The latest signing from France is already somewhat familiar with his new home, the OPEL ARENA. In September 2016, Mainz welcomed AS St. Etienne for the opening Europa League game of the season, a 1-1 draw which Ronaël Pierre-Gabriel witnessed from the bench. The then 18-year-old was unable to play due to an Achilles’ tendon injury, but was allowed to make the journey to Mainz with his team. Three years later, the fullback has made the same journey and is now striving for a place in Sandro Schwarz’s Bundesliga setup.
Anyone who has observed the seemingly introverted young man talking to the press and training with his new team has been left rubbing their eyes in amazement! Ronaël Pierre-Gabriel, nicknamed Ronny since his arrival in Mainz, speaks quietly, appears shy, and holds himself back when talking about his targets for next season and his first few days at the club. Fast forward half an hour to the training ground, and there can be no more talk of "shy". The Zerofivers’ new Frenchman throws himself into the tackles, hard, but fair, wants the ball, and shows that he can play.
A player who loves to defend
"I am a player who likes a tackle and loves to defend," said the 21-year-old: "I put great emphasis on athleticism." His seemingly reserved nature off the pitch is something that Pierre-Gabriel himself has identified as a shortcoming requiring some improvement. "I am a quiet character, I sometimes have trouble opening up. I hope that changes with time," he said. In a team like Mainz, with so many different characters and nationalities, this should not be a problem for the new signing.
The defender started his career at St. Etienne, where his performances in the B team earned his breakthrough into professional football. In 2018, he moved to Monaco, and now, one year down the line, he has joined Mainz 05. Last season did not go so well, he admitted. For a club accustomed to success like Monaco, 2018/19 was a wretched campaign, defined by a relegation battle and managerial changes. Pierre-Gabriel was injured for large spells of the season and got little game time.
Take on challenges
"The injuries and everything else made it really hard for me. I hope it goes a lot better in Mainz. My aim is to make progress in the way I play, make as many appearances as possible and learn German as quickly as I can, in order to make communication both on and off the pitch easier," he summarised. Mainz’s reputation as a club that develops and educates players has spread across France. When Rouven Schröder and the head coach approached him with the offer of joining a club where he could improve and enjoy more game time than at Monaco, "it didn’t take me long to accept. Mainz 05 is a good Bundesliga team that puts trust in youth, allows players to develop on a personal level, and, in recent years especially, has put great trust in young French players," explained the right back.
Pierre-Gabriel has admitted that he needs to improve his tactical awareness. Furthermore, he intends to improve with regards to overlapping and crossing. Something his idol, two time World Cup winner with Brazil, Cafu, was the master of. His squad competition with starting XI regular Daniel Brosinski and the soon to return to team training Philipp Mwene, he hopes will help him make these developments. "I am aware of the challenge, but squad competition helps development," said the French youngster. Early impressions from seeing the 21-year-old in action at training suggest that he is ready to take on these challenges.