Subotic: Saint-Etienne captain Perrin 'like Hummels'
Delighted to have swapped Dortmund for Saint-Etienne, Neven Subotic is relishing the prospect of playing beside Loïc Perrin, a player he compares favourably to Germany's FIFA World Cup-winning centre-back, Mats Hummels.
Subotic's arrival at AS Saint-Etienne in the winter transfer window was greeted with equal doses of surprise and satisfaction at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard. The Borussia Dortmund legend's decision to sign for the then crisis-stricken club becomes clearer when former teammate Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, now of Arsenal, enters the frame.
"Well, obviously, I wanted to know more about the club and he was a prime source as he played here directly before joining Dortmund," Subotic told the Ligue 1 Show on beIN SPORTS. "So, I wanted to speak to him and he wanted to speak to me because he had spoken to the president. He was someone who really highlighted the history of the club and the unity with the fans that's definitely there, and the potential that the club has.
When Subotic swapped Die Schwarzgelben for Les Verts on 25 January, the former was in the European places in Germany's Bundesliga; the latter just two spots above the drop zone in Ligue 1 Conforama, but Subotic was at ease with the move.
Subotic (1st l.) and Hummels (2nd l.) enjoyed great success together in front of BVB's Yellow Wall
"The more I thought about it, the more people I talked to, and the more I researched about the club and its history, the more confident I became of my decision," he continued. "As we progressed I got more and more confident that it was the right decision and I'm very glad about it."
January in Saint-Etienne was a month for rebuilding, after the club finished last year just a point above LOSC in the relegation play-off place. In came Subotic, Mathieu Debuchy, Yann M'Vila and Paul-Georges Ntep, and the new recruits have played their part in a stunning upturn in form.
As good as it gets?
"I don't think it can be any better," beamed Subotic. "We've had now ten points from four games, so I think we're definitely on a good basis to continue in the league knowing well that none of the next games will be given to us for free, especially not the next one!"
Sainté go head to head with Derby du Rhône rivals Olympique Lyonnais on Sunday, and if OL are no longer the overwhelming favourites they might have been when they won the reverse fixture 5-0 in November, Subotic thinks that has as much to do with the players who were already at the club as it does the new signings.
Watch: A result to avenge: Lyon beat Saint-Etienne 5-0 in Week 12
"We still don't need to overestimate our influence because we're new players," he said. "But we're integrated within the whole team, and I think the success needs to be put upon the whole team because we're all playing together, it's not the new players doing anything more special than the other players."
The giant centre-back takes his place alongside Perrin in defence, and Subotic has already been highly impressed by Saint-Etienne's long-serving captain, who has been at the club for 21 of his 32 years.
"He's an exceptional person for one; two, he's a great player," says Subotic. "It's very natural playing next to him even though we haven't played next to each other before. It feels very like when I played with Mats Hummels [Subotic and Hummels won back-to-back German titles together in 2011 and 2012 before the latter moved to Bayern Munich]. I understand how he likes to play. We need short commands. One or two word commands and he gets it, and when he says something, I get it, so I'm really delighted to have the possibility to work with him."
The 29-year-old Subotic spent a decade playing in front of the famous Yellow Wall of fans at Dortmund's Signal Iduna Park, yet he is already impressed by the passion he has witnessed in his first few games at the Geoffroy-Guichard.
Watch: Subotic and Perrin starred in last Saturday's 1-0 win at Angers SCO - their second clean sheet in four games together
"It's incredible because you feel the emotions that are there," he continued. "It's not necessarily about the amount of people that are there but about how much are they giving towards the game? How much emotion is there? The experiences here have shown that the people are really there for the club. It's not something you do on a Saturday night because there's nothing else to do. This is the thing that you really want to do, this is the thing that most people here will have done for years or even for generations."
'Game of the year!'
Those very fans will be feeling quietly confident ahead of this weekend's derby clash with Lyon. Les Vert's current form is far better than their regional rivals', who are without a win in four Ligue 1 Conforama games, but the former Serbia international won't let that affect his preparation.
"I think for a derby there is no good time no bad time, it's a game that really stands for itself!" he said. "That's basically the game of the year, especially this year where the first game against Lyon was a disaster so we really do have a high responsibility to our club and to our fans to make up for this, and we only have one chance this season so we have to use it!"
>> PLAYER PROFILE: Neven Subotic
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