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Exclusive | Ruben Gabrielsen: “I can’t just go around & be sad all the time, then my mum will come down from heaven & slap me!”

Toulouse and Norway central defender Ruben Gabrielsen sat down for an exclusive interview with Get French Football News, as we covered the mentality required to successfully parachute into a side that looks destined for relegation, the contrast between winning constantly at Molde and scraping for each point with Les Violets, Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s impact on his career and much more.

I thought, if it’s okay with you, that we could start at the very beginning, so I wanted to know – what kind of environment did you grow up in in Norway? Did you feel encouraged to become a professional footballer, and was this something that you always wanted to do? 

Yeah, I grew up in two parts of Norway. The first part was more multicultural, and then after when I was 13 or something I moved to the country part of Norway, so that was a new experience – I only had like three white friends in my class at first and then I was the only black guy in the school, so that was something new. But my family has always been supportive around football, they just didn’t know how good I was! It was just “Yeah, you’re doing great! Enjoy football,” that’s all they talked about.

But at what age did you realise you maybe had the level of talent to become a professional player?

Early because I was always good. Friends told me I was good, and I knew myself that I was good. So I just compared myself to the other kids around and I did things that they didn’t do, and I just felt good when playing football.

Did you always want to be a centre-back? Was that always where you wanted to play on the pitch?

I started playing centre-back in 2014. Before that I was a defensive midfielder or a right-back, I played as a winger for the national team (at youth level). So in 2014 we got some injuries and stuff, and then I started a game as a centre-back, and I’ve been there since.

So growing up, who was your biggest inspiration? Was there anyone who you aspired to be like or who helped you build up to where you are now in your life and in your career?

In football, it must be like… In Norway we have a player called Daniel Braaten. He had a big afro, he played for Toulouse as well. He looked like me, so I loved a lot to see him play. But like, in my family… my mum was the strongest person I’ve ever known, so I feel like… I just wanted to play football. I didn’t have a big inspiration, I just loved the ball.

When you moved to Lillestrøm in 2009, you were 16, that was a big move in Norway. Were you still playing as a defensive midfielder at that time? 

Yeah. I kind of went to many different clubs in Norway, but my friend got an offer as well, my best friend. So that’s why I went to Lillestrøm, because he had the same offer as me and I wanted to stay close to my best friend. It was a big move, and I was still a defensive midfielder at that time.

When you made your debut at 17, you were the youngest ever player to do so in the top division for Lillestrøm. Was there a lot of pressure on you as a young player to succeed there, and in Norway is there generally a lot of attention on young players like there is in other European countries?

It wasn’t pressure for me because the way I play football… I just enjoy every bit of it because I know, outside of football, there are a lot of things going on, problems with myself and with my family… so football for me is just like, I will say, an escape. So I never feel the pressure around it. In Norway, if you’re young and you play, you get attention but it’s not crazy. But if you’re like Haaland or something you will get attention…

Yeah, obviously he’s become such an international superstar over the last 12 months, it’s crazy. Actually, looking at other young players in Norway… at the moment you have a lot of talented young players coming through like Sander Berge, Martin Ødegaard… do you think that Norwegian football is coming into a kind of ‘Golden Age’?

The media in other countries in Europe are always saying, ‘This is the so-called’ Golden Age’ of French football or of English football…’ Do you think there is something special happening in Norwegian football at the moment with all these top young players emerging?  

Yes, I think so. You can tell from the leaders like Ødegaard, Berge and Haaland, but I know the generation under them also, they are getting really good. Like when you see the academy play you see it’s a different kind of level… it’s not normal to be that good when you are 15 or 16.

So I think it’s good times coming for Norwegian football, and in the Norwegian league there’s a lot of young people… we had one last year who went to AZ Alkmaar, [Håkon] Evjen, he’s gonna be really really good. So, there’s a lot of young players coming up now, and I think it’s a good time for Norwegian football – I think they will have great players.

