If he’s fast, he must be Dodi
Although newly-promoted Fortuna Düsseldorf completed a handful of new signings in the pre-season, one of those deals was done in a quite unusual way. The player himself was loaned from the test match opponent they played a day before. The signing was not made in a hurry as the player was scouted for at least a year, but the match supported the decision to take him. The then-opponent was Premier League-side Watford and the player was Belgian winger Dodi Lukebakio who turns 21 this month.
Since then, he has impressed the fans and the press with his fresh attacking style and fast approach in going forward. However, Friedhelm Funkel, the ever-cautious head coach of Fortuna, wants to bring him along more slowly into the everyday life in the Bundesliga. That means a new challenge for Lukebakio, who needs to learn a more complex playing style, especially on a newly promoted team.. Lukebakio knows that he must improve but is willing to go the extra mile and he has to. In Fortuna’s system where every player also has several defensive tasks, Lukebakio won’t be an exception. His pace could be very helpful when it’s time for the attack where he could be the partner of winger Benito Raman, a fellow Belgian. They can (when needed) comprise the very fast “Belgische Flügelzange”.
His rising star is also on display in the Belgian U21 national team where he is a fixture on the right wing, as he was in the match against the Hungarian U21 in Budapest Tuesday where the “Young Red Devils” won 3-0. He was very active in the match, helped the attacks from the wings and had some good chances himself. I had the opportunity to speak with him after the match regarding his role in the Belgian team and Fortuna and about the first steps in the Bundesliga.
What was the main strength with which you overcame the Hungarians?
It was our speed that caused Hungary difficulties, this was that little extra where we overcame them. It was an important win as we were leading the group together with Sweden and now we proved that we can really have a chance for first place. Our focus for the remaining matches is to win both as we are not at the end yet, it’s no use to go to Sweden for a draw. We are really hungry to qualify for the U21 European Championship.
What can you bring back to Fortuna from these last two games? What are the main differences between the national team and the club?
It’s an advantage being here, to have played these two games as you have the match rhythm in you. I hope this brings positive energy with me and I get the opportunity also at Fortuna. In the Belgian team everybody knows me while at Fortuna I am still one of the new guys. Regarding the style of play the main difference is that here you attack more, as you are in the strong team and can keep the ball all the time, having more possession of the ball. At Fortuna I have to work on the defensive end as well and doing more counter-attacks, but it would be short-thinking to reduce Fortuna just to this. Some proper attacking skills are also of good use even if it is not so often as in the national team.
You are new to the Bundesliga. What are your first impressions?
I want to show what I can do and get my playing minutes, that is what I want to achieve. As the Bundesliga is one of the best competitions in the world, I know what to expect and I want to be realistic, I have some work to do and the league showed the team how this works. I think I will improve and learn a lot, since there are opponents with different styles and strengths. The field where I want to improve most is my physical abilities. It isn’t enough to be just fast. With this I hope I can contribute to keep Fortuna in the Bundesliga.
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- Exclusive Interview with Fortuna Düsseldorf’s Dodi Lukebakio - September 14, 2018