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.
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?
(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.