Malli: “I hope I still have a few years ahead of me”
For the first time in his career, Yunus Malli is a league champion. The former Zerofiver looks back on his celebrations with Trabzonspor, his time at FSV and what the future holds.
Yunus Malli moved to Mainz 05 from the Borussia Mönchengladbach U19s back in 2011. When he left FSV for Wolfsburg in 2017, the then 24-year-old was an established Bundesliga player with lots of top flight experience under his belt. Malli is now 30-years-old and plays for Trabzonspor in the Turkish Süper Lig. His current side made history last season as they became Turkish champions for the first time since 1984. Malli looks back fondly on his time at Mainz.
The fans of Trabzonspor, a club on Turkey’s north coast, had to wait 38 years to break their league title duck. The Black Sea Storm’s title victory in the 2021/22 season was also a big moment for Yunus Malli, as it was the first of his career and it was fitting that it happened in his family’s home country. The incredible success was celebrated accordingly, both on the water, in the stadium and in the city. “The fans and the people of this city live for this club. That’s why there was such an outpouring of joy in the wake of the victory. It was absolutely crazy. We are really proud of the fact that we received so much recognition for our achievement,” said the former Zerofiver.
Trabzon has been Malli’s home since February last year. The Kassel-born midfielder moved to Trabzonspor from Wolfsburg and he is very happy at his new club, despite the fact he didn’t feature all that often last season. “This city lives and breathes football. You can feel a different atmosphere when we win or when we lose,” said Malli. In terms of sporting quality, the Bundesliga is a step ahead of the Turkish Süper Lig, but that doesn’t take anything away from the support from the fans, emphasied Malli: “The fans here are a little bit more fanatical and louder in the stadium. That’s probably one of the real plusses of Turkish football. In the Bundesliga though, there is a higher tempo and everything is quicker.”
“A wonderfully successful period,” at Mainz 05
Between 2011 and 2021, Malli played 211 times in the Bundesliga for three different clubs, but he looks back on his early days with a particular fondness. After a youth career in Kassel and after picking up valuable experience in Borussia Mönchengladbach’s academy, the attacking midfielder made the move to The Bruchweg. Malli started off in the Mainz U23s, but it soon became clear that he had the quality to mix it with the big boys in the Bundesliga. It was Thomas Tuchel who gave Malli his first appearance in the Bundesliga. “I was given the time to develop at my own pace. I worked with lots of good coaches and I learned a lot from them. I got to know lots of people in the club and in the city who I had a great understanding with,” recalls Malli, who has extremely fond memories of his time with The Zerofivers: “Looking back, it was one of the best and most successful periods in my life,” said Malli.
Friendships that will last for a lifetime
As well as fond memories, Malli also forged some great friendships during his time at Mainz. He is, for example, in regular contact with the Mainz assistant coach Babak Keyhanfar. “I was delighted when he became first team assistant under Bo Svensson. We were actually on holiday with each other last year. I am happy that it’s going so well for him and that his team has had such a solid season,” said Malli, who played 17 times for Mainz with Svensson. The Turkish champion has only good things to say about the current Mainz coach: “He was a leader who gave everything for his team. At that time I was still young and it was my first year in the Bundesliga. He was one of those people who always looked to help the younger players. He is someone who understands the game and you can see that in how he coaches the team and also on a human level.”
He is someone who understands the game and you can see that in how he coaches his team
In Malli’s view, this was one of the reasons for the incredible escape in the second half of the 2020/21 season. Mainz built on this and secured an impressive eighth-place finish in the 2021/22 campaign. “I think that everyone has contributed to this success. The coach, the players, the club, the leadership, the fans, all believed they could do it again. It’s only possible this way. It was without a doubt a job well done, so I have to give them credit!” he said.
A part of Mainz’s incredible record from the penalty spot.
Another thing that still connects Malli to Mainz 05, is that he contributed to The Zerofivers’ incredible record from the penalty spot. FSV haven’t missed from twelve yards since 2013 and have scored 36 penalties in a row, of which Malli converted four. “It’s a great achievement,” said the 30-year-old.
We'll see how things develop
Not everything ran smoothly for Malli when he left Mainz. He had to go through the relegation play-offs on two occasions as a Wolfsburg player and the chopping and changing of coaches, unrest at board level and squad upheavals didn’t make his situation at the club any easier. Despite the turbulence, Malli used his time at VfL to good effect: “I took a lot away from my time there and gained a lot of experience. We had a lot more success towards the end of my spell. We qualified for the Europa League, for example,” he said. The midfielder also went on loan to Union Berlin in 2020 to get more playing time.
Then, last year, he made the move to Turkey. “It’s a beautiful thing to be able to stand here today and say that I am a Turkish champion. We’ll see how things develop.” Malli’s career, however, is far from over. The 30-year-old still feels fit and is in his prime years as a footballer. “That’s why I hope I still have a few years ahead of me,” he said.