Bayer Leverkusen summer signing Odilon Kossounou is enjoying getting to grips with the Bundesliga, and cannot wait to face Erling Haaland and Robert Lewandowski head-on.

bundesliga.com spoke to the Ivorian defender during the September international break…

Bundesliga.com: How important was the win against Borussia Mönchengladbach on Matchday 2? It was your first Bundesliga win…

Odilon Kossounou: “In my opinion, it was a very important victory. It’s important to get off to a good start in order to pick up the maximum number of points.”

bundesliga.com: You became a regular starter as soon as you arrived at the club. Did that surprise you?

Kossounou: “I wouldn’t say that I was surprised. Every player comes to the club with the intention of playing. So I was mentally prepared for that. And I knew that they needed me to play. So I prepared as one must – with the aim of immediately integrating within the team. And so that I could give my all to ensure that everything started well.”

Bundesliga.com: What sets you apart as a player?

Kossounou: “I’m physically strong, I’m quick and I’m able to anticipate what is going to happen. I’m also good with my head.”

bundesliga.com: How have you enjoyed playing in the Bundesliga in the short time that you’ve been here so far?

Kossounou: “The Bundesliga is a great league. It’s a great league. I’ve followed the Bundesliga for a long time and have watched matches for a long time. The level of football here is very high. It also represents a good step in my development. In my opinion, it’s a good league and one where I can develop well.”

bundesliga.com: Were you surprised at all to hear that Leverkusen wanted you before they signed you this summer?

Kossounou: “I wasn’t surprised because they had been interested in me for a long time. As soon as contact was initiated, I signalled my intention to join the club.”

bundesliga.com: You came through Asec Mimosa, the most famous academy in the Ivory Coast. Yaya Toure, Gervinho, Emmanuel Eboue all graduated from there, too. Do you hope to have a similarly successful career?

Kossounou: “They’re big players, who achieved a lot in their careers. It’s truly an honour to have followed players of this calibre. But I continue to work hard every day in order to try to emulate them and go as far as possible myself.”

bundesliga.com: Please tell us about your journey to Leverkusen – how difficult was it getting to the Bundesliga?

Kossounou: “I started at a Centre de Formation in a small village near Abidjan. At the age of 13, I joined ASEC Mimosas. I was there for five years and worked extremely hard – like everyone did there. When you join an academy, it’s a very proud moment for your family.

I was integrated into the first team at Mimosas, at the age of 16, if I’m not mistaken. I wasn’t able to play many matches but I trained hard. But there was a tournament, the Gothia Cup, in Sweden, where I was scouted by Hammarby IF. I spent three months in Sweden, then three months back in Abidjan, and at the age of 18, I signed a professional contract with them.

I played for them for five months and then in January, I left for Belgium to join Club Brugge. I spent two seasons there, but for one of the seasons, we only played 15 matches. It was a little bit complicated because I spent just five months in Sweden and then moved to Belgium. There was one season of adaptation. But in the second season, I played a lot of matches. Last season was fantastic. And then I joined Bayer Leverkusen.”

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