THERE is an expected level of commitment in professional football and then a level that goes beyond the call of duty, which is where Pierre-Michel Lasogga took himself last week.
It transpired that the striker had played and scored against Ipswich Town on Saturday after missing the birth of his daughter, Milou Emilia, in Hamburg the previous night.
What wasn’t said was that Lasogga kept news of the birth from almost everyone: his head coach, the rest of Leeds United’s squad and senior members of staff at Elland Road. Thomas Christiansen learned that Lasogga had become a father for the first time at the end of the game and quickly granted the 25-year-old permission to fly home to Germany that night.
Even with his leave of absence, Lasogga was on a plane back to England by Sunday afternoon and put himself up for a media briefing at Thorp Arch yesterday. He is available for tonight’s game at Cardiff City and wearing the look of a man who has won the lottery. His daughter was due to arrive the day after his Leeds debut, a 5-0 win over Burton Albion in which Lasogga claimed two goals, but kept the family waiting for almost two weeks. Despite the personal stress in the background, he has avoided missing a single game.
Christiansen was amazed by Lasogga’s attitude on Saturday and grateful for the opening goal in a 3-2 win over Ipswich. “The first thing I can say is he’s very professional,” United’s head coach said. “He’s not the type who asks for permission (to miss a game). He wants to play.”
Lasogga insisted that flight times on Friday had given him no chance of scrambling home in time for the birth, but his reluctance to be absent from Leeds has been apparent since he signed on loan from Hamburg on August 31. A few days before his debut against Burton, Lasogga promised to be at Elland Road regardless of events elsewhere.
“It was a very difficult situation for me,” he said. “For sure I wanted to be there when the baby cam,e but it was not so easy that it came on Friday night. The flights to Germany were not so good. My decision was that I play on Saturday and go after the match to my girlfriend and the baby.
“It was not an easy decision to stay here, but it was like that and I was happy that my daughter saw football for the first time and I scored! It was a happy day.
“I was so proud when I saw her. You cannot say what you feel in this moment, the first time you see your baby. It’s the best moment in life – the best moment in life for me.”
Lasogga was at a loss to explain why he had kept news of the birth quiet, saying only that he was “a person who doesn’t talk too much about private situations. It was very easy for me to do this”.
There’s not a big difference between him and me when he played. He was also a typical number nine and scored a lot of goals for Bochum and Hannover. I can learn a lot from him.Leeds United’s Pierre-Michel Lasogga
He was collecting his mother, who had flown in for Saturday’s game, from Leeds-Bradford airport when he received word that the baby was on the way.
“It was the right decision,” he said. “I can’t say why I didn’t tell them I’d become a dad, but I did it and I’m happy that I scored.” Christiansen suggested Lasogga “didn’t want to take the attention away from anyone” or adversely affect Saturday’s game.
The story is entirely at odds with the murmurs questioning Lasogga’s attitude during periods of his time at Hamburg.
A stagnant spell in Germany, where in the space of three years Lasogga went from the verge of Germany’s national squad and an £8million move to Hamburg to being a high earner who the Bundesliga club no longer wanted, is nonetheless behind his motivation to move to England.
Before Burton he had not started a competitive game in 10 months. His tally of three goals in four starts for Leeds is evidence not only of the natural goalscorer that even his detractors in Germany identify in him, but also of his eagerness to make an impact, and make one quickly.
“You never know when you come new to a club what will happen,” he said. “I’m happy I can help the team with my goals and my assists and my work. I knew Leeds United, but I didn’t know the big history here or about these crazy fans. That’s why I’m so happy. It’s amazing to play for this club.
“It’s very important for a striker to come to a new club and score (quickly). This gives you the confidence and a good feeling. It’s good when the coach stands behind you and gives you the chance to play.
“I find it easy to play with my team-mates because we play a lot of football. The first day I came here I felt like I wasn’t new to the team. It’s easy to score goals when you get the ball.”
Hamburg last named Lasogga in their starting line-up during a 5-2 defeat to Borussia Dortmund before Christmas. He scored once in the second half of the 2016-17 Bundesliga season.
“Of course you miss the feeling,” he said. “You want to play and you want to get the feeling from the fans when they cry your name after a goal. It’s not the same feeling as your baby coming into the world – but for a footballer it’s great.”
Lasogga knew of Christiansen, a former Spain international, from the 44-year-old’s playing career in Germany with Hannover and Vfl Bochum, where Christiansen ranked as the Bundesliga’s joint top scorer in 2003.
“There’s not a big difference between him and me when he played,” Lasogga said. “He was also a typical number nine and scored a lot of goals for Bochum and Hannover. I can learn a lot from him.”
What Lasogga has learned more about in England so far is the endless nature of the fixture list in the Championship, the difference in referees who allow defenders to “do a lot of fouls and not use the whistle” and the reality of a destination like Millwall, where Leeds were comprehensively beaten this month.
Their defeat at the New Den is the only blemish on the club’s record, a record which positions United at the top of the Championship after nine games. Third-placed Cardiff, who are level with Leeds on 20 points, host Christiansen’s side in Wales tonight, the second leg of a run of three demanding matches that ends with Sheffield Wednesday away on Sunday.
“Cardiff have started very good,” Lasogga said. “It’s a very important game for us.
“It’s a different league here. When I look back to Germany I played Saturday and then the next Saturday. Here I have matches every few days. It’s not easy in the early days, but I like it, to play so often.
“I feel good. I came back (on Sunday) at eight in the evening and now we go to Cardiff. We’ll try to get a victory there and be number one in the league.”