Ten years ago, Eren Derdiyok scored a wonder goal with an overhead kick in the 3-1 win in the Bundesliga match against VfL Wolfsburg and it was voted the September Goal of the Month in 2011. In an interview with bayer04.de, the 33-year-old with Turkish roots not only recalls that special goal but also talks about his time in Turkey, his unusual move to Central Asia and his Swiss fellow countrymen Gerardo Seoane.
Eren, sportschau.de described your goal against Wolfsburg: "A goal like a work of art." What image do you have in mind when you think about that "masterpiece"?
Derdiyok: I can still see the goal as if I'd scored it yesterday. It was a sort of chain reaction where everything fitted together perfectly. The long ball from Stefan Reinartz that was at just the right height; the way the ball landed on my foot, bounced off, the way it was in the air, the way I hit it. It was all a natural movement. If you were to train a situation like that then perhaps you might score once. I think it's great the goal is still shared on social media today and that people still talk about it a lot. A couple of years later, I scored another great goal at Galatasaray with an overhead kick, well actually it was more of a scissor kick. And that was the subject for discussion for a long time in Turkey.
You ran to the Leverkusen bench after you scored against Wolfsburg to your fitness coach and performance diagnostician Dr. Holger Broich and you embraced him. Was there special reason for that?
Derdiyok: I was on cloud nine at that moment, it was an indescribable feeling. Up to then, the coach gave me relatively little time on the pitch. I was back in the starting line-up against Wolfsburg. Holger, who I always got on really well with, said to me before the game: 'Eren, you're going to score today.' Again and again, it seems like somebody was predicting a goal. But as it was such a special goal in this case, I wanted to at least celebrate it a little with Holger.
Diego Benaglio, your Switzerland teammate, was in goal for Wolfsburg. Did he congratulate you after the game?
Derdiyok: No, not directly after the game. But, one or two weeks later, he obviously spoke to me about it when we were with the national team. (He laughs). If I remember right he said something like: 'Did you have to do a thing like that against me.'
You played for Bayer 04 for four years and you haven't made more appearances for any other club in your long career. How important was the time at Leverkusen for you?
Derdiyok: It was extremely important. Leverkusen was and is something really special to me. Bayer were my first club abroad. I had a really great and warm reception. Everybody looked after me. That's why I felt at home straight away at the start of my 20s and I made a lot of appearances in my first season. Jupp Heynckes backed me and gave me lots of confidence. I definitely had a number of ups and downs in the following seasons. At some point it became clear I had to make a change. But I've always had a great relationship with Bayer 04.
A few weeks after your last Bundesliga match with Bayer 04 in 2011/12 you achieved something with Switzerland that very few players have managed: you scored three goals in the 5-3 win in the friendly against Germany…
Derdiyok: Oh yes, that was a fantastic night for Switzerland and obviously a very special one for me too. We played in front of a full house in my hometown of Basel. It was a friendly just before the start of the Euros. Ottmar Hitzfeld was our coach and my Leverkusen teammate Tranquillo Barnetta set me up three times and I scored three goals. Brilliant! It was a very emotional game.
You moved on to Turkey in 2014 after five years in the Bundesliga. Was the move to the Süper Lig something very close to your heart as you also have Turkish nationality?
Derdiyok: Yes, definitely. I could have moved to Turkey earlier but I wanted to establish myself in Germany first. In 2014, I just felt I needed a new start in a new league. And I found Turkey particularly attractive due to my family roots. It was also a very successful time for me above all with Galatasaray with two championship titles and winning the Super Cup.
Less obvious is your decision to move to Uzbekistan to join Pakhtakor Tashkent in January 2020. How did that come about?
Derdiyok: I'd been playing for Göztepe, a club in Izmir for six months. But the chemistry wasn't right between us. Then I got a call from my former coach Shota Arveladze who had brought me to Kasimpasa in Turkey. Shota was now the coach at Pakhtakor. He definitely wanted to sign me and he thought it could be a good experience for me. And it turned out to be a successful 18 months on the pitch. We played in the Asian Champions League and got to the quarter-finals, we were the Uzbekistan champions, cup winners and Super Cup winners. There were three or four dominant clubs in the league and the performance differential was enormous. But in the AFC Champions League the tempo and playing quality was higher with the teams facing each other on equal terms.
Which teams did you play against?
Derdiyok: It included teams from Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Due to the pandemic, a lot of matches were played as a tournament in Qatar and Dubai. We performed well as a team and were unlucky to go out in the quarter-finals against Persepolis Teheran
And what was life like in Central Asia?
Derdiyok: The Uzbek and Turkish cultures have many similarities and the languages are similar. I definitely didn't have any problems of making myself understood and it didn't appear strange at all. Of course, the coronavirus pandemic also made life difficult there too. But overall, my wife and my two daughters enjoyed being in Tashkent. The girls went to an international school. We had a good time there.
You've been back in Turkey for a few weeks playing for the second division team MKE Ankaragücü and you appear to be in top form. You scored three goals last weekend. And you've got a total of six in seven games. It all seems to be going right for you.
Derdiyok: Yes, I didn't need long to settle in and I am actually in top form now. We are second in the table after seven matches and our clear target is promotion to the Turkish top-flight. It will be an exciting season.
You are 33 now and your contract runs to 2023. Do you already have plans for the time after you stop playing?
Derdiyok: No, I'm still having so much fun playing football and I'm really fully fit. So I want to play as long as possible and perhaps do a couple of years after 2023. Jupp Heynckes said to me once: There are no young and old players, just good and bad ones. That's my motto too.
Are you still in contact with former Bayer 04 teammates?
Derdiyok: Yes, a lot of them. I call Simon Rolfes from time to time and also Stefan Kießling. I met Kies in Dubai when he was doing a world tour with his family. We were in the same hotel and we bumped into each other by the pool. I'm also in contact with Tranquillo Barnetta, Gonzo (Gonzalo Castro, ed.), Renato Augusto, Ömer Toprak and Karim Bellarabi.
And are you up-to-date with what's happening on the pitch at Leverkusen?
Derdiyok: Yes, absolutely. The team started really well this season. I hope they can continue like that to the end. It's fun watching them.
During your time in Switzerland you played against the Bayer 04 head coach Gerardo Seoane in 2007/08 and 2008/09. You were a striker with FC Basel, he was a defender at FC Luzern. Can you still remember one or two of the games?
Derdiyok: No, to be honest, I wasn't aware that we'd met each other. But I obviously followed his coaching career with interest. He really built something up at BSC Young Boys, not only making the club the number one in Switzerland but also establishing them in Europe. Leverkusen got to experience how good the football was under Seoane last season. I think he can go a long way with Bayer 04.
Eren Derdiyok was born in Basel on 12 June 1988. He started playing football with the BSC Old Boys before moving on to FC Basel in 2006 (89 games, 25 goals) and he was champion of Switzerland once and cup winner twice with the club. Bayer 04 signed the striker in the summer of 2009. Derdiyok stayed to 2012 before joining TSG Hoffenheim and he return to Leverkusen on loan in 2013. Over a total of four years, Derdiyok made 138 appearances and scored 35 goals for Bayer 04.
The Switzerland international, whose Kurdish parents came from the Turkish province of Tuncali, moved to Turkey in 2014 where he played for Kasimpasa SK, Galatasaray and Göztepe Izmir. Derdiyok was champion of Turkey twice in succession with Galatasaray (2018 and 2019). In January 2020 he moved on to Uzbekistan to join Pakhtakor Tashkent where he won the league title, cup and Super Cup. Since August 2021, the former Switzerland international (60 caps, 11 goals) has played for the Turkish second division club Ankaragücü.