He is already an indispensable part of Adi Hütter’s team. With 10 appearances in Ligue 1 since his arrival in the Principality (816 minutes, 1 goal), Denis Zakaria has experienced a lightning-fast integration within the Rouge et Blanc squad, by his own admission. Scorer of his first goal in the colors of AS Monaco against Brest at the Stade Louis-II (2-0), the Swiss international gave us his impressions just before leaving on international duty to help his country seal a place in the Euros next summer. Interview 🎙
Hello Denis. For starters, you look like you’ve been here for years. Looking back, how were those first months at AS Monaco?
Honestly I feel very well integrated into the team, with my teammates and what is a top staff. The Club is great, I feel really good here, and I think that’s what makes adaptation easier. This is why my integration process into the squad was ultimately very quick.
This is the third time you’ve played under coach Adi Hütter. What’s special about him?
So he was the coach who gave me my professional debut, so over the years he has known me very well and so do I him. I know what he asks of his players, and it’s a style that suits me perfectly, aggressive, dynamic and offensive. This is how I like to play! That’s why it worked from the start, and once again I’m very happy to be here and that he’s here as well.
How is he with the players on a daily basis?
He is very close to us, he is a very humanistic person, but also with a sense of discipline that characterizes him. But yes he likes to be close to his players.
We’re going to take a trip down memory lane. Do you remember your debut with Young Boys in the Champions League playoffs against AS Monaco?
Yes obviously, since it was a pretty big defeat (4-0, editor’s note), so in general it makes a mark on you, it’s something I’ll remember for a long time (laughs). It was a tough match against a very good Monaco team, so it wasn’t easy.
Now you are part of this team. How have you experienced your first months here?
Really good, as I said we have a great team, both off the pitch and on the pitch where there is a lot of quality. We have a lot of very good players, and young talent as well, so yes I think the mix is quite good. It’s up to us to stay focused all season and continue playing like this.
Tell us how you felt after your first goal with AS Monaco against Brest, especially scoring at the Stade Louis-II…
As I said, it’s always good for a player to score. I am very proud and happy to have scored my first goal in my new colors. And I hope it won’t be the last! In any case, I will do everything to help the team as much as possible.
Premier but en Rouge & Blanc 😍
— AS Monaco 🇲🇨 (@AS_Monaco) November 6, 2023
In addition, you were able to celebrate with the fans, who came in large numbers…
Of course, it’s great! Since I’ve been here, there have always been fans at the Stade Louis-II, so that’s good. We have a great fan base, I’m happy, I hope they will continue to come in large numbers and we will do everything we can to make them happy.
⚽ Un premier but pour @Deniszakaria8
✅ Un clean-sheet pour Philipp Köhn
— AS Monaco 🇲🇨 (@AS_Monaco) November 5, 2023
Do you think it’s the team’s style of play that is so popular?
It’s possible. It’s sure that it’s more difficult to please the fans when a team is playing badly (smile). But I think that the supporters come above all to support us, even if the fact that there is a spectacle and goals obviously helps.
Did the coach fool you with this header?…
Yes a little (smile). Of course I’m very tall but I’m not the best player in the air. It was my first goal with AS Monaco and it’s a header so I’m happy. I’ve already worked with the coach and I’ve already scored with a header, I don’t understand why he’s stopping me (laughs). More seriously, this is a point on which I must improve to further help the team. And I hope I can score more like this!
Yet you started in attack when you were younger…
Yes, it’s true that I played up front until I was 16, I think, and I scored quite a few goals! Then I changed coaches and went from striker to central defender (smiles). It was quite a shock. But I was good enough, and I saw that I was helping the team, so I adapted.
Then we changed coaches and I was put on the wing. But I felt like I could bring more to the team by being more defensive, so I spoke with the coach, and he put me in midfield. It was kind of the perfect position for me, where I could do a little bit of both.
Is this something that helped you to be versatile as you showed by helping out in midfield with AS Monaco?
Clearly I think it helped me a lot, because I have played almost every position (smile)! So yes for me it’s easier to adapt to a new role on the pitch.
Who are the players who inspired you in your midfield position?
In the past, I would say Patrick Vieira! He’s a player who has a profile similar to mine, I think in terms of size and characteristics. So he has been a source of inspiration for me. And Yaya Touré also, who played for AS Monaco, when he played for Barça and Manchester City.
Since making your debut as a youngster until now, do you have a notable memory that comes to mind?
All of my first matches for club or country! Each time it was a special moment in my life, because in your body you feel different, there is a special sense of excitement. Each debut was special for me.
You have been called up for international duty again with Switzerland, with the aim of punching your ticket for Euro 2024…
It’s certain that the Euros are in the back of our minds. We still have three games to play, so we have to give our best to qualify. And then, I hope that I will have the opportunity to participate in this great competition.
— ZAK (@Deniszakaria8) November 13, 2023
Finally, do you have a few words to say to the fans of the Club, who filled the away end for the third time in a row in Le Havre last Saturday?
I want to say THANK YOU to them first of all. Because it is not always easy to travel, we are aware of that. We try to give this back to them on the pitch! Sometimes it works, but unfortunately we don’t win all the time. (He addresses them directly) In any case we give everything so that you are happy and proud of us! Thank you, because we always hear you on the pitch, and that boosts us.