It’s exciting times indeed. So, it’s 2014, you’re still a defensive midfielder, you move to Molde… is it fair to say that to date, that has been the most successful part of your career? You won trophies, you became club captain

Yeah, because in 2013 I was injured for the whole season. So I played until the summer of 2014, then Molde picked me up and after that, that’s where I developed as a football player, like [in terms of] leadership, and I saw how professional you have to be to become a professional football player. To go abroad.

So I think Molde, for me, it’s like… it’s the upgrade in quality in every aspect of football. Of course, I won three trophies there, and played in the Europa League, so I will say, as you say, that was a fantastic time to play football.

Sure. Was a big part of your development as a player down to Ole Gunnar Solskjær? Because obviously he was your manager for a few seasons while you were playing there.

Yeah he was… for me he was fantastic. I learned a lot of great things about football and about life. He’s a fantastic human. He knows humans, he knows how to talk to you, he knows what you need, so I learned so much from him, and I’m forever grateful.

Because, like you say, he has a reputation for being an incredible man, an incredible man manager. In the U.K., more recently, he’s faced criticism during his time at Manchester United for not being maybe as ‘revolutionary’ with tactics as some other managers at top clubs. But how did you find him as a coach, how did you find working under him from a more tactical standpoint? 

He’s really, really clever. He thinks football 24/7. He likes to experiment, and when it comes to big games it’s like, the plan is in his head. And when he gives you the plan, everything that he said will happen is going to happen. English football in Norway is huge, and I see what they write, but I know how he is and what he’s thinking. Like you say, the big games he’s played with United now, it’s all good results… so I think maybe when it’s not a big game, sometimes he can do better. But in big games, he’s a magician.

In your career so far, you’ve worked with a few different coaches. In the ‘formula’ of what makes a good coach, do you think it’s more important to be more of a tactical ‘mastermind’ and outthink the opposition, with a big focus on analysis and the finer details? 

Or do you, as a player, respond better to man-management, managers who are more about the motivation and less intense tactically? What do you find works better for you?

For me, I think it’s man-management. Because he can’t play for me when I’m out there. Of course it’s good to have a tactic, I agree with that, but when we play the game, if it’s too much to think about then I can’t play like I want to, and how I’m best.

So I think man managing is so important. And football is freedom, you know. So like, it’s good to have rules, but you need freedom to play good. All the best players have freedom, and all the best teams have freedom. You need to express yourself, so, man managing for me is the most important thing. I think you get further with that.

So, let’s move on to Toulouse. Moving to Toulouse is your first move outside Norway.

At the age of 27, how and why did you decide that this was the right time to do so… presumably you’d had offers before in your career, or opportunities to move elsewhere. Why did you decide that this was a good time?  

Because, like, the times before… my mum died, and my dad died… so it was not the right move because I wanted to take care of my family, and take care of my brother and stuff. But right now, it was perfect.

Everyone was healthy, everyone was happy, and it was my turn. It’s that easy. So when I went to Toulouse, I was ready for it. I had been building up for years to play abroad. And I knew I had the level inside from early on, so it was just the perfect timing…

And because you had spent more of your life in Norway, was it difficult when you did decide to make the move, to leave Norway behind and to leave your family behind?

For example, I know when someone like Jesús Navas moved from Sevilla to Manchester City he struggled because he’d spent a lot of his life and professional career in Seville, he moved kind of later on, and found the transition to life away from there quite difficult. Is this something that you’ve found so far? 

No, because it’s always been my dream. And it’s different to play in Sevilla and Molde! It’s always been my dream, I’ve just been delayed a couple of times because of family issues. I’ve been ready for many many years, and finally the timing was perfect, and yeah… I’m very happy, I’m living my dream!

What made you decide on Toulouse?

It’s in one of the top five leagues in the world, that was one [thing]. And it’s a challenge, I feel like it was a great challenge to go to Toulouse as the losing streak goes on. But I know, that in difficult times, that’s when I learn the most, and that’s how you become much better, I feel.

