Pros 06.07.2019 — 13:58 Uhr

Simply a little overplayed

Stefan Bell discusses his unfortunate end to the 2018/19 Bundesliga season and says: “I am determined to work my way back into the starting lineup.”

During pre-season, Stefan Bell wants to stake his case for a place in the starting lineup next season.

For the final seven matches of the 2018/19 Bundesliga season, 1. FSV Mainz 05 were without the services of vice-captain Stefan Bell. Sandro Schwarz stressed on multiple occasions that Bell was missing due to sporting reasons. After the first full week of training ahead of the new season, the centre-back expressed his thoughts during an interview. The 27 year-old admitted last season with the 05ers wasn’t as stable as he had hoped for. “However, I’m back on the pitch in full training and have the desire to play again.”

During the closing stages of last season, Bell lost his starting place in the 05ers team. The centre-back joined the club’s Bruchweg youth academy in 2007 and went on to become U19 German champions in 2009. Bell has gone on to make 177 Bundesliga appearances but hasn’t expressed his personal views in a long time. “The most important thing was securing Bundesliga survival just like we had done in previous years,” said Bell on Friday. “Consequently, I didn’t need to express my personal feelings. It was important to secure points as a team. It would’ve been inappropriate to have brought up another difficult topic which was an off the pitch issue.” The sensitivity of placing the issue at centre stage was not an issue for Bell.

Not the most stable season

The whole situation was also less problematic as it was made out at the time. “Internally, everything was clear for everyone involved. We had open discussions and the head coach knew what my opinion was. As a professional footballer, I then had to withstand the media writing about it and blowing it out of proportion. Of course I would’ve liked to have played more, that is for sure. However, it wasn’t my most stable season. I have constantly played for the last five seasons and the Rückrunde this year was certainly my weakest period. There were also occasionally moments where the coach said that Alexander Hack would get his chance to play. That was also fine by me. I was also delighted to see Niko Bungert play a few more matches in his final season at the club.”

Alexander Hack came into the Mainz team to replace Bell while Niko Bungert also featured in the back-four against Freiburg and Hoffenheim on the last day of the season. “It was certainly difficult and unusual for me,” said Bell. “At the same time, it might have done me a lot of good to raise my game for future seasons. I’m now 100% at peace with it all.”

Following the difficult battles against relegation in previous seasons, Bell may have become exhausted mentally. “As a result, it was the correct decision from head coach Sandro Schwarz to take me out for the final few matches. You reflect afterwards and look back with certainty that it is difficult to play week in week out for five consecutive years in the Bundesliga. I believe it was good for me to take some time out to breathe.” There were no other underlying reasons, no attitude problems and no physical problems. “I think I was simply a little overplayed.”

“I’m certainly not someone who runs off in panic”

Bell has also never considered leaving the 05ers to join a new club and the centre-back is currently under contract until 2020. This is because he enjoys good contact with other people and “because I’m certainly not someone who runs off in panic when they’re outside. I am enough of a sportsman to say: Now more than ever.”

Bell spent his summer break travelling for two weeks whilst helping out with the building of the training pitches at Eifel club FV Vilja Wehr where the 05ers defender as acted as president for multiple years. The centre-back has also spent the first week of training camp fully focused on a comeback, battling hard in tackles and has shown he is ready to perform. Bell has been working just as hard as anyone wanting to play again. “I have played constantly for five years and have been fortunate not to suffer any injuries during this time. I have a lot of self-confidence that I will be able to return to the best of my ability this season. The coach said it is down to my performances and the best should play. I believe this is normal given my role in the squad and I am determined to work my way back into the starting lineup.” His role as the club’s vice-captain will play a secondary role. “I don’t want to plea my way back into the team. For me it is about being on the pitch and to return to my previous role. Off the pitch, I will take on some responsibilities for a few things surrounding the team. This has been the case in previous years too.”