Interviews

Mevlüt Erding: 'PSG - the biggest club in the world'

Publish on 21/10/2021 at 10:00

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Ahead of Sunday's headline clash between OM and PSG, ex-Parisian striker Mevlüt Erding talked about the Classiques he played in, the current PSG team, his admiration for Christophe Galtier but also Cengiz Ünder and Burak Yilmaz, his former teammates in Turkey. Interview...

This weekend we have the first Classique of the season - OM-PSG! That must evoke memories...
The first thing that comes to my mind is the pressure - good pressure. I was a young player when I played in the Classiques. It also reminds me of my young years in Sochaux. I was a Paris Saint-Germain fan and when we watched the Classiques at the youth academy, there was a great atmosphere. In the TV room, there were two camps. All those who were for Paris would sit on one side and those who were for OM would sit on the other. Later, when I had the chance to play in those games, I thought back to that time and I told myself that I had to give it my all, that it was a childhood dream come true. And I was even lucky enough to score!

Where do you place this goal among the great moments of your career?
I have a lot of great memories but, in France, that's the best one [Erding scored in a 2-1 win in November 2010]. Scoring against OM at the Parc des Princes, in a packed stadium... Every day of the week that followed, people talked to me about that goal. Even the coach, Antoine Kombouaré, who was a legendary Paris player, teased me. I remember that after that game, I couldn't sleep at all.

'Today's PSG is a dream team'

Was the preparation for these matches between PSG and OM different from the other matches?
During the previous week, we analysed perhaps even more the game of the opposing team. And for us, the strikers, it was tense. There was a lot of competition and everyone wanted to play, obviously. I got along so well with Guillaume Hoarau and we were so motivated that it went perfectly for us that day. We won and we both scored; Nenê gave us the two goals... Extraordinary. Maybe people have forgotten that Classique, but I will never forget it. At that time, it was often OM who won...

From Turkey, where you have been playing since 2017, do you still follow PSG?
Of course, very closely. I often watch the games and I am always in contact with Leonardo. I left Paris on very good terms with him. I wrote to him to congratulate him when he recruited Lionel Messi. PSG has become the biggest club in the world! It was my childhood dream that PSG would reach this level. When you look at the current PSG, it looks like a team created on Football Manager. When I was a kid and I played that game, in the early 2000s, I used to play Paris almost all the time. That's why I knew all the players, from Ronaldinho to Vampeta. I can name all the players of that time. By the way, I still play Football Manager at almost 35 years old! But to come back to Paris, today's PSG is a dream team. It makes me think of the Galacticos of Real Madrid.

How do you see the OM-PSG match going on Sunday?
I see Paris winning. OM will be on top of their game in front of their fans but PSG are still a step above them, everyone knows that. Today, PSG dominates in France like Bayern Munich in Germany. I see Paris winning and when I talk about this match with my friends from Marseille, they are afraid. PSG are too strong. And as it is a Classique - the Parisian players will be motivated, especially as they will have Messi and other players available...

More generally, what is your view of PSG's season so far?
Even though they lost against Rennes, they are still far ahead in the standings, which means they have no pressure before this trip to Marseille. From the outside, PSG look too strong. But it is such an extraordinary team on paper that there will be criticism. I live in Turkey, and here they talk about PSG like they talk about Bayern, Real Madrid... This is what PSG has become. In France, the negatives are perhaps underlined more than elsewhere, but it is not the case everywhere. With Messi, who has not won the Champions League for a few years, it can hurt. If he signed in Paris, it was to win it at the end of the season.

'Cengiz Ünder woke up'

This season again, several Turks are playing in Ligue 1 Uber Eats, whether it is Lille's Burak Yilmaz, Zeki Çelik and Yusuf Yazici or Cengiz Ünder at OM. What is the image of the French league in Turkey?
Here, we follow Ligue 1 a lot now. For example, I was on a training camp with my club Kocaelispor last Saturday and, with all the players, we watched Lyon-Monaco. The French championship matches are broadcast in Turkey and everybody follows LOSC and OM because Cengiz Ünder is doing well there. Turks are very patriotic so they follow their players. When I was playing in France, I was the only Turkish player in the championship but everyone knew me in Turkey. It is a football country. When there are Turks in a league as important as Ligue 1 Uber Eats, people are very interested.

You played for a long time in the national team with Burak Yilmaz. Were you surprised to see him impose himself so quickly and play a leadership role at Lille?
No, he is a born leader, a born captain. A player who takes his team with him, who will press hard. I sometimes played alongside him for Turkey but I think he is better when he is alone up front. He is very imposing and he takes a lot of space. He is a great player. In every game, he motivates the others, whoever the opponent may be. And when he arrived in Lille, he announced that it was to be champion. It's incredible to say that at the beginning of the season when PSG are the favourites. It shows the state of mind and the strength of character of Burak Yilmaz. He is the one who led LOSC to the title. He motivated his teammates, with the help of Christophe Galtier of course, who is an extraordinary leader of men. Burak and Christophe got along well, the coach must have loved his character. Even though Burak didn't speak much French when he arrived, football has no language, it's universal. With a gesture, a run, you can make yourself understood. It's important to communicate on the field, but sometimes you don't need to speak. This was again proven with Burak. As his nickname suggests, he is the 'kral', the king, and he is still perceived as such in Turkey.

