Since the turn of the year, Milot Rashica’s performances have sky rocketed, earning him the nickname Rocket Man. The Kosovan attacker scored a brace on Friday night in Werder’s 4-2 win against Schalke and has six goals since the start of 2019. In an interview with WERDER.DE, the 22 year-old spoke about what has gone so well in front of goal so far this year, what has helped him, putting previously missed chances behind him and why the step up from Kosovan football has proved to be tougher that he first expected.Since the turn of the year, Milot Rashica’s performances have sky rocketed, earning him the nickname Rocket Man. The Kosovan attacker scored a brace on Friday night in Werder’s 4-2 win against Schalke and has six goals since the start of 2019. In an interview with WERDER.DE, the 22 year-old spoke about what has gone so well in front of goal so far this year, what has helped him, putting previously missed chances behind him and why the step up from Kosovan football has proved to be tougher that he first expected.
WERDER.DE: A very simple question to start. How come you’ve suddenly started to score?
Milot Rashica (laughs): Everyone is asking me this at the moment…
WERDER.DE: Well, is there a reason?
Rashica: Yes. We’ve been training on it. I’ve been trying to focus and concentrate on my finishing in front of goal. I’ve gained more self-confidence from this. However, in football it is sometimes the case that you attempt a shot from long distance and it goes in whilst missing another chance from five metres out. It is difficult to explain.
WERDER.DE: How important is it for a striker to have self-confidence?
Rashica: Super important. You need a lot of self-confidence to be in the right frame of mind and you also need to believe in yourself. If you miss a chance, you know you might get another.
WERDER.DE: In South Africa, you worked hard and this was evident with how your teammates have been celebrating your goals in recent weeks. How important has this been?
Rashica: After missing a few chances in Bundesliga matches, several teammates and members of the coaching team came over to give me encouragement. It has helped me knowing that they are there and that they support me. Of course they would’ve liked to have won these matchesbut they also knew that no-one would’ve wanted to have scored more in that situation than me. They didn’t blame me for anything.
WERDER.DE: Did you speak to someone especially about this moment?
Rashica: Yes, mainly to Martin Harnik and Claudio Pizarro. They always said to me, it’s always good for me to be creating chances. I simply had to continue doing what I was doing and the ball would eventually go in at some point. It would’ve been much worse if I wasn’t making chances. I remember one chat with Martin very well. He said: Once you score once, many more will follow and that’s exactly what happened. Martin and Claudio are both very experienced players and they have both experienced similar situations in their careers. It’s really good to learn from someone like Piza. This was a huge reason for personal motivation.
WERDER.DE: It has been noticeable to see your rise in form since the turn of the year. Did you say to yourself on New Year’s Eve: New Year, New me?
Rashica (laughs): No, it isn’t that easy to explain. I started the year perfectly with a goal in Hannover. This gave me a lot of self-confidence and we secured three important points. After my back problem, I returned to score against Dortmund, Augsburg and Schalke. I started a couple of these matches and the more often you player, the more confident and comfortable you feel. That summarises the situation nicely. I think I’m making good progress.
For me, the fitness side of things was the hardest thing.Milot Rashica
WERDER.DE: You have often said in previous interviewst that the missed chances are a thing of the past and you don’t have bad memories in the back of your mind. Can you really move on from these chances so quickly?
Rashica: Honestly, the missed chances still come back to haunt me every now and again. In the past, I have often allowed my head to drop in a match where I haven’t scored. I have certainly learnt to do the opposite and to focus on the next match rather than reflecting back on times which haven’t gone as well. That is possibly a mental development which I have made in recent months.
WERDER.DE: You have needed some time to find your best form at Werder. What do you need to do to constantly develop?
Rashica: Stay calm and don’t put yourself under too much pressure! That was something I had to learn. On TV, you cannot see much of a difference between the Bundesliga and the Dutch Eredivisie for example. However, there is an enormous difference when you’re playing in one of them. The tempo, the quality of the players, the effort needed in a match and much more is a lot different. It is difficult to make a seamless jump up to the standard of football here.
WERDER.DE: What was your biggest challenge?
Rashica: “It took me a while to build up my fitness and to get used to the style of play and my teammates. The fitness side of things was the hardest thing for me.”
WERDER.DE: The development and progress of young players can often end up very differently. Not a lot of them can play so early in a top league like the Bundesliga. It took you a little longer.
Rashica: “Yes, of course. I perhaps missed out on the right training as young players. I have only been playing for four years in European football. I spent two and half years in Arnhem and have been here in Germany for just over a year. Before that I played in Kosovo, which is a huge difference to here, and even Holland.
WERDER.DE: What were the conditions like during your youth?
Rashica: “It was very difficult for my generation. The training conditions were not good and we rarely had two training pitches. The clubs have only started investing more money so now younger players have more opportunities. Kosovo is now part of UEFA and FIFA and there are a number of scouts from other leagues surveying the league, so that our younger players can move earlier into youth academies across Europe.
WERDER.DE: Despite that you made it…
Rashica: “Which my family and I are very proud of. I am one of the first players from Kosovo to make in a top league, without taking a detour via Albania. I’m really pleased that the people from my home country support me so much.
WERDER.DE: If you follow the reactions from Kosovo, then it’s clear that you’re a star for the younger generations.
Rashica: “I don’t see myself as a star, but maybe an example of someone making it, which is good for the kids. Younger people in Kosovo are becoming more and more interested in football. The Euro qualifier against Bulgaria for example was sold out in less than an hour.”
WERDER.DE: There is an international break after the Leverkusen game. You will begin the Euro qualifiers with Kosovo. What does playing in these kind of games mean to you?
Rashica: “It’s our second attempt at qualifying for a major tournament. In our World Cup qualifiying group we had Croatia, Turkey, Iceland, Ukraine and Finland – so it was really difficult. We barely knew one another, but are a tighter bunch after our win in the Nations League. We have another difficult group with England and Czech Republic, who also have Pavlas and Theo.”
WERDER.de: Do you think you have a chance in the Euro Qualification group then?
Rashica: “We have a chance. If we don’t win the group, then we have a chance in the play-offs against the winners of the Nations League D. The semi-finals and the final take place after the group stage…
WERDER.de: And you will face among other teams England…
Rashica: “That will be a massive game. We are young team and a young footballing nation. To play against those kinds of players will be amazing. Everything is possible in football.”