Germany: Bundesliga
FT
1 - 3
(0 - 1)
Hoffenheim
Leverkusen
S. Nsoki (77)
R. Andrich (6), M. Diaby (46), A. Hložek (56)
By Rune Gjerulff@runegjerulff

EXCLUSIVE: Edmond Tapsoba on England links, his role models and Leverkusen's struggles this season

In an exclusive interview with Bulinews.com, Edmond Tapsoba talks about reports linking him with a move to the Premier League, his role models in football, Bayer Leverkusen’s disappointing season and much, much more.

Big, fast, strong and with good ball-playing ability, 24-year-old Edmond Tapsoba has emerged as a rock in central defense for Bayer 04 Leverkusen since joining the club from Portuguese side Vitória Sport Clube in January 2020 for a reported €20.20 million fee.

Speaking exclusively with Bulinews.com, the Burkina Faso international discusses, among other things, Bayer Leverkusen’s disappointing 2022/23 campaign, speculation over his future, his biggest role models and what’s it like to have former FC Barcelona and Portugal star Deco as his agent.

After finishing third last season, you’re currently in the middle of the table after a season with ups and mostly downs. What’s your assessment of your own and Leverkusen’s season so far? We started very, very badly. We’re working to do like we did last season. I’m trying all I can to find myself as a player again to help the team to work through the situation.

What have been your biggest problems as a team? I don’t think there have been big problems. Things just haven’t gone our way. But we’re working hard. We’re trying to do like we did last season, but it has not been going the way that we wanted. I hope that if we keep doing what we’re doing, we will find ourselves.

What are your goals and targets for the rest of the campaign? We want to continue to work hard. We have young, good players, so I think we’ll come back. The season is still long. We have time to work and to take things game by game to come back.

After finishing third in your Champions League group, you will face Monaco in a Europa League play-off tie later this month. How important is European football and going through for you? To do well in Europa League is important. Monaco are a good team, they’re doing really well. But we have to think about our next game against Hoffenheim first, and then we can look forward to the Monaco game afterwards.

In which areas do you think you can improve as a player? I would like to improve my goalscoring from free-kicks and corners. I also think I could be better at staying focused for 90 minutes.

Speaking of goalscoring: You recently scored your first penalty for Leverkusen. Did you know before the game that you would take the penalty if you were awarded one? After Moussa [Diaby] missed the penalty against Wolfsburg, the coach said I would take the next one. I also took a penalty for Burkina Faso against Ivory Coast [in November] and was on penalties for my old team too.

I assume you’ll take the next penalty as well then? I hope so [smiles].

Xabi Alonso replaced Gerardo Seoane as your head coach back in October. How is he different to your former coach? Xabi Alonso likes to play with a back five, whereas Gerardo used a back four. With our present coach Alonso we’re more focused on both defending and attacking with 11 men. Those are the biggest differences.

You’ve been linked with clubs from England such as Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United. How does that feel? That makes me happy, of course. It’s something that shows I’m doing a good job and that I just need to continue. But Leverkusen is a big club, my head and heart are fully here right now, and then we'll see what the next step will be.

Do you have a favorite club? Right now, my favorite club is Leverkusen [smiles].

Your agent is former FC Barcelona and Portugal star Deco. What’s it like to work with him? Everybody knows he was a great player. He gives me a lot of advice, and we usually talk after each game. He tells me what I should continue doing and what I can do better.

Has he given you any advice about your future too? I’ve told him that I don’t really want to know about things that are not clear. He’s trying not to disturb me and to let me focus on my game. It’s only if something is really, really clear that he’ll call me, and then we’ll make the right decision together.

You’ve spent more than three years in Germany now. What has it been like to settle in, and how would you describe life in Germany? There were things in the beginning that I didn’t like, the cold and the rain for example, but that are okay now. My lifestyle is the same. I go to training, go home and then repeat. I don’t really go out unless I need to buy something specific.

What are the differences between Germany and Burkina Faso when it comes to training and football in general? When I was in Burkina, I was quite lucky that the sporting director at my club used to play in Europe, so a lot of things at my academy were similar. But the quality of the league there is really low, and so is the intensity.

You reached the semi-finals at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, which took place in the beginning of 2022. How did that feel? I was really happy for my country, especially after the quarter final. It was my first time playing at the Africa Cup of Nations. I’m definitely looking forward to the next one.

Do you see yourself as a role model – and how? Many players back home see me as an idol. I’m really proud of that, and I’m trying to give them some advice. If a new player comes into the national team, I’m trying to help him and get close to him, because we’re like a family.

Do you have any role models or players you look up to? My friends used to call me Mertesacker. When I started playing at the academy, I started to like John Stones. Right now, I'd say my role models are van [Virgil van] Dijk and [Kalidou] Koulibaly.

Who’s the best player in training at Bayer Leverkusen? Florian Wirtz. Everybody knows that. You don’t want to touch him in training, and everyone is jumping when he’s getting the ball. We don’t want him to get injured because we know that he’s a player that can make us win the games.

Who's the toughest opponent you've faced? Romelu Lukaku. He’s so strong and fast at the same time.

What are your dreams as a footballer? I would like to win a European competition and the Africa Cup of Nations. It's also my dream to is qualify for the World Cup.

What do you expect from the upcoming game against Hoffenheim, and how can you improve from your loss in Augsburg last week? Hoffenheim are a team that like to play football like us, but they're tough and playing with a lot of aggressivity at the same time. I think we have the players to respond to that. We've been pretty good defensively, but we need to be better at finishing our chances and scoring goals.
 

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