Pierre-Michel Lasogga smiles at the mention of Germany’s national squad, implying that questions about the cap that never was have a habit of following him around. If Leeds United help the striker move on he might not be sad about it.
Lasogga, an Under-21 international, has not given up on playing for Germany’s senior team but water flowed under the bridge quickly after injury ruined his only call-up in 2014. He was thinking about the World Cup back then, a long-shot for a seat on the plane to Brazil, but these are different days. Lasogga needed football this summer; a place to play and a coach who wanted him. Leeds are a break from the old cycle.
In Germany he is spoken about as the one-time prospect who made waves at Hamburg and might have made it to South America had a muscle strain not prevented him from featuring in an international friendly against Chile. They speak of someone who then lost his way. In England he is Leeds’ new recruit, a replacement for Chris Wood and a player who has already demonstrated a single-minded streak by promising to miss the birth of his first child if the baby’s arrival in Germany coincides with a debut against Burton Albion later today.
For all that Markus Gisdol, Hamburg’s head coach, saw no room for him in his squad, Lasogga was a publicly-popular figure, respected by Hamburg’s support as he had been by Hertha Berlin’s before his move from the German capital in 2013. As one journalist puts it, his popularity stems from the fact that he “plays with much emotion and he’s a special character.” In a positive frame of mind, he is made to sound like this season’s Pontus Jansson.
“It’s very important for me,” Lasogga said. “At the clubs where I played, in Berlin and in Hamburg, the fans were very good. I liked to play in those stadiums and I hear a lot about the fans in Leeds. They’re very crazy for this club and I’ll see (today) what’s going on.
“I like Hamburg a lot. The fans and the people there stand behind me. But the coach decides which players start so it was not my decision. Now I’ll try my best for this club.”
Of the three strikers signed by Leeds last month, Lasogga is the one who most resembles Chris Wood, the forward they were brought in en masse to replace. United saw Wood’s £15m departure to Burnley – a sale the club insisted for weeks they would not be forced into agreeing to – as a chance to give their team additional dimensions which were lacking while Wood racked up 30 goals last season. Jay-Roy Grot is the biggest of the three at 6’3” but more rangy than Lasogga, allowing him to moonlight as a winger. Pawel Cibicki sees himself capable of playing anywhere in the front four of Thomas Christiansen’s 4-2-3-1 set-up.
Lasogga, by comparison, is a goalscorer; an old-fashioned, out-and-out finisher who lives in the box and on any given matchday – according to those who know his game – has the potential to be the best or worst player on the pitch. He hit double figures in his first season with Hertha Berlin and his first season with Hamburg.
“I’m a typical number nine,” he said. “My game is in the box and I try to fight hard for the team. I try to give my best in every match. When I have lucky games, I score!”
Last season he scored once for Hamburg and found Gisdol turning instead to American Bobby Wood. Andre Hahn arrived from Borussia Monchengladbach in June, joining Luca Waldschmidt and Sven Schipplock and leaving Lasogga as fifth choice.
Hamburg wanted to move him on but were realistic in accepting that any move for Lasogga would involve them picking up part of his £2.5m-a-year salary.
His season-long loan to Elland Road did not force Leeds to break their existing wage structure.
“The last year was not so easy for me,” Lasogga said. “I didn’t play so often for Hamburg and that’s why I decided to come now to Leeds, to play football again.
“Of course it was (disappointing at Hamburg), I was very happy there, I had times when I scored goals but the most important thing is how you play and the last few times I played were not so good for me. The coach made the decision about me and it was the right decision to come to Leeds now.”
Lasogga has two years left at Hamburg, on a contract to 2019. Ahead of what he hopes will be a first appearance at Elland Road this afternoon, he spoke of the lure of playing for Leeds in the Premier League next season but admitted his longer-term plans are up in the air.
“It’s my first time (in England) now. I’ll take a look at how it is for me here and I’ll decide next summer what happens,” he said.
“It’s another country, it’s another language. I’m happy that I can understand a lot (of English) and speak a little bit. It’s not so easy to leave your family, your friends or your home but I’m happy to be here – and I’ll enjoy English football.”
For a long time he was enjoying German football, an £8m signing made by Hamburg after a strong year on loan from Berlin pushed him into international contention. Lasogga is not defensive about that period and the thought of playing for Germany is still in his head at the age of 25.
“Yes it is,” he said. “I know what I can do when I play and when I play well. That’s why I decided on Leeds – to let me play a lot this season for a good club. Then we can look at what happens in the future with me. Maybe I can play for the national team one day. But for now, what is important is Leeds.”