Younes Belhanda has impressed at FC Schalke 04 since his winter arrival from FC Dynamo Kiev. In an exclusive interview, the Morocco international attacking midfielder tells bundesliga.com how much he is enjoying life with Die Königsblauen…
bundesliga.com: Younes Belhanda, you have been playing in the Bundesliga for around three months now. What is your assessment so far?
Younes Belhanda: Very positive. Bundesliga matches are played with a very high intensity, as was the case against Borussia Mönchengladbach. I also quickly found that all the clubs are very attacking. That's why there are a lot of goals and entertainment.
bundesliga.com: Is there anything in particular that has impressed you in the Bundesliga?
Belhanda: To be honest, I've never seen so many beautiful stadiums, whether at home, in Frankfurt, Cologne or Berlin, and every game is full to capacity. The fans rarely boo their own team, which is not always the case in other countries. We see many children coming to matches with their parents, because their safety is assured. That's wonderful. We feel that the fans are there because they're truly passionate.
bundesliga.com: So you enjoy being in the Bundesliga?
Belhanda: Absolutely. Almost all of the teams press high up the pitch. There are often gaps that let you develop your play. I can better exploit my potential in the Bundesliga. I even followed the Bundesliga when I was at Montpellier because the league is unbelievably exciting and spectacular.
bundesliga.com: How would you rate the Bundesliga compared to other major leagues?
Belhanda: Alongside Spain, Germany has the best league. You just have to look at the results in the Champions League. Certainly the English Premier League is spectacular, but the German and Spanish clubs get to the semi-finals of the Champions League every year.
bundesliga.com: What is your aim for the end of the season?
Belhanda: A sportsman always seeks the maximum and we'll do everything we can to qualify for the Champions League. That's a realistic goal. We know we're four points behind Hertha Berlin but I'm convinced we can do it.
bundesliga.com: The next match will take place in Ingolstadt…
Belhanda: In the first game against them we saw that they're difficult to play against. FCI are well organised and concede very few chances. They'll play very compactly and hit us on the counter-attack. That's why it'll be important to score first, otherwise it'll be difficult to come back from that.
bundesliga.com: What is it like working with coach Andre Breitenreiter?
Belhanda: It's very good. Andre Breitenreiter talks a lot with his players. I feel his confidence and I'm very happy.
bundesliga.com: Are you fully integrated?
Belhanda: Not completely. I've only just found a home for my family. I'll soon start a German course. I speak French with [Pierre-Emile] Höjbjerg, [Eric Maxim] Choupo-Moting and [Joel] Matip, which makes things easier.
bundesliga.com: Schalke have a complicated run of matches ahead, including home games against Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen and a visit to FC Bayern München Do you look forward to matches like those?
Belhanda: Of course. I'm especially looking forward to the derby against Dortmund. My team-mates are already talking about it in the changing room. It has special meaning for the region and it'll be a thrilling duel. BVB are very consistent, but in front of our home fans we want to win. And we want to bring something back from our visit to Bayern. In any case, the last 16 of the Champions League against Juventus once again showed that you should never write off a German team until the referee blows the final whistle.
Younes Belhanda was speaking to Alexis Menuge