Showing posts with label Eero Markkanen. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Eero Markkanen. Show all posts

Monday, February 02, 2015

Interview with Real Madrid striker Eero Markkanen

After an extended winter break, I've got round to asking questions of some of the big names in Finnish football - and they don't get much bigger than Finland international Eero Markkanen, currently plying his trade for Real Madrid Castilla (Real's academy club) in Spain's Segunda División B.

You’ve been in Madrid for a few months now, how are you settling in? Have you introduced any Finnish traditions yet with your new teammates?

I am settling in pretty well. The language in training or meetings isn't a problem any more, football related words were pretty easy to learn. Outside football, the language is still a challenge since everyone is talking really fast. We haven't done any crazy Finnish traditions yet, partly because a lot of traditions are alcohol-related... But I have promised to cook reindeer for them, just as soon I find it here!

Your club manager Zinedine Zidane was one of the world’s greatest players, what was the best bit of advice he has given you so far? (Eero was Zizou's first signing for Castilla)

It is hard to say what has been the best, there have been lots of them. And, believe it or not, they're all good.

Zizou and Eero 

Your dad was a professional basketball player, were you ever convinced to follow his large footsteps?

There was never any pressure for me start playing basketball from my father. Of course I played outside of our house with my father and brothers and even attended two training sessions with a local club. But football felt more comfortable for me, and I think my father agrees. 

One of your first league starts for JJK saw you scoring a perfect hat-trick (left foot, right foot, header) against IFK Mariehamn – do you still have the hat? 

Yes I still have it! Although it is in a warehouse in Jyväskylä, I couldn't fit it in my luggage when I moved here. 

Eero in his JJK days (photo by Jussi Reinilä)

You’ve spoken before about hating KuPS (JJK's closest rivals) – could you ever be persuaded to sign for them? Would you enjoy scoring against them more than anyone else? 

I would never play for them, no matter what they would offer. I'd love to score against them, actually I was really angry at myself for not scoring after my one and only start against them in the semi-final of the Finnish Cup.

You’ve been joined at Real Madrid by 16-year-old Norwegian Martin Ødegaard – what are your early impressions of him? 

He is an amazing talent with an incredible ability to beat a defender one-on-one. 

Your most famous goal for AIK was against Djurgården – did you know it was going in as soon as you hit it? 

As soon as it left my boot, I knew it was a great hit. About midway in the air I noticed "s***, that's going in" and I couldn't believe it.

You’ve posted several photos of video games on your Instagram – do you prefer FIFA or Grand Theft Auto? What rank are you on GTA? (I'm currently 57...)

At the moment I prefer GTA, I really enjoy playing it with my friends. I am only rank 41 I think... It has actually been a while since I played any FIFA!

Will there be a rematch of your wrestling match with Perparim Hetemaj before the next international against Northern Ireland?

Most definitely, if Perpa is up for it!

Eero vs Perpa round one (photo via Jussi Eskola)

Did you get a cut from the sales of the Eero the Heero t-shirts?

No I didn't, but I have the rest of them ;)

(Eero has set aside a tee for me, one of my superiors at work is a Djurgården fan so I'll see if he notices!)

More interviews will be coming up in the next few weeks - feel free to suggest names and/or questions and I'll see what I can arrange. Coming next - Richie Dorman of SJK.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Eero Markkanen - Real Madrid's new Galáctico

Watching young Finnish footballers develop abroad, with various degrees of success, has become a national pastime for Suomi. Litmanen, Forssell and Tainio have all gone abroad with varying degrees of success before returning home. Now it is time for a true giant. At 197cm tall and weighing nearly 100kg, twenty-three year old striker Eero Markkanen has taken a huge step towards stardom.

Eero Markkanen, July 2014

So with the latest batch of young Finns plying their trade in Europe (Teemu Pukki, Joel Pohjanpalo, Tim Väyrynen), another has spread his Eagle-Owl wings. Markkanen had already left Finnish shores to make the short journey to AIK of Stockholm, but his performances in the Swedish capital have earned him a move to Spanish giants Real Madrid, bringing the opportunity of a lifetime. Eero joins Real's development side Castilla, who play in the Spanish Segunda División B - and will be coached by one Zinedine Zidane.

Part of elite European football these days sees the big clubs hoover up young talent from all over the world and retain them via loans or partner/feeder clubs. To avoid being known as a one-time prospect, Eero will certainly be up against top competition for a shot in the senior squad - thankfully he has lofty ambitions and high standards to match his physique.

Eero for JJK in 2013

In an interview with Maalipotku blog in 2013, Markkanen said he watched Thierry Henry and (Brazilian) Ronaldo when growing up, although his large frame has seen several comparisons with Zlatan Ibrahimovic. But on the differences between himself as a gentle giant and the Swede, he said "you have to be mean". Eero rose through the ranks of JJK Jyväskylä, announcing himself on the scene in July 2012 with a perfect hat-trick (right foot, header, left foot) in the league match against IFK Mariehamn. He spent the end of 2013 on loan at HJK while his parent club struggled financially, and were ultimately relegated.

Some of Eero's goals have already become YouTube sensations, with his goal for AIK against Djurgårdens in April a particularly fine effort. See the clip below.

Eero's goal for AIK v Djurgårdens

Eero made his full Finland debut in May 2014, coming on as a second half substitute in a 1-0 Baltic Cup defeat to Lithuania, but certainly impressed boss Mixu Paatelainen - and provides a different option for the squad ahead of the upcoming Euro 2016 qualifiers.

A strong, powerful striker unlike anything that Finland have produced in recent years. With the right coaching, Markkanen could genuinely become a world class forward. At just 23 years old, he has a long career ahead of him and where better to grow? If he impresses under Zizou, the pressure will be enormous, following in the footsteps of di Stefano, Hugo Sanchez, Raul and both Ronaldos.

Can Eero be the Hero? He has the strength. We'll have to wait and see if he gets the chance.