And I’m so used to winning with Molde. So I was thinking, “okay, let me try something knew, and try to help the team to win.” So the challenge triggered me a lot and, of course, it’s Ligue 1, that’s a huge league, and I feel like my playing style fits Ligue 1. So it was just perfect.

You kind of mentioned it there, but obviously moving when you did was during a very difficult time for the club. I saw your first interview for Toulouse when you said that, as a player, you “like to go to war.”

That’s probably a good description of the situation you walked into! Can you give us a bit of insight into life at Toulouse, what the mood was like when you arrived, because it must have been, like you say, a strange transition from winning the title with Molde to arriving at a team really fighting for its life.

You go in the locker room with players that lack confidence, that haven’t won a game in ten games, and the mentality is like, you are so afraid of losing the next game. So it’s like, they have said everything already, you know. So when it comes to games, you want to speak up, but you know “last time I said this it didn’t work, and I think people are sick and tired of my voice,” things like that.

And you go into a shell of just, “I need to think about me. All I can think about now is me. If I play good, maybe I can make a difference.” But in reality, in football, you need to think about the man that’s to your left and to your right. If they play good, you will play good as well. So I just think, that was the difference between Molde and Toulouse when I’d just arrived.

In the difficult period that Toulouse is in, do you find that it’s very easy to be hard on yourself and critical on yourself as a player?

Because you were sent off against Nice quite recently after coming together with Kasper Dolberg in a clash which looked like an even struggle. So it must be immensely frustrating, especially given the situation, for something like this to happen. Is it easy as a player, when you’re playing for a team in that kind of situation, to be critical of yourself and hard on yourself, and fall into these negative habits? 

Yeah. That’s what happens when you lose a lot of games. When you win a lot of games and you lose one you just think, “okay, we’re gonna bounce back, it’s not a problem.” But when you lose and you lose and you lose, let’s say, every tackle you miss it’s like, “oh no, I missed again, I missed again.” But it’s different for me because it’s the first time in Ligue 1, so everything is so massive and I’m just living the dream, you know. So when I got sent off I thought, “okay, I have to take this one. That’s on me boys, I’m so sorry.”

And I move on, because I can’t go around thinking about what I could have done better when I’m living the dream for the first time in my life. So I think it’s different for me compared to the other guys that have many years in the league, but I’m just trying to enjoy it.

When I went into the locker room I was thinking that it was a mistake and that I will learn from it, and I felt sad for the boys because I felt like I had let them down. But I will make sure that it doesn’t happen again, and make sure that I play a good game next time I play. So I took it on the chin, and I moved on. 

I mean, that’s a pretty impressive mentality. That kind of mentality must help the team, not just yourself; thinking about things in this way, being positive and thinking “okay, this was a mistake,” or “okay I had a bad game, but the next game, this is where I need to focus now.” This must be the way you have to think going forward? 

Yeah, but that’s the way I think about life. Because, like I said, my mum died and my dad died. So that’s where that mentality comes from, that I can’t just go around and be sad all the time, then my mum will come down from heaven and slap me!

So I will always go forward at any time like, “okay, challenge accepted” and I will move on. That’s how it’s supposed to be for me, I can only speak for me. I think that, the things that happened before in my life… I just see a blessing when it’s there. That’s how I’m thinking about football in general.

You mentioned the big dream of moving to Ligue 1, one of the so-called ‘top five leagues’ in Europe, even in the world. Obviously you’ve moved to a big club in Toulouse, with an amazing 33,000 seater stadium.

And then in your first game, you play against a team in the fourth division in the cup. It’s not quite the same as playing at home in front of 33,000 people! What was it like making your debut in that environment?

I was just thinking about winning the game. In Norway we say “cup is cup, anything can happen,” even losing against a league five team! It’s just one game, and they are willing to die. But you have the quality, so you know that if you score early, the game is over.

