Dutch international winger Eljero Elia’s season kicked onto a new level with his first Werder Bremen goals last weekend so maybe it is not yet time to swap matchdays for the microphone with a well-known friend of his.
With almost a decade of first-team experience at club level in Holland, Italy and Germany to his name European football observers know plenty about the former Juventus man‘s capabilities. He was a 71st-minute replacement for Dirk Kuyt in the 2010 World Cup final as the Netherlands narrowly lost to Spain and he was a reported transfer target for Liverpool this summer.
Eljero ultimately remained with Werder Bremen as this season got underway but his colleague and companion Marko Arnautović did make the switch to the English Premier League. The unpredictable yet undeniably talented Austrian forward was in need of a fresh start and joined Stoke City on the last day of the transfer window. Eljero was a teammate of his in the earlier days of their careers at FC Twente of the Eredivisie and they connected strongly as friends. Music talk is the order of the day on here and due to the rapport Eljero has with the 24-year-old ex-Inter Milan player he couldn’t choose anyone else when asked which of his career teammates he would duet with on a song!
“I would perform ‘Started From The Bottom’ by Drake together with Marko Arnautović. I remember Marko very well.
“He was always singing – but he is bad at it!”
Last weekend, Eljero finally netted his first goals for Werder Bremen after signing from Juventus in 2012. In the 3-3 draw at home to Nürnberg he side-footed home from the edge of the box and later added a second as he buried a shot low into the corner from outside the area. Although Werder did not get the three points it was a welcome boost on a personal level for ‘Elli’ as his last goal before then came back in December 2010 for Hamburg. Head coach Robin Dutt has had faith in the 26-year-old and physio Jürgen Tölle told Eljero ahead of the game that he would get his goal.
The success of the team is always the primary concern of course and Eljero has been commended for the work he does for his Green-Whites counterparts. In order to allow him to slip into the kind of mindset that he needs before a match music is something of a necessity. Some clubs really embrace music as a tool for everyone to use and enjoy together as they prepare for a game and the sounds coming from the dressing room speakers can vary massively.
The Werder players prefer a slightly altered way of doing things in this regard but there is one individual Eljero names who stands out for his musical genre of choice. The Nigerian international striker made his name in Belgium with Charleroi and Club Brugge and is currently away from Weserstadion on loan to Turkish club Karabükspor.
“We don’t have music in the dressing room, everybody listens to his own music. I think that is better because the others might not like your music.
“Almost everybody listens to r&b but Joseph Akpala has bad taste – he is listening to gospel songs!”
After emerging as a standout as a teenager with ADO Den Haag, Eljero moved to FC Twente in 2007. During his stay in Enschede he got to play in the Champions League and UEFA Cup and scored in the 2009 KNVB Cup final as Twente were beaten by Heerenveen. Soon after arriving in the Bundesliga with Hamburg for €8.5million he got his chance with the national team. Coming on as a substitute for Arjen Robben he made his senior debut for the Netherlands in a September 2009 friendly win over Japan.
Later that month, he scored his first for his country as he netted the only goal of the game away to Scotland at Hampden Park in a 2010 World Cup qualifier. Another international strike came in June 2010 in a 6-1 friendly win against Hungary. To date he has won 27 caps in an Oranje jersey and he played his part as Bert van Marwijk’s team were runners-up in the most recent World Cup.
In the 2010 tournament in South Africa he featured in the group games with Denmark, Japan and Cameroon before coming on in the last 16 game with Slovakia, the semi with Uruguay and the final with Spain. The captain of the Netherlands squad in 2010, Giovanni van Bronckhorst, is one of the players to have featured on here and he mentioned that the Dutch players like to have music to sing along to. There was one Dutch name in the World Cup’s All-Star Team three years ago and Eljero identifies him as the chief with the national team’s playlist, even if the Galatasaray star gets the thumbs-down for his songs!
“Yeah, Wesley Sneijder is responsible for the music in the dressing room. But he always plays some Dutch music that nobody likes!
“That’s why I also used my earphones.”
Spending two years with Hamburg, Eljero played alongside the likes of fellow countrymen Ruud van Nistelrooy and Joris Mathijsen. Juventus paid €9million for his services in August 2011 and although his solitary season in Turin with the Italian giants yielded only a handful of games he was part of the squad that lifted the Serie A championship without losing a single match.
Despite winning the Scudetto he moved on last year, signing for Werder Bremen for an initial €5.5million. He played 25 times last season but 2013/14 represents a new chapter for Eljero and it has been evident of late. Playing in an attacking three with Mehmet Ekici and Aaron Hunt behind striker Nils Petesen, he has fitted in on the right for Robin Dutt’s Green-Whites.
Eljero is often seen wearing headphones, whether it is in his free time or in the build-up to a game, and one of music’s biggest contemporary global stars heads his list of favourites. The Canadian hip-hop artist last month released his much-anticipated album ‘Nothing Was The Same’ and he is never far from Eljero’s playlist.
“My favourite artist is Drake. Music is very important to me because I listen to it every day when I am driving in my car.”
In early 1994, R. Kelly was at the beginning of his solo career after his work with the group Public Announcement and the second single from his 1993 debut album ’12 Play’ became an r&b classic. This track was the first Eljero ever had to himself, although the song content maybe wasn’t strictly suitable for him back then!
“The first CD I have bought was R. Kelly ‘Bump n’ Grind’. This is my favourite song because my brother was always listening to it.
“Once I had stolen his CD, then it was broken and I had to buy a new one. I was 8 or 9 years old at that time.”
Here in England, there has been a huge surge in interest in the Bundesliga and admiration for the ability and approach of the German national team. The way in which Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund disposed of Barcelona and Real Madrid in last season’s Champions League semi-finals was impossible to ignore and the two contested the final at Wembley of course. Bayern were 2-1 winners on that evening in May and now under Pep Guardiola they top the Bundesliga after the opening eight fixtures with Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen in close pursuit.
Werder Bremen are currently 9th with 11 points following their 1-1 draw at Stuttgart in which Nils Petersen levelled after Martin Harnik’s opener for Die Roten. Petersen signed for Werder from Bayern Munich permanently after scoring 11 while on loan last season and he got both goals in the recent 2-0 North derby success over Hamburg.
Eljero weighs up the quality in German football’s top division in relation to the likes of Spain’s La Liga and the Premier League in England. His feelings are also helped by being settled off the field, as he alludes to.
“The Bundesliga is very strong. Bayern Munich is the best example, they went through the Champions League season quite easily, only the final was hard and this was also against a German team.
“I think that the Bundesliga is the best league in the world. I like living in Germany, it is almost like living in Holland for me.”
For the last question, Eljero put together his fantasy 5-a-side team of the best players he has played on the same team as in his career up to this point. Being able to grace the field in the biggest game of all, the World Cup final, is the pinnacle for any player and although Dutch hearts were broken by Andrés Iniesta in extra-time 2010 was a special tournament for Oranje. The rule of this question is that the team has to include the interviewee and Eljero selects four members of that World Cup squad to play alongside him.
“Goalkeeper – Sander Boschker. Defender – Edson Braafheid.
“Midfielder – Wesley Sneijder. Striker – Robin van Persie.”