AS Monaco 'keeper Alexander Nübel may have just arrived in the summer of 2021, but he is already emerging as a leader in an uber-talented young squad - in a league renowned for producing the stars of tomorrow… Interview.
At 25, Alexander Nübel has already captained Schalke and played for Bayern Munich... and now the German shot-stopper - Bayern's long-term replacement for Manuel Neuer - is shining for AS Monaco on the Côte d'Azur…
One of the rising stars of the German game, Nübel opted leave his homeland last summer, with the aim of broadening his horizons and playing regular football once again.
"I met Paul [Mitchell, AS Monaco sporting director] and Oleg [Petrov, AS Monaco VP and CEO] and I had good talks with them," Nübel told the Ligue 1 Show on beIN SPORTS. "I'm open for another league, another country and that's why I chose Monaco. It's a big club and I'm open for anything."
A shaky start prompted some to question him, but Nübel never doubted his ability to come good.
"The first weeks were difficult," recalled the young German. "I had no rhythm before. New country, new language, new players. But after weeks it was better and better, and now it's ok, it's good, my level is good, still improving."
Some home comforts were provided to the Monaco new boy by compatriot Kevin Volland, who signed a year previously from Bayer Leverkusen, but Nübel has no complaints about the atmosphere in the squad.
"One good point is that Kevin is here," said the 'keeper. "It's a big advantage for me I can speak German a bit and we have a good group together. But also the rest of the guys are very friendly."
On the ball
A midfielder as a boy, Nübel only switched to goalkeeping in his teenage years, so it's hardly surprising the former Germany Under-21 international is comfortable with the ball at his feet.
"Until Under-14, Under-13 I played in the six [defensive midfielder] position," he explained. "I think it helps me a lot. I had to decide to go in goal or stay outfield. The decision was not so bad I think. I like to get dirty, to spring to block some shots, that's why I decided to go in goal. But I also like the duels on the field. But for me, most important is to stop the balls, not to play with feet."
So far at Monaco, Nübel has saved 70% of the shots he's faced, but don't expect to find too many flashy compilations of him on Youtube…
"Maybe the French goalkeepers are a bit more crazy, and more dramatic," he laughed. "In Germany we play more… yeah, if you see me playing, I'm not the guy who is dramatic, play simple, save the ball."
Nübel and Monaco are finding their feet under new coach Philippe Clément. Sixth in the table, Monaco are in contention for silverware both in the Coupe de France and in the Europa League.
"We have a lot of ball possession, we want to press, we want to play forward," said the attack-minded (!) 'keeper. "The first thing in your head is to play forward, not play back."
'You play with 18, 19 years of age, this is incredible'
The season run-in promises to be exciting, and the former Schalke skipper insists he's ready to take on a leadership role to help this talented - but very young - Monaco team.
'They are very, very young. In Germany there are young players, but not as young as here. You play with 18, 19 years of age, this is incredible," said Nübel of the championship dubbed The League of Talents. "They are playing a good season. We are the youngest team of top five in Europe. Sometimes you see it, but sometimes see also our hunger."
With a cool head and plenty of experience despite his own tender years, Nübel is out to harness the raw talent in the Monaco squad.
'It was an honour to be captain of Schalke and yes, I'm looking forward to having responsibility," he declared. "For sure, goalkeepers always talk a bit more than maybe a field player. I'm here also to be one guy who can speak with the younger guys. I'm here with a bit experience. I'm ready to speak and to help the team."
Nübel's next chance to steer his side to success will be at home to Reims in Ligue 1 Uber Eats Round 26 action on Saturday.