What is your relationship with the other Turks in the league?
I know them all! I was in the national team with Yusuf Yazici and Cengiz Ünder, great guys. Zeki Çelik, I talked to him on the phone when he signed in Lille. A mutual friend who lives in Lille and who was helping Zeki when he first moved there put us in touch so that I could explain to him what kind of coach Christophe Galtier was, how the game was played in France, how to adapt... I am happy with his success. Today, he is one of the best full-backs in the league.

Cengiz Ünder is having a great season with OM despite having lacked consistency in recent years. What do you think happened?
He woke up when he arrived in Marseille, maybe because of the environment, the fans... I am not surprised to see him succeed at OM. Cengiz, we saw him arrive very young in the national team, he is a phenomenon. He shoots with his right and left foot, he gets past his man easily...

'If I become a coach one day, I will take Christophe Galtier as an example'

You knew Christophe Galtier when he was an assistant at Sochaux in 2006-07 and then as head coach at Saint-Etienne between 2013 and 2015. Have you seen him develop as a coach?
As an assistant at Sochaux, he was very close to the players. He knew what was going through the players' minds, those who were playing as well as those who were not. That's what made him strong. He became the head coach at Saint-Etienne and it was a bit strange to meet up with him again. I had to call him 'coach' whereas I used to call him 'Christophe' when we were together at Sochaux and he was Alain Perrin's assistant. Sometimes I got it wrong but he didn't mind [laughs]! Christophe Galtier is an extraordinary person in terms of human relations. He knows the players inside out. He is interested in you, your family, your life, your training sessions, everything! The good thing about Christophe is that you can go knock on his door if you have a problem. For me, he is one of the best French coaches, maybe even one of the best coaches in the world. He deserves to be on top.

Is he the coach who has made the biggest impression on you?
I've had many coaches, including Fatih Terim, who is a legend in Turkey, but Christophe Galtier remains my model among coaches. If I become a coach one day, I will take him as an example.

Did you expect him to win the French championship with LOSC?
He had already done a very good job at Saint-Etienne. ASSE was a club that often battled for survival, a club that was even in Ligue 2 in the early 2000s, and he managed to turn the club around, to always finish 4th or 5th, always on the verge of the Champions League. At Lille, he had a better squad and LOSC became champions. That didn't surprise me at all. And even though Nice lost their last championship game [1-0 in Troyes in Round 10], I'm sure he will succeed there too, I have no doubts. He is a real coach, a coach who has class, whether it is when he talks to the media or to the players. He even has class when he gets angry!

What do you mean by that?
I remember one day at Saint-Etienne when he called me and the other striker of the team, Ricky van Wolfswinkel to his office... he read us the riot act. He told us that we were not performing well enough and that woke us up! The following week, one of us scored. When things were going well, he talked to us and when things were not going well, he talked to us too. That's what a good coach does to manage his squad.

Last summer, Stade Rennais recruited a young Turkish goalkeeper, Doğan Alemdar. Can you tell us more about this 18-year-old player?
To be honest, I don't know him very well, but in Turkey he is a very big prospect. Everyone was very happy when he signed for Rennes, me most of all since it is my former club. We know the Rennes academy, how well they bring the youngsters through... In two years maximum, he will be the starting keeper. He needs some time to learn the language, to acclimatise to the championship, but you will see that he is a very good 'keeper. Here he is a great prospect: he was only 17 years old when he started playing with Kayserispor. And Rennes are rarely wrong in their investments.

'A return to Sochaux tempts me a lot'

You have a career total of 92 goals Ligue 1 Uber Eats. At 34, is it a goal to return to France to reach the 100-goal mark?
Not really. When I see those figures, I say to myself that it's a shame not to have reached 100 goals but, frankly, I have no regrets, I gave everything. To have scored 92 goals in Ligue 1, that's not bad! I will soon celebrate my 35th birthday so I don't see myself coming back to France. The level is really high in Ligue 1, I would be lying to myself.

If Ligue 1 Uber Eats is not in your plans, could an adventure in Ligue 2 BKT tempt you? Maybe with Sochaux, your youth club?
Oh, that's very tempting! My former teammate Omar Daf is doing a very good job at Sochaux. We talked a bit together this summer but it didn't happen. Frankly, I'm happy that Sochaux are second in the standings and playing for the title. I see them going up at the end of the season. I'm happy to see them at this level because Sochaux a club that should be in Ligue 1. It's a city that breathes soccer. When I think of Sochaux, I think of the Stade Bonal full with 20,000 people. It was magnificent. Sochaux is a good little club, they have to go back to Ligue 1!