Insights & Stories "It clicked at 15"
Eight questions to Denis Zakaria.
What was your best moment in the last 12 months?
There have been so many. The switch to the Bundesliga, the regular place in my first season, my first World Cup, the match against Brazil with Neymar ... at the moment, I'm very happy and grateful that so many good things are happening in my life.
Who was your best opponent during the past season?
The Portuguese player Bernardo Silva in the World Cup qualifier. He's extremely quick and makes you dizzy with his dribbling – very hard to defend against.
And who has been the toughest opponent you have faced in your career so far?
Sékou Sanogo, my former team-mate with Young Boys. I'm not exactly a pushover, but that guy is a true power machine. The tackling duels against him in training pushed us to the limit physically.
Who was your childhood idol?
Didier Drogba, a goal machine. I used to be a striker and wanted to be like him.
Were you always the best player in your schoolyard days?
I was at school, yes. But I didn't stand out in the youth department at Servette. It wasn't certain that I would be the one to make it as a professional.
What did you do better?
It clicked when I was about 15. I realized then that football was my big chance. I changed my life and threw myself into it completely.
Who supported you?
Above all my mother, and then there were some important coaches who believed in me. For example, Massimo Lombardo, and William Niederhauser at Servette, and Adi Hütter at Young Boys. But of course my team-mates were important too. You're nothing without a good team.
What three tips would you give to the thousands of boys who dream of becoming "Rookie of the Year" one day?
Believe in yourselves, work hard for your dream, and don't be discouraged by setbacks. Keep getting back up when something goes wrong.
Denis Zakaria (21) is one of the most talented players in Swiss football. He grew up in Geneva; his father comes from Congo, his mother from Sudan. In 2017, the midfielder moved from the Swiss club Young Boys to Borussia Mönchengladbach for CHF 13 million and has played in 20 matches for the Swiss national team. Zakaria epitomizes the modern box-to-box player: 1.91 meters tall and powerfully built but still very fast and supple, a good tackler, and a skilled header and passer of the ball.