Interview: Mohamed Simakan, RB Leipzig

Image Credit (AFP via Getty Images)

A couple of teams, including Leverkusen and Stuttgart, have flown out of the blocks this season. Where do you think Leipzig will finish in the table?

“For us, we will just try to do our best. We will look to finish in the top two. And why not push Leverkusen into making an error, and claim first place?”

New arrivals Xavi Simons and Loïs Openda have started well. What influence have they had on the team?

“I think they have had a big impact. You just have to look at the start they have made to the season, both in terms of assists and in terms of goals. They have done a lot. They are crucial players for us.”

You have been performing at a consistently high level this season. How would you sum up your season so far?

“On a personal level, I think I’ve had a very good start to the season. It has been very good. There are certainly areas where I can improve. So I hope I can correct those things in the second half of the season. And I hope my team concedes as few goals as possible – that’s the main objective as a defender.”

Is being called up for France for the upcoming European Championships a key objective for you this season?

“I have the experience. For as long as there are still spots in the squad, it is possible. I will give everything to earn my place in the squad.”

Marco Rose has praised you and said you have made big progress this season. What are the reasons for that development?

“I think I am more consistent today. I am also more serious as a player. I have worked a lot on that. I try to play every single game. In the past, I have had few injuries and that made the second half of last season a bit strange. But this season I have looked to address all of that and make sure I am always available and present. And to always be the person who pushes the team to be the best they can be.”

Where can you still improve?

“I think I need to improve my heading. And winning more duels in the air generally. And making more of a difference for the team by scoring more goals. And being more focused, always being well positioned, and being able to anticipate what is going to happen next. Those are the small details that make the difference between a good player and a very good player.”

You have made 65 appearances in the Bundesliga now. What has helped you to establish yourself here?

“Adapting to the intensity of the games. It is not easy to play every single match in a season, both in the Bundesliga and in the Champions League, given the intensity of the games. There are no small teams and every team puts you under pressure. So I have worked a lot on that and I think I have had success this season.”

What relationship do you have with fellow French speakers Castello Lukeba and El Chadaille Bitshiabu?

“Yes, I have supported them in adapting to the intensity. In France, we are used to playing just once a week because we weren’t in the Champions League or were too young to be selected. So, to be selected each week here and become a regular starter, you need to know how to recover well, sleep well, and eat well. You have to embrace the full routine. That is the only way you can ensure you can play a match every three days.”

There were a lot of departures and arrivals at Leipzig over the summer. How did you manage to keep the performance levels so high despite all the changes?

“It wasn’t easy. When there is a lot of change, the team has to get used to each other again. We had to be patient and we had to work hard. We worked hard to implement the tactics of the coach.

The coach knew us well as players and we knew what he wanted too. We needed some of the older players, like Dani and Willi, to help the new players settle. The group has a lot of potential and we have learned a lot. So, we’re very happy.”

How has Leipzig developed recently as a club? What impact did the cup win have?

“It was a bit difficult. It’s never easy to compete in three competitions at the same time. The DFB Pokal this season didn’t end well, we exited after two games. But generally, playing in three competitions is difficult. It requires a lot of energy and there’s less time to recover.

So, if there’s a lot of change in the squad, all of the new players need to adapt to the new rhythm. Today we just need to focus our attention on the league and the Champions League. Now we just have two competitions left.”

Have you adapted to the weather here in Germany?

“It’s my second season here. I think I have fully settled and am a full German now. I can play in a T-shirt, no problem. But we know that it may snow at this time of year. So you just need to adapt and wrap up warm so you can do your best out on the pitch.”

Your first-ever position as a footballer was a striker. How does this experience help you today?

“It’s true that sometimes I do want to burst forward and show my attacking qualities. So, I would say that my desire to get up the pitch and help my teammates does come from my early days as an attacker. And I want to make the difference too as I know I have certain qualities up front that can help.”

Harry Kane and Mohamed Simakan (right) during the DFL Supercup 2023 match between FC Bayern München and RB Leipzig on 12 August 2023. Photo Credit (Bundesliga Content Hub Images)