Laughter never far away from Kökçü, who blossoms in big duels: ‘I love that’
Kökçü ready for next big opponent: ‘Do like such matches’
“I do like such matches.” Orkun Kökçü’s broad smile betrays that the Feyenoord captain is delightful in his skin and very much looking forward to tonight’s match against AS Roma in the quarter-finals of the Europa League.
This is understandable, as he has often excelled this season when Feyenoord face an opponent of stature.
Kökçü defends a 1-0 lead with Feyenoord in Rome. The Europa League semifinals beckon and the midfielder is positive about his team’s chances.
“We have confidence. We came off very well at home against a very strong opponent. But what we tried to create here with the supporters they are obviously going to do there as well.”
For a hostile atmosphere in the Roman stadium, the 20-time Turkish international will not be afraid. Kökçü possesses quite a bit of swagger.
Sometimes he still wants to lose himself on the pitch resulting in an unnecessary card, but that won’t happen so soon, he thinks to himself. “It didn’t always come out nicely in recent years. That I would have fear of such matches has never been the case, but this year it is coming out a little better.”
Kökçü embraces role at Feyenoord: ‘I think being important is pretty important’
The mental development he has undergone since coach Arne Slot’s arrival has made Kökçü a more complete player. He became captain, played his way into the starting lineup of the Turkish national team and leads the way every week in Rotterdam. His physical condition also plays an important role in this.
Slot ensures fit selection
Along with a few teammates, he trains extra in the gym with personal trainer Jordan Kroon, and Slot has also pushed him to a higher level physically.
“When I came back from the European Championship in the summer of 2021, Slot was just there and I noticed that the intensity had gotten much higher. I came to training and after two sprints I was already completely broken. But in the end his approach is very good, you could see that at AZ when he was trainer there. That team was very fit and now we are too.”
From 9 p.m. Kökçü may once again show at Stadio Olimpico what kind of wood he is cut from. He is the linchpin of this Feyenoord, a role that suits him perfectly. “I think being important is pretty important in soccer.”
Will Kökçü get even better? “I should hope so,” he responds with the now familiar smile. “I know about myself that I have potential, but I also know that I have to work really hard to get the full potential out of it.”
“You may not be the greatest talent, so you have to work hard to make it,” NOS reporter Joep Schreuder states. Again the corners of his mouth go up at Kökçü. “I can say I’m a great talent, right?”