In Belgium, top scorer Denis Ondev (25) launched his team Saint-Gilloise to first place with 25 goals and in the playoffs of the tournament. No other German striker has scored in Europe more times this season.
SPORT BILD: You were ranked in Werder in the youth category, two years ago you played in Meppen in the third division. Today, along with Karim Benzema, Kylian Mbappe and Robert Lewandowski, you are one of the top scorers in Europe and surprisingly you are in a major league with Belgian club Union Saint-Gilloise and will move to Brighton in the Premier League from the summer. How much satisfaction do you feel?
Deniz Undev: I feel more joy than contentment. After signing the contract with Brighton I thought: “Wow, wow, wow!” I will soon be playing in what may be the best league in the world. I don’t think many people in my path would have believed me capable of it. But only when I affirmed myself there can I say that I have achieved great things.
What are you most looking forward to in England?
I am looking forward to duels with top defenders like Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk. My motivation is to prove myself at the highest level against the greatest footballers. But first I want to create something historical with Union.
First league title since 1935. Is that why you moved on loan to your current club after your winter move to Brighton until the end of the season?
When I start something, I finish it. The idea was: If I sign for Brighton in the winter, I want to finish the season with Union and say goodbye as champions.
What distinguishes your current team that started the championship role from first place in the table?
We are a well trained and sworn unit. On the field, we are eleven brothers presenting our last shirts to the coach, club and fans. It is just an extraordinary phenomenon what is happening this season.
Football fairy tale also includes dark chapters. How bad was Werder’s ending for the boy from Achim near Bremen?
When the coach told me I couldn’t continue with Werder, I was devastated at the time. As a little boy, playing there was the greatest thing for me. I wanted to get to the pros. When that dream shattered, I cried for a day or two and then said to myself, “There are other ways to become a professional.”
Then I played in SC Weyhe when I was young and couldn’t recommend yourself to bigger clubs for years. Have you thought about quitting smoking?
Yes, in less than 17 years I have briefly thought about quitting. I always scored my goals but I never watched them, nor did I receive an offer to play football professionally. I kept hearing, “You’re overweight or three pounds.” But if you believe in me, weight will not be an exclusion criterion. I logged in regularly and could have downsized quickly. Fortunately, my family prevented me from hanging up my soccer shoes.
By all intent!
The player kicks the referee in the balls
Source: Super Liga Feminina Ecuador
After stints at Havelse and at Eintracht Braunschweig II, your career picked up speed at Meppen only in 2018. The coach at the time, Christian Neidhart, had a “big fantasy” about you, he says. For him, you are “a policeman on the field with exceptional quality in the match with your back to the goal”…
I don’t want to conflict with Christian Neidhart (laughs). This coach was very important in my career, he relied on me and encouraged me a lot. I worked a lot in the comeback game under him.
Is this your greatest strength?
I tend to see my game intelligence as my greatest strength: the ability to see things in the game that others don’t.
Klopp in the CL . final
“An incredible feeling because it was so hard”
Source: BILD / Omnisport
What do you mean exactly?
Before I get the ball, I think carefully about where I’m going to play. It’s great to have colleagues who understand the way you think, and who you can blindly play ball into the gap. This is perfect football for me. I used to watch a lot of videos of then Barcelona stars Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi. Their interaction was wonderful.
As one of Europe’s top scorers, your dream of joining the national team may soon come true. You were born in Germany and have Turkish roots. Which country would you like to play for?
Anyway, my goal is to become a player in the national team. I am open to both countries. If Stefan Kuntz (Turkish national coach, editor) or Hansi Flick called me, I would ask for two or three days to think about it and talk to my family. One thing is for sure: I won’t make up my mind about my parents’ heads. They always have an opinion, they have always raised and supported me. So far, however, no one has reported.