Aarón: “Mentally, I am here in Mainz”
The Spanish left-back returns from holiday as a European champion and is looking to catch up – not looking for a change
With the start of training camp in Grassau on Monday, all the remaining U21 players from Mainz have started into pre-season, with the exception of Levin Öztunali (extended vacation). After two weeks off following the end of the U21 European Championship in Italy and San Marino, Florian Müller, Moussa Niakhaté, Jean-Philippe Mateta and Aarón all reported back healthy and ready to go. The Mainz left-back returns as a European champion after Spain defeated Germany 2-1 in the final in Udine.
It was only natural that Müller and both Frenchmen—who lost 4-1 against Spain in the semifinals—had to deal with a bit of teasing during their reunion in Grassau. “That’s normal and to be expected,” said the reigning champion during a press conference in the team hotel. Aarón featured twice in head coach Luis de la Fuente’s side: during a 3-1 loss against hosts Italy in the group stage as well a 5-0 win against Poland. Both times the 22-year-old played in his usual position at left-back in the back four. Junior (Betis Sevilla) featured in the remaining matches.
“It comes down to you”
“I’m very happy to have taken part and to be part of this successful team. The coach divided it up very evenly: I played twice, and sat out three matches. You are able to pick up a lot of experience at international tournaments like that. It’s a European Championship, so you automatically learn a lot and communicate a lot with other national team players,” said the Zerofiver, who featured in 33 of 34 Bundesliga matches last season. Aarón is still eligible to play one more year for the U21s and could take part in the 2020 Olympics. The Spaniard was laid back when asked whether the next step for him would then be into the senior team. “You need to get better bit by bit and put in the necessary work. It comes down to you and the effort you put in,” he said.
Aarón will have to find his way back into training, just like the others who have returned late, in order to catch up to the other players, who have had a headstart in building up their endurance and athleticism. “I don’t think I came out of my rhythm during those two weeks off,” said the defender. “The others might be a bit ahead of me but I can catch up to them.”
Following the departure of Gaetan Bussmann, Aarón has gained a new competitor. Jonathan Meier, who joined Mainz from Bayern München’s second team, has stated that he wants to up the pressure on Aarón in order to allow both players to benefit from some competition. “’It’s good when you have a challenger. That always helps give you that extra push needed to put in that final percent,” said Aarón. “I want to continue to improve myself overall. That hasn’t changed.” Even the team has the chance to improve further during the upcoming season. “A large portion of the team has been together for a year now, and we’ve been able to learn during the entire year. We can feel that we are used to one another and are certainly a step further than we were.”
The end of last season brought rumours about a potential trade involving the Spaniard. However, he has ruled out a change this year. “Mentally, I am here in Mainz—I’ve settled in and feel at home here.”