Szalai: “I don’t want to just squat here for two years”
The striker wants to be judged on his achievements after his return to the Bruchweg and he wants play an important role in the FSV system - "... you can’t look back too often just because the past was so beautiful.
In the end, it wasn’t just a conversation with Sandro Schwarz that proved to be the decisive factor in Szalai’s return to the Bruchweg. "I spoke to the gaffer and he showed me that I’ll have a clear role here, because I don’t want to just squat here for two years. I want to play an important role in the Bundesliga for as long as I can," said Ádám Szalai the day after signing his second contract with the FSV.
He has returned to the club where he started out his career in the Bundesliga almost a decade ago. In the winter of 2010, Szalai came from Real Madrid Castilla to Rheinhessen having just turned 22. He then matured from a mere prospect to a seasoned Bundesliga player. The string of victories at the beginning of the 2010/2011 season was particularly unforgettable. Under coach Thomas Tuchel, the FSV celebrated seven wins in a row, including a 2-1 away win at record champions Bayern München, where the Zerofiver must travel to this weekend. Among the scorers, of course: Ádám Szalai. "I'm not back because I did well here in the past or because I played the drums a lot in my time here," said the 31-year-old Hungary international, referring to his time as one of the ‘Bruchweg Boys’. Of course, the return marked an "emotional moment" in Szalai’s career but for him but it's all about demonstrating his quality and helping the team.
"I love the Bundesliga"
At the beginning of the week, Szalai made the decision to try and prove his experience and class again at Mainz, despite being on the back nine of his career. "I had other offers from countries where I would have made more money, but I love the Bundesliga and the atmosphere in the stadiums here. I want to play an important role at this level for as long as I can." On Tuesday, sporting director Rouven Schröder was also quick to highlight the impact that the Hungarian had at Schalke, Hoffenheim and Hannover (on loan): "He is a player who can lead the line who has an eye for goal, who makes defenders uncomfortable and uses his body well."
There are expectations that the striker wants to meet. Szalai is also ready to fight his place in the starting XI, which he claims is a prerequisite for a functional team structure. "A team can only benefit from competition," says Szalai. "It would be disrespectful to talk about the next game or make demands but I am ready if the coach needs me." After a training session on Wednesday morning, Szalai will have two more with his new, old colleagues before leaving for Munich.
“The perfect number”
Regardless of whether Schwarz starts the new man, it’s easily noticeable that Szalai is not an unknown quantity at Mainz and he’s itching to get out on the pitch. It will be a new experience for him personally to join the club so late after the start of the season. In addition, there have been plenty of visible infrastructural changes at the club since his departure. "A lot of work has been done," said Szalai, impressed by Mainz’s rebuild over recent years. He now realises that he is suddenly the oldest player in the squad, but says this has no bearing on how he feels joining the club. In fact, being a club veteran has its upside which in Szalai’s case is his shirt number – the number he made his Bundesliga debut wearing. Why 28? “You can easily google what the number 28 means to me,” he said in an attempt to give the media some homework. He also hinted that: “It’s not just a perfect number to me."