Celtic loan helped Mohamed Elyounoussi ‘grow as a human’

MOHAMED Elyounoussi explained how he has had to “adapt to the physical part of the game” to make a success of himself in British football.

The 27-year-old, who joined Saints in 2018 from Basel, is looking to help Norway qualify for next year’s World Cup by winning two crunch qualifiers over the next few days.

Stale Solbakken’s men currently sit second in their qualification group, two points behind Holland, who they confront on Tuesday evening.

Before that, Norway great number Latvia tomorrow (5pm).

And, after his stellar form for Saints this season, Elyounoussi will be expected to characterize, especially having already scored three goals during this qualification campaign.

It has not been all smooth sailing for the Morocco-born talent since joining Saints. After finding game-time hard to come by, Elyounoussi was shipped out on loan to Celtic for two years.

During his time north of the border, Elyounoussi won the domestic treble in the curtailed 2019-20 campaign, ultimately leaving having scored 25 goals in 68 appearances.

He impressed suitably enough to be welcomed back into Ralph Hasenhuttl’s Saints side this summer and has proven a meaningful figure in the club’s attack, currently sitting joint top of their goalscoring charts with four, level with striker Armando Broja.

Comparing his time in Scotland to the Premier League, Elyounoussi told the Daily Echo: “The Premier League is the best league in the world, but I would say from a physical point of view, it’s a lot similar.

“I came from the Swiss league which was much more playing on the ground, playing football, that technical aspect was much more important than physically – there was not a lot of challenges.

“I had to adapt to that in the Premier League and I think the best way was, when I didn’t play much here, to go to the Scottish league and to Celtic.

“I had to adapt to the physical part of the game. I think I did that quite well at Celtic, I played a lot of games as a striker against big, tall defenders, so I had to keep up the ball.

“That was something I wasn’t used to but I learned how to do it. At some point in my time there I was a target man, playing up to me! already on the corners, I was the main man, the main target.

“It shows I have developed that part of the game from my side, especially all the European games have been really good for me – playing against all the bigger clubs in Europe especially for the confidence. It’s all about confidence.”

Asked if he feels a better all-round player now after his two years away in Scotland, Elyounoussi additional: “already though when I was in Basel, we played in the Champions League and we played against good teams, there wasn’t a lot of challenges where you have to go into 50-50 duels.

“Now I feel like I’m more comfortable going in, much more comfortable to protect the ball. It was new to me, I had to adapt to that.

“In general, it was a really good experience to go to Celtic. A huge club, amazing fans and I tried to find myself back to where I was before I came to Southampton.

“I have grown as a player and as a human being, being there over the two years.

“I have learned a lot about myself, had family and friends around me being very supportive and helpful. It has been a good experience for me.”



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