With five first-team players from African countries, Leverkusen is currently a significant location. After a chat with managing director for sport Simon Rolfes, the visitors got to enjoy a tour of the BayArena. Fresh from returning from Gothenburg after the Werkself successfully qualified for the UEFA Europa League last 16, Rolfes took plenty of time on Friday afternoon for the guests and discussed a number of topics.
Simon Rolfes on…
…scouting in Africa: “We at Bayer 04 have had a very strong connection to Africa since the 90s, just like to South America. We have a number of players in our youth teams who were born in Germany but with African roots. The development of the African market is also exciting and becoming more and more important for us. The players are no longer just physically strong but also technically and tactically versatile. At the moment, we are primarily scouting for such profiles at other European clubs, but in the long term we want to tap into the market even more and, ideally, sign directly from there.”
...Positioning in competition with other clubs: “Young players in particular - such as Jeremie Frimpong or Amine Adli - like to come to us. It usually helps them to orientate themselves against the development of others, to get an idea of where their own path could take them. Bayer 04 is an ideal place for this. We don't have too large a squad here and are very selective in our recruitment. But that also means that everyone is important, has a great chance to play, we take care of everyone and work intensively with everyone. Off the pitch, we have a very informal atmosphere - within the team, with family members and also with employees.”
...Edmond Tapsoba’s recent contract extension: “Eddi has enjoyed a great development. When he joined us, he was already talented but very young. Now he’s matured and is a key player in our game. He, his stability and his style of play suit us very well. But he has not only matured enormously as a player, but also in terms of his personality over the past year. He feels the trust of the coach and his entire environment here.”
...January’s Africa Cup of Nations: “Of course, as a club we would prefer to organise such competitions in the summer between seasons, there's no question about that. But first and foremost, we're obviously happy for our players that they can play for their nation and that we have so many internationals in our squad. We've also been planning for the Cup of Nations for some time now and think that we still have a good squad to deal with this period in the best possible way.”
The highlight of the three-day trip will be visits to some upcoming Bundesliga matches. For the media representatives, that includes going to Borussia Mönchengladbach's match against Hoffenheim on Saturday. The trip will conclude the day after with the Werkself's match against Borussia Dortmund at the BayArena (kick-off: 17:30 CET).
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