Borussia Mönchengladbach will play host to FC Schalke 04 in the season opener on Saturday evening (18:30 CEST). For Breel Embolo it’s a meeting with his old club, and a game which, for him, will be intertwined with much emotion.
When Borussia meet FC Schalke 04 at BORUSSIA-PARK on Saturday evening, it will certainly trigger a few mixed emotions for Breel Embolo. “It’s a massive coincidence that I have to play my old club on the first game of the season, but I’m really looking forward to it. Most of all though, I’m looking forward to getting the season started,” said the striker who spent three years with the Royal Blues.
In the summer of 2016, dubbed one of Europe’s hottest prospects, the 19-year-old chose to swap out Basel for Gelsenkirchen. Borussia soon learnt just how much of a coup FC Schalke 04 had pulled off with this transfer as, during the sixth game of the 2016/17 season, the Foals were put to the sword at the Veltins Arena, suffering a 4-0 defeat. Scoring twice, Embolo racked up arguably his best Bundesliga performance to date: after just a few weeks, it seemed that he had truly arrived on the German scene. Just 13 days later though, everything changed for the Switzerland international. During just the seventh match of the season, Embolo fractured both his ankle and fibula, effectively ending his season. “I was shocked. You come to a club with such high expectations to perform and you want to be successful, but everything can change in a second,” recalled the forward. He managed to come back, but continued to be plagued by injury. First it was a muscle problem, then his shoulder. The setbacks just kept coming, and then last November, he also broke his foot.
A veritable iron-man
But Embolo never gave up and despite all his injury problems; he managed to rack up more than 60 competitive appearances for Schalke. To overcome all of these injuries and still be able to play at a top level, shows he’s a veritable iron-man. He didn’t seem to have much luck with injury in a Schalke jersey, but he’s been incredibly impressed with how Borussia have handled him. “When a team comes in for you so early and shows that much interest in you, it really proves how much they appreciate you as a player,” he said. What’s more, he has plenty of friends from the Siwtzerland national side at the club. “Yann Sommer, Nico Elvedi, Denis Zakaria and Michael Lang, have all raved about Gladbach and said: ‘come to us, we need you!’,” said Embolo. And after conversations with Marco Rose and Max Eberl, it was clear to him that there really was no better option than Borussia.
Step by step, the striker, who’s been capped by Switzerland 32 times, recovered from his foot injury and has slowly made his way in to the team. The “dynamic and powerful” style, for which Marco Rose praised him upon joining the club, appears to have returned to his game, as demonstrated in performances against Chelsea in pre-season and in the DFB-Pokal game against Sandhausen. Embolo himself knew it was never in doubt that he would return the same player. "I’ve been through some difficult times as a footballer and it was during those that I realised how much I love the game, and how much I longed to be back playing," he said. The 22-year-old has every reason to look forward to "a great season” with his new club. "We want people to be proud to support our club. We want them to go home happy every time they come to the stadium. That’s our ultimate goal.” On a more personal level, Embolo wants to contribute to the team with good performances so that he can finally prove what he’s all about.