Young Boys’ Neuchâtel goalkeeper bows on Sunday at the age of 35. With peace of mind and the satisfaction of having enjoyed his career to the fullest.
How do you live these last days in the skin of a professional football player?
I make the most of it. It’s a good feeling, really. I feel joy because I couldn’t see myself repeating a season, knowing what that means and the role I have in the team (Editor’s Note: He was relegated to third goalkeeper after Anthony Racioppi’s arrival in January† I did what I had to do, I can leave with a very positive feeling. Other things now turn to me, I am delighted to discover them, as well as another rhythm.
It’s been a month and a half since you announced your decision to quit. Suddenly there’s the excitement of the season, the messages of support, maybe relief too. Now that you’re about to face reality, don’t you feel some kind of vertigo?
Not at all. I have no regrets or fears that I hastened the end of my career. We haven’t discussed it with my wife in two months either. Looking forward to being Sunday (Editor’s Note: YB receives Grasshopper for the last game of the season) to experience emotions. It’s going to be an extremely strong moment, I’m sure. On the other hand, I also look forward to new challenges, both personal and private, to have more time for my family. I leave quietly. Change in life is needed, it feels good.
In addition to the desire to benefit more from your loved ones, in an interview with ArcInfo, your decision by the satisfaction of your retirement at YB and a sore knee. It’s a lot of things, but when were you convinced to stop?
There were several signals. It happened smoothly. In January I was still second goalkeeper when Anthony Racioppi arrived and my role changed. I haven’t been called up since David von Ballmoos returned from injury in March. It was a first signal. I also got outside interest to prepare for my post career. There, too, I felt that this was the right time. I was aware for a while that this was definitely my last season without showing it to anyone. It feels good to finally be able to say it and project yourself into the future, to have this sense of freedom. As a professional footballer there are many limitations and I have experienced that for 15 years.
Were you just less passionate about the game?
No, that remained intact. I still feel it now during training. I will give everything until the last day. This hunger never went away. And I had the opportunity to appreciate my work more and more, because it became more and more difficult to keep it up. But you have to know how to leave room for others.
If we had told your career to the young La Chaux-du-Milieu child that you were, how would he have reacted?
I might not have believed it, even though deep down I’ve always dreamed of it. At least not to end in style, to be able to enjoy the last few years. Especially in terms of longevity actually: I never thought that I would last so long in this environment.
You have had great moments: discovering the professional world with your favorite club, the Swiss Cup final with Thun, almost 30 European Cup matches, including a trip to Old Trafford in the Champions League… What memories have stayed with you most ?
It’s hard to say. Emotions are our livelihood as a footballer. The first Super League game (Editor’s note: On May 10, 2008 a 2-0 win with Xamax in Lucerne) was something very special, I remember experiencing a magical day. The cup final (Editor’s Note: Lost to Basel on May 19, 2019), with a rather crazy surge of emotion when entering the field during the warm-up, it was also very strong. And I hope that on Sunday I will be able to experience one more of these very good moments that will remain unforgettable.
Before YB you only knew modest clubs. You have often emphasized that this was the apotheosis of your career. What do you remember about these two years?
My modesty and my work have been rewarded. I knew how lucky I was to be at a club like that and I think I showed it every day, be it in training, in the dressing room or in a game. I never thought for a moment that after I signed with YB, I could let go and enjoy. It’s the exact opposite. I showed my app from day one. The club has received a lot from me every day. It is for this reason that I was spoiled. I got a lot of recognition and I took full advantage of that. People recognized the work I did for two years.
What struck you when discovering a club of this size?
The changing room. In Thun, for example, we have always had a young team, with a manager. At YB I had the impression of entering a locker room of men, of personalities, that you have to know how to manage and that is the difficulty in these big teams. Suddenly there was more freedom. Every player was trusted and everyone knew what to do to help the team.
What have you learned from these two years about your work?
To know how to integrate myself into such a group. From the start, and that is what characterized me, I was able to give my opinion, my ideas and they were taken into account. It has given me a lot of confidence. I’ve learned that by being yourself, things happen positively. Finally, my work has taught me a lot about myself.
As a goalkeeper you have experienced one of the periods when the position evolved the most. How did you experience this transformation?
It is certain that today I no longer play the same way as I did with Xamax. It’s a long road that I’ve come with the help of my dedicated coaches and my competitors. I have always loved being able to change my environment, discover other mentalities, other visions, other methods. In Thun I worked a lot on my trap game with Patrick Bettoni. We have to constantly adapt.
Make sure you don’t regret. On the other hand, are there things that you wish you had done differently or are there goals that you have not achieved?
No, my career suits me perfectly. Things happened as they were meant to happen. I think I’ve made my place. I didn’t just wait, I made sure to open some doors, like YB. I was rewarded for taking certain personal initiatives. Football has shaped me as a man, so I can’t be frustrated. If, on the other hand, I have a big disappointment, it is the descent to the Challenge League with Thoune (Editor’s note: in 2020† It was painful for a whole club and for me.
What are you going to do with your life?
Right now I have some vague personal projects. A journey takes place in the head, without clear ideas. I’m going to take two months now to settle in, to go on vacation with my family. Then it’s time to resume a professional activity. Depending on how much time I have left, we’ll see how I can develop these personal projects. But it will be in the medium to long term.
Will we see you on the Wankdorf lawn on Sunday?
It could and I very much hope so, but at the moment I have no guarantee.
14 professional seasons
373 professional matches, including 284 Super League and 26 European Cup
5 clubs: NE Xamax (2007-2010), Vaduz (2010-2011), Wil (2011-2012), Thun (2012-2020), Young Boys (2020-2022)
2 titles: 1 Swiss Championship (2021), 1 Liechtenstein Cup (2011)