Choupo-Moting: We're the team to beat
Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting played with Neymar in Paris and fought against relegation in England. His experience is what makes him so valuable. In our members' magazine "51," he explains why it always comes down to having the right attitude in life.
Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting interview
Choupo, last year you were in the final of the Champions League with PSG - now you're facing your former club in the quarter-finals. How keen are you to make up for missing out on the title?
Choupo-Moting:"The whole story is now circled back in quite a weird and quick way. At the time, it was a match of equals between the two best teams in Europe. Bayern deserved to win because they scored the one goal more. For me personally, our route to the final was simply superb, especially as my goal against Atalanta got us to Lisbon in the first place. Winning the title is the big goal of all of us here, you can see that every day at this club. We have a very good chance, but I think it's harder to defend the Champions League than to win it, because everyone is chasing FC Bayern right now. We're currently seen as the best team in the world - that means we're the team everyone wants to beat. That makes it all the more important that we work together positively, having fun and, above all, keeping as a unit. We won't take PSG lightly."
The motto of PSG is: 'Ici c'est Paris,' which means "This is Paris" in English. How does the reunion feel for you?
(laughs) "Back then in Paris, I also established my own expression: 'Ça donne!' It's a bit difficult to translate that literally, it's supposed to describe something positive, cool - for example, now you would say 'ça donne' about this FC Bayern vs. Paris match: Cool, what's happening here! The boys liked this term, and after I invented a hand gesture, we used it, among other things, as a joint goal celebration, in training as well as in the game, for example with Kylian Mbappé, Thilo Kehrer, or Presnel Kimpembe. It became my symbol and then, over time, it was even adopted throughout the club: Whenever someone did something cool, beautiful, it was 'Ça donne!' I'm incredibly happy to see the guys again."
You quickly found your feet in a team of Neymar, Mbappé and Co. What's your secret to getting along with even the biggest of stars?
(laughs) "In the end, superstars are just ordinary people. For outsiders, it seems different because you always see these characters in the spotlight. I'm a guy who gets along with everyone, I'm a fun-loving person and I've always remained myself. In my eyes, that's the most important thing in life, regardless of whether you're a footballer or something else: finding yourself, staying true to yourself, having fun and radiating that to others. Why do you live? You shouldn't pretend, you shouldn't hide."
Is it true that at PSG you came to training on a skateboard?
"No, no, not quite. It took me 30 minutes in the car to cover the whole distance. But from the parking lot it was about 250 metres to the building, and I always had my skateboard in the trunk, because I liked to take it out with me in Paris from time to time. And one day, it was nice weather, I thought, I can skate the distance to the changing rooms, maybe I'll save myself a minute (laughs). The others thought that was cool. After a few days it was normal for them: 'Oh, he's coming back with his skateboard!' Keylor Navas then grabbed it, he did some cool stuff on it, much better than me. With my wife and son, I went privately a few times to the 'Palais de Tokyo', near the Eiffel Tower, there's a little hotspot for skaters there."
What exactly can you bring to the Bayern dressing room from your years of experience?
"My mentality: Always believe! Always be optimistic, even if you have a setback. I have experienced so much and can really say: You never stop learning. My experience is that you should never have your tail between your legs for too long. Especially in football, even after one bad game, you can be the hero again in the next - and if you believe in yourself, you'll achieve your goals."
In your early 20s, you played against Bayern for the first time with Nürnberg. You scored a goal, and right after the final whistle you asked Franck Ribéry for his shirt; in the end, you were happy despite the defeat - because of the goal and the shirt. Do you still have it?
"Yes, it's at my parents' house in my old bedroom. When I was home for a few days in the summer after the Champions League, I took it out again - it's a nice memory. Incredible, Franck Ribéry, I remember it like it was yesterday."
Your contract expires at the end of the season - would you like to stay, what are your plans?
"It's enormous fun at this club. Everything I had promised myself beforehand from FC Bayern has been more than fulfilled. Of course, it would be nice to stay longer. I go into training every day with a smile. It's an honour to play here. This is a top destination in European football. Every player knows what he has here. I'm super happy. Munich is a beautiful city, and since it's been a great fit at the club with my colleagues right from the start and my family feels comfortable here, everything is perfect right now. My daughter was born here; I can say that I am so happy. The icing on the cake is wearing this shirt. Now, after the Club World Cup, all I need is a few more trophies - and to get them, I'll give everything."
Photos: Julian Baumann