Alex Royal recently spoke with Excelsior midfielder Ali Messaoud. They talked about a potential move to England which never materialised, his time with AZ, Willem II and NEC, the challenges of Swiss football and how his first season with Excelsior is going.

I am very grateful to Ali for his time, Excelsior for their hospitality and their press officer, Vincent Wernke for granting my interview request. The transcript of the interview is below:

AR: Being a ‘Boro fan I would obviously like to ask about the potential move to Middlesbrough that you told me about when I first met you back in March. Do you ever have any regrets about not making the move to England?”

AM: “I don’t have regrets, no. When I was at Willem II at the time, there were a lot of interested clubs and Middlesbrough was one of those. There was nothing ever set in concrete.”

AR: “Your time with AZ, where you started your career, how do you look back on that?”

AM: “It was an amazing time, it was like my second home because I was there for 11 seasons. I still have many friends there who I stay in contact with, people like the club doctor. I will always have good feelings about my time in Alkmaar.”

AR: “And with Willem II, with whom you won the Jupiler League in 2013-14, what are your reflections on your time in Tilburg?”

AM: “Up until now, it was the best season for me. The atmosphere in the team was very good. Nearly everything went well, we won almost every game and it was a really special season.”

AR: “You made the decision to leave Holland in 2015 and sign for Vaduz, in the Swiss Super League. What were the key factors for you in choosing to move abroad?”

AM: “They told me the project that they wanted to build, and what the trainer had said had really attracted me. But when I got there it was like the opposite, the trainer was not the guy who I had met and spoken to before. The people there like the president and the technical directors were great people, but what the trainer told me was basically one big lie and I got sold into it.”

AR: “What are the main differences and challenges of Swiss football, compared to the Dutch game?”

AM: “Definitely the physicality, Dutch football is a lot more technical whereas the Swiss style is much more physical. That for me is the biggest difference between the two.”

AR: “Was it difficult for you to adapt at all?”

AM: “At first, yes. But you have to be able to get used to it quickly, and then you are okay.”

AR: “You had a loan spell with NEC (Second half of 2016-17 season). Do you have any fond memories of that?”

AM: “No, it is a great club with great people. If you are talking about memories I don’t really have any fond ones because we went down, it was a bad half-season.”

AR: “You signed for Excelsior in the summer of 2017, how are you finding your time in Rotterdam so far?”

AM: “Really good, it is just like I expected. The coaching staff are very good and so are all my team-mates. I really like it here and I feel comfortable.”

AR: “Who is the best manager you have played under and why?”

AM: “The best manager? I trained with a lot of big coaches when I was at AZ, there were coaches like Ronald Koeman and [Gertjan] Verbeek. I could not choose one that I would say is ‘the best’, they all have different strengths and have helped me in different ways. The coach I have now [Mitchell van der Gaag] is very good, and I hadn’t heard of him before I signed for Excelsior.”

AR: “What do you think the biggest strength(s) of this Excelsior team are?”

AM: “The team spirit here is absolutely brilliant, that is the biggest strength for me.”

AR: “You seem to play better away from home, do you think there is a reason for that?”

AM: “We have often said this. We win more of our games away and not at home and even we don’t know why!”


Alex Royal (7 Posts)

22 year old from the UK, Middlesbrough fan but have a huge passion for Dutch football in general, especially the Eredivisie. I try and get over when it doesn't clash with Middlesbrough games.