But if you give them a chance, you know they will die for it. So it’s nothing new for me to go out early in the cup. It’s painful, but it’s not new. I think we had a great game. The pitch was s***, and the fans were really hostile, and I remember that I enjoyed the game because it was like a war.

I enjoyed it. And after the first half, I went to the locker room and it was really quiet and I just screamed and said, “Hey, we can win this game! We just need to go on, they will get tired!” And things like that. And then I think we played okay. And then I knew that I had gone to a club that had been losing a lot, because in Molde, everything went “post-out, post-out, post-out,” that’s how it is when you win a lot of games.

But when you’re on the other side of it, it’s like everything can go in… and there was a cross and then a fantastic header… and I was thinking, “okay, now I can feel the tables have turned for me, and this is a challenge!”

It’s like you say, when things are going well they go really well, whereas when it rains, it pours… everything can start to drift.

After that game, Antoine Kombouaré, the coach who brought you to Tolouse, lost his job. Was that difficult for you? Had you already started to build a relationship with him?

It was difficult, but it’s nothing new. I feel like, I can’t do anything about it, so then you just have to move on. Because my job is to win games, not to defend coaches, not to hire him as a coach… you know, that’s not my job.

My job is to not concede goals, so that’s how I always think about it, and that’s football. I hope everything is good with him and that he gets a new job, he was a fantastic man when I talked to him, and I hope I see him again, that’s all I can say.

And now you’re being coached by Denis Zanko. Could you tell us a little about him, what it’s like working with him?

He’s obviously a guy who has been working with the Toulouse reserves, but he hasn’t managed in the top flight before. Obviously it’s a bit of a cliché in football, but does he have a certain ‘philosophy’ or style of coaching?  

I would say that he’s old school, in a good way. He knows what he wants and he will stand by that. The first thing he did was try to make the defence better, because if you have a better defence, you win games. And I think that worked, you can see the progress through the games we’ve played.

We haven’t got the results, but as a player you can tell that, “okay I felt much safer this game, there were not a lot of chances conceded.” Like the game we lost 5-2 [against Brest], if you see the goals, you can’t stop them. They are fantastic goals. So, after that game I was thinking, “Okay, we are getting better, we are getting better.” So I think he did the right thing.

Yeah, and it does seem like, other than that game, things have been more secure defensively over the last couple of months than before. Is there a lot of pressure on you as a defender in a situation like this?

Because, unlike at Molde, where maybe you have fewer defensive scenarios to face, at Toulouse there’s a lot more defending to be done.

I don’t feel pressure, but I know that there are a lot more one-on-one challenges. But the good thing about me is that I love defending! I think that’s fun, one against one and stuff like that.

So I enjoy the game more in France than I did in Norway, because we were so good and we had the ball all the time. So I think like, for me, I love a one against one challenge, so I have a lot more fun. But I also love to win games! It’s not pressure, but it’s different levels, I would say.

Have you noticed any clear differences so far between football in France and in Norway, especially ones you maybe didn’t expect? Okay, people will say there is a difference in quality, but do you notice any big difference in terms of how the game is played, or in terms of tactics?  

It’s really physical, really really physical! In Norway I’m a big guy, a strong guy, but in France I have to change my playing style a little bit to be a bit more clever, and thank god that I’m fast because if I was slow they would kill me! So that’s the first aspect of it. But the second aspect is like, how crazy the games are!

Attack-defend, attack-defend… it’s so entertaining for the fans, it must be! Because as a defender I think: “Okay, now a one against one again in midfield and we have the ball!” So it’s like, if they counter attack the spaces are huge! So if you make a mistake, they will punish you. That’s the biggest difference.

How have you found living in Toulouse so far, and how are you settling in?

It’s a beautiful city, a beautiful town, so I’m just living the dream to be honest with you. Going to training and then having a lot of great guys in the locker room… I have friends who take care of me and who will help me if I need anything.

The toughest part about it is being away from your family. They will come later, but that’s the only tough part about living in Toulouse. The people are friendly, and if we won games it would be heaven!

