- Baba back for second spell in the Bundesliga after previously playing for Augsburg.
- Full-back reunited with Weinzierl, whom he says has not changed.
- Total focus on Schalke for on-loan Chelsea defender.
The former FC Augsburg defender is delighted to be back playing in the Bundesliga, and convinced the Royal Blues will turn things around. In this exclusive bundesliga.com interview, the 22-year-old reveals all about his first few months back in Germany.
bundesliga.com: Abdul Rahman Baba, after your courageous performance against FC Bayern München and convincing UEFA Europa League win against OGC Nice, it looked like Schalke were heading in the right direction, so how do you explain the latest setbacks?
Abdul Rahman Baba: That's a tough question. We picked up a lot of self-confidence from our games against Bayern and Nice, yet we still weren't able to play how we know we can – and had already shown – in the first half against Berlin. Given we had Thursday's game still in our legs, it then became difficult for us to recover after going two goals down.
"I've got to say that I've never experienced such enthusiasm as there is here in Gelsenkirchen." Abdul Rahman Baba
bundesliga.com: You know your coach Markus Weinzierl from your time together at FC Augsburg. How is he responding to this difficult situation? Has he changed?
Baba: I'm seeing the same coach I remember from my Augsburg days. He's always got time for all of his players, if ever you have a problem. Of course that's particularly important for me because he gives me the feeling that he totally believes in me, and that's very important, particularly for a young player. Just like at Augsburg, he places a lot of the emphasis on playing down the flanks and that's something I'm particularly suited to, given that I'm an attack-minded full-back.
bundesliga.com: You've now been back in the Bundesliga for quite a while. You don't seem to be having any problems settling back in…
Baba: That's true. It was and is a bit like coming back home for me, when I run out in places like the Commerzbank-Arena in Frankfurt or the Olympiastadion in Berlin. And being able to experience the VELTINS-Arena in a Schalke shirt is of course a highlight.
bundesliga.com: How have you found life with Schalke and their fans so far?
Baba: For me, Schalke are one of the absolute top clubs in the Bundesliga. While the Augsburg fans were amazing, I've got to say that I've never experienced such enthusiasm as there is here in Gelsenkirchen. It's incredible, above all how so many of them came to support us in Nice. I think there were around 2,000 of them who made the long journey. It was sensational!
bundesliga.com: You picked up some European experience also at Chelsea, playing in the Champions League. Was their less support from the fans on away days there?
Baba: Chelsea are a huge club who have already won the Champions League. Of course the Blues have great support too, but Schalke is still something else. I don't have any figures at hand, but just my feeling tells me that more Schalke fans travel to away games.
bundesliga.com: What would you say are the differences between the Premier League and the Bundesliga?
Baba: I think the football in the Premier League is more robust and physical than in the Bundesliga where, on the other hand, a more refined game is played. The old cliché that they only play a long-ball game in England isn't true anymore, and there are great footballers and coaches in both leagues, but I'd say the Bundesliga is tactically more sophisticated than the Premier League.
bundesliga.com: Why did things not particularly work out for you in England?
Baba: In pre-season, the new coach Antonio Conte told me 'Baba, you're a very good player, but we're not playing in Europe this season and have no Champions League games so you're not going to play too often.' When Schalke's offer game in, I was convinced that I had to take it. Schalke are a great club and the coach is counting on me. It couldn't get any better.
bundesliga.com: You are only on loan for the season – does that make it harder for you to identify with a club you are only going to spend a year at?
Baba: Not at all. I am only thinking about Schalke right now and I feel 100 per cent a Schalke player. I cannot predict whether things will work out the way we imagine them, but I can promise that I will give everything – absolutely everything – for this club.
Interview by Andreas Kötter