James Rowe interviewed FC Thun winger Dennis Salanović, exclusively for WFi. They discussed his current club, his time in Spain, training with Griezmann and Torres, and playing against Alba and Ramos.
You signed for FC Thun in 2018. How are you enjoying your time at the club, and how would you describe FC Thun?
“I am loving being a player of FC Thun. I came from the Swiss second division and FC Thun is the first club where I am playing at the highest division in Switzerland, and I am really enjoying it.
“There is much more intensity and quality in training and every player in the squad has a very professional attitude.
“The mentality at FC Thun is very important to everyone at the club because the manager and the backroom staff are always telling us to stay humble, focused, and work hard, because they are the club’s core values.”
You played a season for Atlético Madrid’s youth team in Spain. How do you look back on your time there, and did you learn anything in particular that has stood you in good stead during your career so far?
“Yes of course, I enjoy reflecting on my time at Atlético Madrid because it was a tough decision for me to leave my home country and family and friends behind. At first I was scared of the changes, but in the end, it was a good decision because being at Atlético Madrid was a whole new world and another level of football.
“The city of Madrid and the Spanish people were really kind to me. I did not have any problems adapting. I learned the language and made new friends.
“Spanish football is very technical with a lot of tactics and also off the pitch I was living independently, which helped me grow as a person.
“I took part in pre-season training with the first team, and that was very interesting to see how the likes of Fernando Torres and Antoine Griezmann play.
“I was shocked at how good they were and the quality that they had. I will never forget that experience”
You have been capped on many occasions by Liechtenstein. How do you look back on representing them so far? Do you have any special memories or highlights?
“Yes, one of my biggest highlights was my debut against my country of origin, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and that was an interesting match.
“Every match at international level is special because you get the chance to represent your country in different countries around the world.
“Every match is hard for Liechtenstein to get a point or a good result. We have a good team with also a mix of amateur players. I have a different role in the national team because I need to help the younger and amateur players improve in training. I keep an eye on them, talk to them and answer their questions.
“It is special to play against countries such as Spain and Italy because the whole world is watching those types of matches. It is special to be part of it.”
You have mentioned training with Griezmann and Torres at Atlético, with your experience at club and international level, could you say who are among the best players that you have played alongside?
“When training with the first team of Atlético I definitely have to say Antoine Griezmann. He had just arrived at the club at that time and he was improving at a rapid pace, even in his first two or three training sessions.
“He has such a good mood during training, and always had a smile on his face. He was humorous even when the training got serious, but he knew to joke at the right time in training, and Antoine has that ability.
“Players like Antoine Griezmann know exactly when to focus, and when to joke around. Players like that are important for the team in that respect.
“Arda Turan as well has fantastic technical ability on the ball, especially his first touch and shooting skills.
“I must also mention me fellow Atlético Madrid Juvenil teammates who were all good at the time, and some have gone on to become stars such as Lucas Hernandez, who recently transferred to Bayern Munich.”
You also mentioned playing against the likes of Spain and Italy. I can imagine in your position as a winger that you have played against difficult opponents through the years. Are there any that stand out?
“Yes one match I can remember was against Spain. I played right-winger against Jordi Alba, and he was amazing.
“It was difficult to defend against him, and offensively it was as if he was playing as a winger and he really impressed me.
“He had such technical ability. I managed to get past him a few times in the match and at times he needed to use his speed to defend against me. That gave me confidence, motivating me to continue working hard and improve as a player.
“I played as a striker against Sergio Ramos, and winning balls and playing well against those types of players give me more belief in my ability.”
Finally, Dennis, could you say which managers and coaches have played a key role in your development as a professional footballer?
“Every coach that I have played under has helped me at some point in my career. My first coach was my Father who helped me at a very young age. We worked hard together and he expected a lot from me.
“Diego Simeone, when I joined Atlético Madrid for pre-season, taught me a lot about the mental side of football — to never give up, fight for every ball, and press the opponent.
“At international level Mario Frick at FC Balzers, who was my teammate when playing for Liechtenstein, he knew what my abilities were and what I needed to improve on. He managed to get my strengths shining through on the pitch.
“I also had a great time at FC Rapperswil-Jona under Stefan Flühmann and then Urs Meier who had a lot of experience with teams such as FC Zurich winning the Swiss Cup.
“Now, here at FC Thun, Marc Schneider is helping to improve me every day — my strengths and weaknesses.
“He is a very specific manager who is very detailed when assessing his players, and I believe I am in the stage of my career now where I know what I need to improve, such as crossing the ball and improving my position in one on one battles with opposing defenders.
“Marc Schneider trusts me and he showed that in particular last season in my first season in the top division in Switzerland where I played almost every game. That gives me belief which in turn helps me as a player to reach the next level.”