Barkok: Excited for the “fresh start”, impressed by Svensson
We speak to the new boy in Grassau
Our new signing wants to “take the next step” in Mainz and the boss has a clear plan to help the Morocco international achieve that goal.
After what was a difficult final year for Aymen Barkok at Eintracht Frankfurt, the player now wants to turn over a new leaf in Mainz: “The conditions here are superb. I hope that I’ll be able to perform,” said the German-Moroccan in a press conference after his second training session at Bruchweg. Barkok is optimistic for the future and is looking forward to getting back on the pitch after the summer break.
Aymen Barkok spent nine years with his hometown club Eintracht. A two-year loan spell at Fortuna Düsseldorf aside, it is the only club he has ever known. Now, having represented the club since the under 17 side, he is moving on to pastures new. “I am a Frankfurt lads and I will always be grateful to Eintracht. But now I’m looking forward to a fresh start in Mainz.” The Zerofivers’ new number four has had his arrival made easier by a few familiar faces in red and white: Danny da Costa and Dominik Kohr. “Dome and Danny told me all about the coaching staff, the club officials and my new teammates. That made my decision to choose Mainz even easier. We are happy to be together here and we want to help the team.” Finn Dahmen is another player who Barkok knows having played with our goaliefor Germany U19s. He also spent preseason alongside Anderson Lucoqui in Düsseldorf in 2018 before the defender sealed a move to Arminia Bielefeld.
Dome and Danny told me all about the coaching staff, the club officials and my new teammates and I only heard good things.
Looking forward to the job at hand
The 18-time Morocco international found Mainz to be an attractive option right from the start. “Discussions with the board fitted with what I wanted right away,” he says of his first contact with the club. “I am happy to be here now.” The midfielder was also touched by Bo Svensson’s attitude. “We had a video call during the Africa Cup of Nations in which he highlighted my strengths and weaknesses. He showed me what he wanted to work on with me. It made a positive impression that he went into such intense detail with me.”
Svensson sees the versatile Barkok primarily as a central midfielder, whether that be in the number six, eight or ten position. “Even though I have played other positions I feel most at home in the centre,” says the man from Frankfurt. He’s pleased with the job he’s been given and he also knows where there is room for improvement. “The coach wants to work with me on my forward pressing, on the final pass and on my determination.”
From Frankfurt to Mainz
Given the positive talks with the club, Barkok chose Mainz early despite interest from other clubs. He is happy, though, that he had the chance to see his final season with Eintracht through to the end. “There were options to make the switch in January too but thank God that I was able to stay and celebrate with the rest of the team,” says Barkok with fond memories of lifting the Europa League trophy. The close proximity of Mainz to his home city also played a role for the man with 72 Bundesliga appearances so far in his career. “My family is really important to me and so it’s nice to stay close to them. But I will still move to Mainz and then take the time to visit my family in Frankfurt.”
World Cup at the back of Barkok’s mind
For Barkok, the most important thing now is to play more minutes after a tough final year with the Eagles; a part of his thinking is that he wants to consolidate his role within the Morocco national team. "I’m putting my foot to the pedal and I want to raise myself up with good performances and training sessions. The World Cup is around the corner and I want to get my playing time. I can do that here, I think, if I keep grinding. In the end, though, the coach will decide whether I am a regular starter or not.” The 24-year-old also gave his thoughts on the signing of Angelo Fulgini: "I’m really excited about that. I’m used to the competition from Frankfurt - that’s just how it is in professional football.”
Despite a few departures, the new signing reckons that the Mainz squad is well-equipped for the season ahead. “The majority of the team has stayed intact. They know the coach, they know the system. There’s definitely a lot of potential in the side.”
There’s a lot of potential in the side.
Svensson’s playing style isn’t too radical of a change for Barkok himself, who is already familiar with playing a back five system from his time at Eintracht. The midfield man is looking forward to playing under the Dane’s system, not least thanks to Barkok’s lungs and running ability. “The play here is a touch more intense, you have to run a lot. That suits me pretty well, I think.” The new man in Mainz still has plenty of time to get to know his teammates ahead of matchday one of the season. That will continue in Grassau am Chiemsee, where the squad has now begun an eight-day training camp.