Have you found the language barrier difficult? How is it in the locker room with the other guys, is it difficult having to adapt?

Yeah, it’s difficult. But they know that you don’t speak French, so if you try they will appreciate it. That’s how I see it. I learn new words every day, and the ‘football’ language I can always understand.

The jokes and stuff, they will come. I can read body language, so like I’m laughing all the time, and they’re laughing at me. I feel like the group has been fantastic to me. The language will come, it takes time.

So how do you feel you’ve settled in socially, do you feel like you’ve hit it off with any of the other players in particular?

I know in your interview with the club when you joined you mentioned Efthymis Koulouris, the striker. Have you managed to make friends and settle in okay?

Yeah, me and Koulouris and Lovre [Kalinić], the goalkeeper on loan from Aston Villa, we are like a trio because we speak English and we have a lot of banter together. They’re my closest friends, but I speak to everyone. Like [Steven] Moreira, and William Vainqueur… I try to speak to everyone but I have a little clique with the English speakers.

Toulouse are a young team with a lot of talented prospects, like Bafodé Diakité who you’ve obviously played with in defence quite a few times, and slightly older guys like Kelvin Amian, Ibrahim Sangaré to name a few.

What have you made of those guys so far, and is there anyone in particular in the squad who you’d tip for big things in the future? 

Yeah, I said in an interview already that Bafodé, he will be fantastic. And Ibra (Sangaré), I don’t see as a talent, because he plays so… you forget how young he is, that’s how good he is, you know. When people speak about Ibra I just say, “Yeah, he’s really good,” but he’s 22! That says a lot about how good he is.

But for me, I’ve played alongside Bafo, and I know that he tries to learn every day and that he cares so much about football. You will see great things from him in the future, great things.

Do you think young players are more likely to learn from a team that’s doing really well and winning every week, or from a team going through a more difficult spell like you guys are at Toulouse at the moment? 

More difficult moments, because now you have the chance to take responsibility. When you go into a team like City or PSG, you know you have leaders and you can always lean on them; Neymar and those guys will always pick you up. But now you have the chance to pick others up, and I think that, if you learn that from an early age then you will become great.

So I think they will learn from it; it’s a tough situation, it’s not fun at all, but they will look back and thing “Oh, I’ve been in this situation before, it’s not that bad – I know what we did last time, we can fix this.”

If you’re a striker in a team that’s having difficulty scoring, or a defender in a team that’s conceding a lot, I guess certain areas of your game might not develop so well.

But I can imagine that mentally, dealing with those more difficult moments can be something that really builds your character going forward.

Exactly, yeah. And you know when there are tough times, and you work hard, and suddenly you score a goal and things turn around, it’s like, you have learned a huge lesson, to never stop working. Because when you’re banging in goals for fun, that’s just your normal thing! And with Haaland, let’s say, when he played in Norway with me, he didn’t score for a week in training before a game (Brann away), we were laughing at him!

And when I heard he was starting the game I was thinking, “No way… how can we play with this guy!?” And after 50 minutes he’d scored four goals. And after that, things just skyrocketed. But I think he learned an important lesson that, when tough times come, just work harder. And they [the young players] have a chance to learn that now.

Going back to talk about Haaland, who you obviously played with and captained at Molde. When did you know that this guy would go to the very top? Was there a certain game, like the one you just described, or a specific time in training? 

When he came to the club, he was a small guy… he was not so good to be honest with you. I was just thinking “Yeah, maybe he can play in Norway…” And then he got sick and injured, and we didn’t see him for a long time, and he came back big as f***… he was so big! He was a different animal!

He was killing everybody in training… we just started laughing and I was like, “Who is this guy?” And then it just skyrocketed from there. I’m just laughing when I see him on the telly and he’s banging in goals in the Champions’ League… I’m just laughing. And when he bullies defenders, I’m just laughing because I’ve been there!

Yeah I assume you were on the receiving end of that in training as well…

No no no. Maybe one time, he knows it as well!

