After Wednesday’s training at Hertha’s Schenckendorffplatz pitches drew to a close, Salomon Kalou returned to the dressing room around half an hour later than the rest of his teammates. Just like on Tuesday, as a result of sustained muscle problems, the Ivorian completed an individual, hour-long session with athletics coach Hednrik Vieth. Maximilian Mittelstädt also trained with Kalou as the Germany U21s international battles back to full fitness following a similar problem. The cheerful Ivorian is looking for the all-clear very soon to return to action. “I will be fit for selection to face Augsburg on Saturday. I will return to full training with the rest of the team on Thursday,” said Hertha’s number eight. “Meanwhile, as a result of my experiences throughout my career, I know when I have to push my body and when not to. I have to be fresh to be able to make the crucial difference in matches. That is the rest why I take short breaks from training every now and again whenever I feel something.”
herthabsc.de: Salomon, did you watch the Champions League semi-final second leg between Liverpool and Barcelona last night?
Kalou: Yeah, but unfortunately the team I was cheering for came out on the losing side. I have always been a part of “Team Messi,” regardless of whether he is playing for Barcelona or Argentina.
herthabsc.de: Who are you rooting for now to win the tournament? Liverpool and Tottenham are both rivals of Chelsea, your former club. Meanwhile, Ajax are a close rival to Feyenoord, another former club.
Kalou: (laughs) This is one of the reasons why I was rooting for Barcelona! It is now very difficult for me to pick a team. I certainly don’t want Ajax to win it due to the close rivalry with Feyenoord. My Ivorian teammate Serge Aurier currently plays for Tottenham so I want Spurs to win it now. However, I think Ajax’s run to the semi-finals is important for Dutch football. Usually, only the rich clubs are able to make a run deep into the tournament. It is even more impressive to see a club like Ajax now have a good chance to reach the final. I always want to root for the underdog too! The dynamic of the tournament changes for the better when a smaller team wins it.
herthabsc.de: Back to Hertha and everyday life: Do you know what Michael Preetz, Erich ‘Ete’ Beer, Lorenz Horr, Marcelinho and Marko Pantelić have in common?
Kalou: I think they are all in the all time top ten Hertha goalscorers list.
herthabsc.de: Correct. Only Preetz (84 goals), Beer (83), Horr (75) and Marcelinho (65) have scored more goals for Hertha than you. Notably last time out against Stuttgart, you scored your 45th Bundesliga goal for the club and have now scored as many goals as Pantelić.
Kalou: I didn’t know that! I really like Marko Pantelić! He really was a good striker and even started his career with Paris Saint-Germain. It is an honour to have scored as many goals as he did.
herthabsc.de: Vedad Ibišević recently called you ‘Grandpa.’ How many more goals do you think ‘Grandpa Kalou’ could score in his career?
Kalou: (laughs) Of course I hope to score a few more goals before calling it a day. As long as the ‘Grandpa’ is scoring, all that matters now will be looking after my body.
herthabsc.de: This is something you have done well so far in your career. In the five seasons you have spent so far in Berlin, you have only missed seven Bundesliga matches with injury. We all know you eat very well. However, what do you have to eat as a 33 year-old to stay as healthy and as fit as you are.
Kalou: It depends. Eat plenty of seafood, drink plenty of water and make sure you get plenty of sleep. If you eat well, you appear well! (grins)
herthabsc.de: In your final away match of the season, Hertha travel to face FC Augsburg this weekend. In seven previous matches against FCA, you have scored three goals. You’ve only managed to score more goals against three other Bundesliga teams, scoring six times against Borussia Mönchengladbach, Borussia Dortmund and Hannover 96 respectively. However, Hertha have only won one of six Bundesliga matches in Augsburg. Why have the Fuggerstädter been so tricky to defeat in recent years?
Kalou: FC Augsburg are a very physical team and have had to fight each season to secure Bundesliga safety. Most of all in their home matches, they always give 200% to secure the results they need. Consequently, away trips to Augsburg are always difficult. We haven’t won on many trips to Augsburg, but I believe that we can put in a good performance and win there on Saturday. We’ve been constantly improving in each of our three most recent matches. We have a lot of self-confidence once more.
herthabsc.de: There are two matches remaining under current head coach Pál Dárdai. You made your Hertha debut under former coach Jos Luhukay and have experienced the ‘Dárdai era’ in its entirety. What will you most remember about his tenure when you look back in the future?
Kalou: We have experienced several great moments together, including reaching the DFB-Pokal semi-finals in 2016. That was a memorable match. At that time, we were still growing as a team. It is a shame we couldn’t reach the final, which would’ve been here in our home stadium. Overall, Pál has brought a new dynamic into the team. He has given a lot of young players their chance to shine and you have to give him a lot of credit for that. Pál has played the biggest part in helping some of our academy players become the most important players in the team. These include Jordan, Maxi and Arne.