“Yes! I absolutely came here to replace Anthony Modeste! I will play pretty much exactly like him and score at least as many goals. Maybe more! Never worry, FC fans; I am here to make the transition from one striker to the next as seamless as possible!”
And if that was how new striker Jhon Cordoba had responded to questions about whether he believes he can capably replace the departed Frenchman who fired Köln to its first European berth in a quarter-century, your instinct would be to think he was being ironic and/or having a laugh.
Even knowing that it is somewhat cliché, it is a bit of a relief to hear your new player approaching a momentous task with a level-headed approach. Perhaps when star players arrive anew at of of the European giants, they announce themselves with brash, confident proclamations of how they are undoubtedly the luckiest thing to happen to their new employer. At our somewhat-modest club, though, that would trigger immediate alarm bells. It’s all well and good for nearly every fan to continually (half) joke about Champions League trips and Bundesliga titles, but if a player even hinted at it . . . yikes!
Reading an interview published Thursday in BILD, one gets the impression that Cordoba, at a bare minimum, knows all the right things to say about expectations vis-a-vis following Modeste’s remarkable two-season act.
“I feel no pressure,” says the man who arrived from Mainz as the most-expensive acquisition in FC history. “As long as I give everything on the pitch, I will be at peace off it. I am happy to accept this challenge, and it will go well.”
Hold on. Hold on. Don’t press the alarm button just yet! “It will go well” is not the same as declaring yourself the Daenerys Targaryen-led Dothraki to the Lannister-like rulers of the Bundesliga domain. Let the man explain!
“As a striker, I always want to score,” says Cordoba. “Clearly I will not score a goal in every match, but if I play well, everything is perfect.”
Okay, the old “I don’t have to score to be happy as long as I play well” chestnut and its variant “as long as we win” are both also well-worn clichés, but they are such because they are the best answers to questions about whether you can produce in a manner similar to a successful predecessor.
But Cordoba is not pretending that there won’t be those expectations and comparisons. He acknowledges that he’s heard the chatter, but prefers to shift the focus back to what he can control.
“Considering what he achieved here, it it normal that people would ask,” says Cordoba of the frequent Modeste comparisons. “But I know why I was acquired, and it is because of the qualities that I have.”
“I want to replace nobody. I came here to be me.”
And Cordoba has already done some fine work in establishing his own identity in Köln.
In the final test match of the season, Cordoba caught a boot to the right side of his torso as he was about to blow by the TSV Steinbach defender after a ball bounding toward goal. He ended up leaving the match. With Yuya Osako already out via injury, there was somewhat nervous chatter about who would play up top in the DFB Pokal opener. The concern was less about being able to get by fifth-division opponent Leher TS and more about having a striker get at least some competitive play in before the following weekend’s derby at Mönchengladbach.
The concern was quickly put to rest, though, when Cordoba checked himself out of the trainer’s room to get back on the training pitch.
“I’m fine,” says Cordoba of playing through the pain of injury. “I’ve always defined myself through that. For me to miss training, I have to be really injured. I never want to miss anything or leave my colleagues hanging.”
It’s just that sort of spirit and drive that will quickly endear Cordoba to the effzeh faithful, though getting goals will also go a long way with the ruut-un-wiess.
Fortunately, Cordoba also managed the FC’s third goal in the 5:0 first-round victory, albeit from the penalty spot. Team captain Matthias Lehmann made the decision to give his new teammate a chance to get his first competitive goal for the club.
“I will always be ready. If there is a penalty, I won’t be afraid to shoulder the responsibility,” says Cordoba. “(Lehmann) put his trust in me, and I put it to good use.
Was it important for Cordoba to get his first FC goal?
“Every goal is important. ‘Goals are love’ is what we say in Colombia.”
Commitment to the cause? CHECK!
Goal-scoring ability? CHECK!
Appreciation for the special relationship between the FC, the city of Köln, and its people? He’s obviously been to the stadium as a visitor, including the season-ending win over Mainz that concluded with the club in Europe and the city exploding in jubilation, but his only taste of the effzeh experience as a part of it came at the season-opening celebration on the stadium grounds.
He seems to have been impressed.
“It is a spectacle . . . completely unique,” describes the man who later will see how a Köln Karneval stacks up with the one in Mainz. “I had never experienced anything like it.”
“I found it really good and believe it will help me give my all.”
So, CHECK! with bonus points for implying that he will be boosted by the fan support. Shrewd move, sir. Shrewd move.
Of course, we can all celebrate that the time for talk is just about at a close, at least as far as it can ever be at a close in a city as media-centric as Köln. Sunday brings the start of the Bundesliga season in the form of a visit to the FC’s most-hated rival.
Hey, new guy! You think there’s a chance for a W?
“Of course, I always believe for the best. We will go there with complete optimism that we will get the three points, and if we work the same way we have been recently, we will probably achieve it.”
Oh boy . . . here we gooooooo!