Interviewed on the Ligue 1 Uber Eats Twitch channel show 'Passe D', sensational Lens striker Loïs Openda looked back over his first months on the north of France - which included THAT goal against Paris Saint-Germain...
With a few months' hindsight, what do make of your arrival at Lens?
"It's a lot of joy, a lot of pleasure to play for this club. I think that our start to the season has been magnificent. We intend to continue like this until the end of the season, to give our all and show who RC Lens is."
This summer, when RC Lens showed interest in you, did you give priority to the club straight away or did you have time to think? What did you feel?
"I had contact with RC Lens, my agent told me about them. I knew the club but not really 100%. After I spoke to the director and the coach on the phone, it became my priority. I felt that I was going to hit my straps at Lens and that I was really going to feel at home, that they were going to take care of me and make sure I could develop. I spoke to Thierry Henry about it and he told me that RC Lens are a team that was very bad on the counter-attack and that, for me, a player who likes to get into space, it was a team that could suit me perfectly. I also spoke to Eden and Thorgan [Hazard] about it. Thorgan told me that it was his favourite club, and that if I went there, he would be happy. Even Eden told me it was a very good club, but he didn't want to say more because he played for Lille [laughs]. In the end, it was an emotional choice to come here."
You have played in the Belgian and Dutch leagues. Do you find the French league more physically demanding?
"I played in the Belgian championship, where I gained a lot of experience even though I didn't play much. It is a league that is not at all easy. The working methods at Club Brugge were perfect, and we had a good group and a physical trainer to be in shape for each match. That's what makes Club Brugge perform every year. The transition to the Netherlands was very different. We know the Dutch league for the strikers. People say that the defenders are not as good as in Belgium, but it's mainly about how the striker adapts. I think I negotiated the transition between the two leagues quite well, I was able to score a lot of goals with Arnhem. Then, when I arrived in France, everything was different again. Here, it's more physical, we're asked to be more intelligent, more concentrated because this is Ligue 1 Uber Eats, one of the top five leagues in Europe. It wasn't easy at the beginning, but the club managed the pre-season well so that I was ready as of the first game. I think it shows that everything was well managed from the start here with me."
'Starting on the bench doesn't change much'
How did you manage the rhythm in a year that was a bit unprecedented, with the World Cup at the end of the year and a long mid-season break?
"I've already had that. At youth level, we often had this kind of break with the national teams, where I have been playing since I was 15. There was a real break with the World Cup this season but to come back to the club, it wasn't hard for me. I had this desire to come back when the competition was over, to quickly resume with RC Lens, to get straight back into the swing of things and to be in shape to start the year in style."
There is one goal that impressed everyone recently: the one against PSG. Can you tell us what this great moment was like?
"It was a great recovery for the team. We know that once Seko (Fofana) has the ball, he is very dangerous. He knows my qualities very well and he put a perfect ball into my path. I was able to play well with my body to prevent Sergio Ramos from getting in front of me. After that, what I had in mind when I got to the goal was that I shouldn't shoot with my left foot, that I had to go on my right foot if I wanted to score. I knew that if I went to my right side, I could do something good. It was instinct; I felt Marquinhos coming and I made a move that I had already managed to do against Lorient, when I scored with my left foot. I did it to get onto my right foot. The move came quickly and it ended in a goal. Everyone was happy."
You have been on the bench at times this season. How do you feel when a game starts without you on the pitch?
"I always stay focused, because I can be brought on at any time, whether it's the fifth or the sixtieth minute. Starting on the bench doesn't change much, because I always want to play, whether I'm on the pitch or on the bench. As I said, concentration is very important, because if I go in without being focused, I won't perform well. But if I come on sharp, I can change the course of the game. I scored a hat-trick recently against Toulouse, my first hat-trick. I've heard that not many players have done that coming off the bench, so it shows that I was focused to come on at any time and try to change the game when we needed it."