It must be strange to see not only how well he’s doing on the pitch, but the impact he’s having. Obviously when PSG played against Dortmund in the Champions’ League, Neymar copied his celebration, and after the game the Parisian players were doing his celebration to try and mock him, or joke around…

It must be amazing to think, “Wow, two years ago, not many people outside Norway knew who this guy was, and now it seems the PSG players are mainly focused on him, not even on their own victory!”

They gained respect in my eyes – they were so afraid of him! When you do that kind of stuff after a game, it’s just a petty way to show respect, you know. Because, it’s like, we know you, we see you, we have respect for you, but now you’re out. When you pick on a 17-18 year-old boy, it’s respect; they know that he’s a great player.

And that celebration is nothing new. He didn’t just do it to them, he did it in Norway! For me, I was seeing the picture and thinking “Yeah, they were afraid of him, that’s why they did it.” And I think Erling sees it that way as well, so it’s no problem. It was fun!

Having mentioned those PSG players, who would you say is the toughest individual opponent you’ve played against in Ligue 1 so far? Anyone who you’ve particularly enjoyed your battles with, or maybe had a less enjoyable time playing against!  

I would say… I didn’t have a bad game, I had a really good game to be fair, but I would say Payet was like… you can just see the quality from a mile away! He just goes bouncing around, having fun, and suddenly he gets serious and he’s like, pinging balls with his left foot, pinging balls with his right… and it was like, okay, now I see why he had fun in the Premier League!

I had one or two challenges with him and I think I got the ball. But he was quality. He was always a danger; if he got the ball you knew “Okay, don’t let him shoot, don’t let him pass…” he had quality.

He seems like one of those players who can just decide ‘Ok, I’m just going to take this game and make it my game…’ he’s just able to turn it on in an instant.  

Yeah, he just takes charge and says “give me the ball and I will fix it,” and he scored a banging goal.

How would you assess your season so far? 

I think I’ve done good to be fair. In the games I’ve played, I’ve done many good things. I can improve, of course, but I feel like I have the level inside… it’s weird to say that I’m happy with my season so far because we haven’t won a game! But every game I feel like I can have an impact, as a defender and for my team. I think that I will only get better. I’m happy with my performances, and of course I can do better!

You’re yet to play a game for the senior national team. Was this part of your thinking when you made the move to Toulouse, or not really something that you were focusing on? 

No I was just happy. I was just happy that finally I will play in a huge league with a lot of people and great players. That was all I was thinking; I’ve been working hard for this and the timing has never been perfect, and finally I will have to take this blessing and enjoy it.

Was there ever any point when you thought, “Maybe I’ve missed my opportunity to make a move like this,” or did you always have confidence that the right time would come? 

The right time will come. That’s all I was saying, because I knew I was good enough, because we had played in the Europa League with Molde in 2015, and I did good, so I was like “well, I’m better than in 2015,” so I think I can play in a huge league.

Going forward, is playing for the national team a dream of yours, or are you just more focused on enjoying your time playing club football?

No, of course it’s a dream. And it will happen! I just have to work hard, and when I get the chance, I will take it. Of course, it’s a dream.

This is such a strange time for everybody, what have the last few weeks had been like for you personally. It must be difficult being isolated in lockdown, especially as an athlete when you’re so used to training every day with the club!

Yeah, it’s a really strange time, because first of all people are dying and we don’t have any answers for it. Nobody knows what’s going to happen… and as an athlete, it’s not that hard. Just train… to train is easy. You just go out and you run, and when it gets boring… you know what to do! I’ve done this for so long, you’re at the level because you have trained, that’s nothing new.

But I feel like the tough part is worrying about your grandparents, that’s the tough part for me, because you don’t want to lose them. So I think right now all athletes have two jobs. The first is to train, but also to stay away from people, they should take that as a job like a professional, because people are really getting sick. So I have two jobs now, and I get paid for both, because people are healthy!

And in this time have you been in regular contact with the club? Are they giving you training regimes, are they checking up on you?

