The Bundesliga is consistently one of the youngest leagues in Europe, providing regular opportunities for up-and-coming talents to shine. At just 21 years old, Mohamed Simakan is the next young player ready to take on an important role for Jesse Marsch’s team this season.
You are a young player in a new city. Have you seen much of Leipzig yet?
“It’s a lovely city – very calm. I am someone who enjoys living in slightly smaller cities as I am quite laid back. So, it’s great. I have been able to explore the centre too, and do a few walks with my family. We know Leipzig well now and have discovered two or three nice spots. So, we are happy.”
What has surprised you most since arriving in Leipzig?
“The thing that surprised me most was how respectful everyone is. In France for example, many cyclists don’t fully respect the rules of the road. But here in Leipzig, all the cyclists stop for red lights. In France, on the other hand, it is very common for cyclists to overtake cars and not wait. That’s one of the first things I noticed.”
Did you speak to any other players before moving to the Bundesliga?
“I was able to speak to some players. When the rumours started, a few of my friends asked me whether there was any truth to them. I told them there was and so they told me about how good life is in Germany. And about their style of play – the German way of playing football. I asked lots of questions and got positive responses.”
What were you told about the Bundesliga before joining RB Leipzig?
“That it is very intense and that you don’t have much time on the ball. You have to be 110% focused at all times. You cannot let that your concentration drop at any moment because you will be punished. I have seen that first hand. It’s a great league and one that suits me. I am very happy here.”
Jesse Marsch is known for his ability to develop young players. What are your first impressions of him as a coach?
“The coach is brilliant. He is good with the young players and good with the older players. He is also someone who really listens to the players – whether that be at training, or outside of training, or a personal problem. That is very important for the players because we need to be relaxed mentally in order to perform out on the pitch. So, he is very thorough in that regard. He helps us a lot to develop both on the pitch and off the pitch.”
What distinguishes him?
“The energy that he has. He is good at broadcasting that energy. And that is something that brings us together.”
Three Bundesliga matches, three starts. How did it feel walking out in front of the home fans in Leipzig on MD2?
“I knew what to expect as I had met a few fans while walking around the city with my family. People are happy that I have arrived here. And I am also very happy to be here. Fans are a huge part of football. So, I will give my all for myself, for the fans and for the club. It is an honour to play for a club like this. Yes, it is really nice. You can hear everything when the fans are not there. The 12th man is truly very important in matches. There are moments where we may be a bit tired but thanks to the 12th man, we get that extra push.”
2021 did not start well for you as you picked up a knee injury that ruled you out for six months. How did you bounce back from this difficult period?
“I knew I was coming to a new club. And I am a fighter – if you get injured, you have to prove that you can overcome that injury. You have to make sure you are mentally stronger than the injury. I am someone who enjoys doing that.”
You were signed to replace Upamecano and Konate at RB Leipzig. How do you deal with the high expectations?
“I am very relaxed. It’s normal to want to do well. There have been players before me and there will be players after me. Those players have done very well for the club, and I hope to emulate them. And show that I came to Leipzig to prove that I can be successful. I hope I can be successful.”
Did you ask them for tips on settling in?
“I was able to speak to them both. They told me about the club and the city in general. They even showed me some restaurants. And they showed me where I can buy things. They took care of me, yes.”
You can play all across the backline – in the middle or at full-back. What is your preferred position?
“My main position is centre back. But I can also play at right-back. But my primary position is centre back.”
Your next game against Bayern. What are you expecting?
“We will prepare well for the game. And we will see what happens. It’s a 90-minute game at the end of the day. We will have to be fully concentrated and prepare both physically and mentally. It is a question of being the best-prepared team. And being aware of the fact that it is an important game. We have to show that we are also determined to pick up the points.”
Are you looking forward to coming up against Robert Lewandowski and how do you plan to stop him?
“He is an amazing player. It is an honour to play against this kind of player for someone of my age. As a team, we will give our all to make sure we stop all of their players. With the objective of picking up the points.”
Who has helped you most in your career to date?
“The person who has pushed me most has been my mother. My mother has been there since the very beginning. And she is someone who has always supported me and who was always there.”
What are your objectives with RB Leipzig?
“Collectively, I hope we can have an even better season than we did last season. And make a good start after the international break. And individually, the goal is to progress as far as possible. And to push my potential. So that I can establish myself as a big player in world football.”
And what about winning the title?
“Football is about winning. So why not aim to win trophies? If we have the chance to win a trophy, we will not hesitate. We will grab any opportunity that is available to us to win trophies.”
Is RB Leipzig’s biggest strength their versatility and ability to play many different systems?
“Yes, our coach is also very good tactically. He knows how to make decisions and helps us to improve as players. We are a young team and so we need to make sure we mature quickly, in order to compete against the slightly older teams. Tactically, he is helping us a lot as a team.”