Nsame: Benzema an inspiration in beefing up my game
Jean-Pierre Nsame named Swiss championship Player of the Year for last two years
The constantly improving Cameroonian has scored 33 goals in 38 matches in 2020
Hopes to finally appear for the Indomitable Lions during Qatar 2022 qualifiers
Robert Lewandowski, Cristiano Ronaldo, Romelu Lukaku and Ciro Immobile are the only players in the world to have scored more than him in 2020. Suffice to say then that Jean-Pierre Nsame - with 33 goals during the last calendar year - is at the top of his game.
Since arriving in Switzerland in 2016, the Cameroon striker has been steadily improving. A maiden season there with second-division side Servette produced 23 goals in 31 appearances, paving the way for a 2017 move to BSC Young Boys. Nsame took the step-up in his stride, hitting the target 15 times in his first season, 16 in his second, then 41 times in 2019/20.
You could be tempted to rest on your laurels with stats like that, but the player himself is having none of it: "I've been progressing ever since I came here, but I still don't feel like I’m at 100 per cent. I’m only 27 so it would be sad to think I’d already peaked," he tells FIFA.com.
That does not appear to be the case, with the striker having racked up another 20 goals in 31 games so far this season. "It's the result of all the work done by the club that developed me, the various loan spells I’ve had, and the different coaches I've worked under. They’ve all given me something, and today I’m definitely reaping the fruits of all those years of work.
"I feel very comfortable at present and also have more experience, which allows me to better envisage my future and to know the aspects of my game I still need to improve to be even better. It's a motivation."
Inspiration, progression, motivation
He has certainly been close to his best in Switzerland, where he was named Player of the Year in the Swiss Super League for the last two seasons. Now the complete striker, Nsame knows the qualities that have enabled him to reach this level.
"I’ve improved year on year to become a good finisher inside the box, to have confidence in my technique, as well as to move around effectively," he says, aware that his imposing physique (1.88m) is also an advantage. "I hold my own pretty well with defenders and am not afraid to go up against them. I’m also capable of making forward runs and producing repeated bursts of high-intensity running.
"On the mental side, I think I'm good at staying focused for the entirety of matches, continually waiting for the ideal situation, anticipating and intuiting the play," he explains, adding that he honed these qualities by working with his former team-mate Guillaume Hoarau, a former France international.
And it is another Tricolore striker who is inspiring him to improve even more. "I can progress in every area, like being even more efficient with my finishing in the area and more involved in the build-up play. Moreover, I watch Karim Benzema a lot for the way he participates in games, like being a focal point for breaks or clearances due to his technical precision," says the Cameroonian.
"I want to develop further to beef up my game, something I’m still capable of. That period between the ages of 27 and 31 or 32 is when you feel most comfortable, where you manage things better and know exactly where to push."
This quest for perfection has made Nsame Cameroon's top scorer for several seasons now. But despite his effectiveness, the Angers graduate is still waiting to get a real chance with his national team. "I did enough to warrant being in the squad for CAN 2019, as I was Cameroon's top scorer in Europe at the time," he recalls, referring to his first full internationals in 2017 and 2019.
"However, our former coach Clarence Seedorf preferred someone else. I respect him, but he didn't give me a convincing explanation. Among the forwards who were there, I was the one who scored the most."
Losing not an option
"That objective is always on my mind, but I’m just faced with a situation that doesn’t satisfy me, in terms of the things being said and stances taken, knowing that everything has been clarified for a long time now," says the player, who hopes that the appointment of Antonio Conceicao will change the panorama.
"As of now, I'm not against going back to the team if things are sorted out. There's a new coach, so [it’s fine] if the discussion is about on-field performances, but I'm not interested in any of the side issues. I continue to work to create opportunities to establish myself. But the choices, the decisions, the stories – it's not me who controls them..."
With the CAF qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ on the horizon, the Indomitable Lions could certainly use a confident and in-form goalscorer to emerge from a tough Group D containing Malawi, Mozambique and, above all, Côte d’Ivoire.
"It's a major rivalry, because of the eras of Didier Drogba and Samuel Eto'o and all the great players of that generation," admits Nsame, who got to know Ivorian striker Roger Assale well during his time at Young Boys. "If all goes well, our two teams will be battling it out for top spot, although I find it a little sad to think only one of us can qualify [for the next round].
"It would be nice to have the best African teams at the World Cup, as it would show that African football is right up there. Still, it’ll be a very interesting match, especially if I'm there and have the opportunity to meet Roger," he adds with a laugh.
Of course, there will be no laughter if Cameroon do not secure a berth in Qatar. "That’s what the Cameroonian people expect from their team. There’s pressure on all the players," he admits. "In Cameroon, the national team belongs to the people – fanatical, extreme people in every eventuality. They love you with a passion when you win but can hate you just as much if you lose...
"Sometimes you feel like losing is not even an option, despite football being all about winning and losing. That said, Cameroon always needs to have as their goal qualifying for the World Cup and giving a good account of African football," he concludes.