Yeah of course, we are in contact on WhatsApp and you get your training plan, and we have like video meetings. So it’s new, but it’s fun in a way, because it’s the first time also. So when I saw all the guys on the video training together, I was laughing for 15 minutes because they looked so silly! So we have contact, and I’m sure everybody will come back in great shape.

In England, there has been a notable clamour for players to be doing more to help with the current situation because of the economic difficulties, because they are earning a lot of money.

How do you feel about this? Because it seems to me, for example, footballers can be unfairly scapegoated or targeted, when other people on high salaries in society maybe escape this kind of criticism.

It’s nothing new! It’s always been like that. People can say what they want to footballers on Twitter or on Instagram. It’s always been like that, so I’m not shocked. And of course I can understand the frustration of people who are working hard, 9-5 every day and don’t get that kind of salary.

That’s why I say we are blessed to play football and get so much money. So I can understand it, but as a footballer I also know that I have bills to pay and a family to take care of… if you take away my salary I will also be… It’s unfair and fair at the same time, I think. It’s hard to answer that. But of course I feel we can help, of course I can feel like anybody who has so much money can help other people.

Of course. And going back to football, obviously the situation is extremely complicated as well, because some people are saying that we should completely write-off this season, others are saying that the season must be finished at all costs, and the rest are saying that we should just take things as they are now. How do you feel about the season going forward, and how would you personally like to see things go?

That’s the thing, everybody has their own personal opinion for their own gain! That’s what it’s all about. If you ask me, just void the season! And bring two teams up so I stay in the league, it’s that easy! You know. And if you go to England, Liverpool will say, “I think we’ve gotta play to finish the league,” because they want to win it. So they need to find a balance for where it’s going to go.

I’ve got no answers for you, I’m just saying that for me right now, I think everybody’s thinking about their personal gain from it, and that’s not important right now, because people are dying.

So I don’t know what to say, and I don’t know what to do or what to think. That’s why we have people who can think for us, who have knowledge and I hope they know what to do.

Exactly. It seems the footballing world on social media at the moment is like a warzone, with different fans, pundits and journalists having so many different opinions about how to go forward, and it’s going to be very difficult to make everyone happy.

I guess, as you say, there are people whose job it is to make the difficult decisions, so we’ll just have to see what they decide.

Yeah but I love the discussion though, because some people have good points of view… It’s a discussion to have on Twitter, so people have something to do right now. That’s good, and forget the reality of it, that people are in hospital. So I think it’s good that people discuss and maybe come up with a great plan, you never know!

So just a last couple of things before we finish. What are your plans if Toulouse are relegated, do you plan to stay and help the club come back up? Obviously we’re speaking hypothetically, but what are your plans going forward?

My plan right now is to win the rest of the games and stay in the league! That’s my plan. But if we go down… I don’t know what to do. Maybe I’ll stay, maybe I’ll go, it’s not up to me. If the club want me to stay I will stay, because I have a contract. I will not push for a transfer, I will not do that.

That’s all I can say, because I really don’t know myself… It’s been a blessing to play there and I’m enjoying my time there, and I think, if we go down, I don’t know how much money they will lose, and if they can keep everybody around… If they go down and they want me to stay with them then I will stay with them, it’s that easy. If they’re going to sell me and they don’t want me there then I’ll have to go!

And finally then, personally speaking, what is/are your main goal[s] in football? What are the main things that you would like to achieve going forward?  

I would love to play for the national team. I would love to play for a long time in a ‘top five’ league in the world… I would just love to play at this level, that’s my main goal; to keep playing at this level and become better.

And you never know: Corner kick at World Cup 2022 for Norway, Ruben Gabrielsen heads on to Erling Haaland – goal. You never know!

You never know! You have to dream, and if you say it, maybe it will happen! I will just enjoy my time that I’m playing football, because I know that you can’t do it forever.

I will just train hard and enjoy the ride.

J.Sm.

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