A primary Premier League begin. A house north London derby towards Arsenal. A Champions League debut. A visit to the San Siro to face AC Milan…
“It’s not the best begin, huh?” a smiling Pape Matar Sarr tells Sky Sports at Tottenham’s coaching floor, brimming with the arrogance of somebody older and extra skilled than his modest age of 20.
But let’s not neglect that this younger midfielder has already achieved rather a lot in his profession, particularly during the last 12 months. Africa Cup of Nations champion with Senegal and one World Cup marketing campaign underneath his belt – alongside his first outings in Tottenham’s first group.
But inside these highs have come some lows. Sarr admits that final yr’s World Cup in Qatar didn’t go the way in which he wished, after making simply two substitute appearances which totalled 60 minutes of match soccer. “I went there with greater ambitions than what I got here again with,” he says.
There has been disappointment at membership degree too. Sarr linked up along with his Tottenham team-mates for the primary time final summer season, having spent his first yr underneath contract on the membership on mortgage at former facet FC Metz.
But he needed to wait even longer for his first-team bow. His first outing was a ten-minute cameo on New Year’s Day. He was solely trusted along with his first begin within the FA Cup win over Portsmouth six days later. Tough going for a younger participant who has tailored to a brand new nation, language and tradition.
Asked why his Spurs bow got here later than he hoped, Sarr replies: “It’s a group. We have 5 central midfielders inside that group and the coach has to make his selections.
“I waited my flip as a result of it is a lengthy season. I’ve labored on daily basis for when the coach wants me and to verify I’ve what is critical, so when the coach calls on me, I do not disappoint.
“At the beginning it wasn’t straightforward as a result of I got here from France and I had hassle understanding and speaking with folks on the pitch once I had the urge to take action.
“The others wished me to adapt to the group, however I did not converse a lot English. It was a bit troublesome however now I’m feeling nice on this group.”
His sudden arrival and a scarcity of minutes on the World Cup has meant Sarr has nearly come out of nowhere on the Premier League scene. The participant describes these two landmark moments towards Arsenal and AC Milan as “valuable” in his profession.
But with the entire world watching these two performances, maybe the individual closest to him shunned doing so: his personal mom – who hardly ever watches his video games because of pure nervousness.
“She’s all the time been like that,” he says, laughing. “She loves soccer, however I get why she does not like watching me. It’s troublesome to see your son play video games with all that stress, not figuring out if I’ll do effectively or not.
“But I’ve rather a lot to thank her for, she’s supported me rather a lot – particularly since I first joined right here. When it was onerous firstly of the season, she known as me up on a regular basis and stated to me: ‘Don’t surrender, you will get there. Just maintain working.’
“She’s somebody who has pushed me rather a lot and I have never given up right here and I’m carrying on working. And it is all beginning to repay now and that is all due to her.”
There has been one other optimistic affect on his early Tottenham profession in Heung-Min Son, who has been a outstanding coaching floor determine for the younger midfielder.
“He’s good, so good,” says Sarr in regards to the South Korean worldwide. “Even if I say one thing incorrect [in English] he tries to know it to place me comfortable.
“Since the primary day I met him, we acquired on. We have an excellent friendship, he helps me rather a lot and provides recommendation on the pitch and off it. I recognize that rather a lot and he is one in every of my favourites within the group.”
Injuries, assistants and alternatives
The acclimatisation interval is now over for Sarr – so what now?
Well, the midfielder helps his group overcome an harm disaster at central midfield. Rodrigo Bentancur is out till November with a severe knee harm, whereas Yves Bissouma underwent ankle surgical procedure earlier this month.
Sarr and midfielder Oliver Skipp have impressed the Spurs teaching workers of their absences alongside Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg – however a long-term blow for captain and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris has added additional points.
“Honestly, it has been onerous for the group,” says Sarr. “Yes, it has given me a possibility, we want [Bentancur] and Bissouma so now we have needed to experiment.
“They are skilled, golden gamers and we want them for the assistance of the group, the coach and the membership. We are with out those that are injured however I’m certain they are going to come again rapidly and stronger.”
But there has additionally been the absence of supervisor Antonio Conte as he recovers in Italy following gallbladder surgical procedure. Assistant supervisor Cristian Stellini has deputised within the Italian coach’s place and Sarr has allayed fears that there was an excessive amount of change within the dugout.
Asked about how Stellini compares to Conte, Sarr explains: “There aren’t too many variations as they’ve labored collectively for a very long time. For me, there is not any distinction within the method during which they work as it’s the identical strategies.
“We are working effectively and now we have a training group that operates effectively whether or not [Conte] is there or not.
“It’s identical to it usually is, the group continues to work in the identical dynamic and we need to end as excessive as we are able to.”
Next up for Spurs is one other London derby towards Chelsea. Both sides have endured inconsistent ends in current weeks however Tottenham sit in fourth, with Chelsea 11 factors behind in tenth.
“It’s the derby. For me, in video games like these, it is not about performances however profitable,” says Sarr.
“Chelsea are having a couple of difficulties for the time being however that does not imply they are not an excellent facet. We’ll attempt to get at them everywhere in the pitch and put together effectively to go and win.
“We must put collectively a string of wins as a result of we have had moments the place we have received two or three after which misplaced or drawn one. So if we need to keep excessive up within the desk, now we have to win the utmost quantity of video games.”
Sunday twenty sixth February 12:30pm
Kick off 1:30pm
Origins and following Mane’s journey
Sarr’s rise from the unknown to the sport’s higher echelons has been stark – however his origins, there is no such thing as a shock to see him find yourself the place he’s.
The midfielder grew up within the area of Thies, tucked away close to Senegal’s capital Dakar and often known as a hotbed for African soccer.
Thies is accountable for the expansion of Sadio Mane, Sarr and different Senegalese starlets together with Strasbourg prime scorer Habib Diallo.
Comparisons between Sarr and Mane could be prolonged to them each enjoying for prime Dakar academy Generation Foot, then Metz in Ligue 1 after which Premier League soccer. Sarr admits the previous Liverpool winger’s profession is a “base to work off”.
Sarr’s growth started sooner than the academy, although. “I grew up in Thies in a household of footballers,” he says. “Everyone in my household all performed. It felt like the entire world was in love with soccer.
“One available it is not straightforward to get noticed, however then once more it’s – as there are numerous coaches watching you from a younger age and that may solely result in an excellent pathway to soccer. That has helped me develop rapidly.”
And what’s the participant’s dream now, given he’s now enjoying in a Premier League facet?
“My dream is the whole lot!” an enthusiastic Sarr claims. “When I say the whole lot I imply Champions League, World Cup, Africa Cup of Nations – I’ve already received that one however I need to do it once more for Senegal.
“African Balon D’Or, the European one too, the lot!”
Watch Tottenham vs Chelsea reside on Sky Sports Premier League this Super Sunday from 12.30pm; kick-off 1.30pm