, where it's more about possession and tactics. Here you have to work more. In Spain, there are only two or three big teams but in Germany anyone can beat anyone else. The competition here is far greater.
bundesliga.com: And what do you make of the atmosphere in German stadiums?
Cordoba: The stadium is always full in Granada, but that's not the case everywhere in Spain. However, in Germany the stadiums are full every weekend, which is great. The atmosphere is fantastic.
bundesliga.com: Do you prefer playing as a lone striker or with a partner?
Cordoba: I can do both, but the way we're playing at the moment – with one striker, two wingers and Yunus Malli behind me – suits me really well and I enjoy playing it. We'll have to see who the coach picks when Yoshinori Muto is fit again.
bundesliga.com: Was your winning goal against Bayern the highlight of your career so far?
Cordoba: Obviously it was great to score a goal against a team like that in a stadium like that, and get three points for it too. It was an unbelievable feeling, especially as people followed the game really closely back home.
bundesliga.com: Speaking of your homeland, is playing for the senior Colombia side your aim?
Cordoba: Yes of course. I'll give everything to play for the Colombia.
bundesliga.com: In terms of culture, what has surprised you most in Germany?
Cordoba: [Laughs] The recycling system – I still don't understand it.
Jhon Cordoba was speaking to Tobias Schächter