An incredible 40 goals in 40 games in 2011 made 27-year-old striker Jeremy Perbet one of the most lethal marksmen in Europe. Since landing at Belgian top flight outfit RAEC Mons last January, the French forward has become a key player for the Walloon side, both in the second half of the 2010/11 season (Mons won promotion from the second division through the playoffs) and the first half of the current campaign, helping to turn Les Dragons from relegation candidates to a mid-table side.
Inside Futbol speak to the revelation of the 2011/12 Jupiler Pro League.
Inside Futbol (IF): Jeremy Perbet, your goal average in 2011 was better than Lionel Messi’s and Cristiano Ronaldo’s. How does it make you feel to read your name next to these top players?
Jeremy Perbet (JP): It feels good for sure and it makes me feel proud. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are two great champions who play for great teams, that often win a game by scoring three or four goals more than their opponents. For me the situation is quite different. Mons are a newly promoted team whose aim is to avoid relegation. And actually we are doing fine, even in the national cup – we are in the semi-finals. We must go on in this way.
IF: 22 goals in the Tweede Klasse (Belgium’s second tier), 17 in the Jupiler Pro League, two in the Belgian Cup. Which was the most beautiful of these?
JP: Last August we met Anderlecht at the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium – it was the fourth round of the league. I opened the scoring with a shot to the top corner. It was a beautiful moment, a goal scored in a full stadium against the country’s best team. The game ended 2-2.
IF: Apart from your goals, what is the secret behind Mons’ surprising season?
JP: There isn’t any particular secret. Our team is quite like that which was promoted last season from the second division. The players know each other. Even our coach, Dennis van Wijk, is the same. We already know his football philosophy, his tactics and what he is expecting from us. Moreover, last summer Mons signed some new players too who brought the experience a newly promoted club needs.
IF: What kind of striker is Jeremy Perbet? To whom do you compare yourself?
JP: I am cold-blooded in front of goal and I don’t need many chances to put the ball in the net. I am the typical penalty box striker, however I am good at protecting the ball too and playing with my back to goal. Something I must certainly improve is my quickness off the mark. I should be more explosive. I don’t like to make comparisons though. When I was a teenager I liked Jean-Pierre Papin, who later became my coach at Strasbourg. Another player I admired was the former Paris Saint-Germain striker Pedro Pauleta. Despite the fact that he wasn’t a top player, in the box he was a lethal forward.
IF: You started your career in France, where in 2006 you became the top scorer in the third division with Moulins (23 goals). However, you had to move to Belgium to make an impact in professional football. What happened?
JP: I became a professional only when I was 18. Before that I trained no more than twice a week, because for my family school was more important than football. My father was an amateur footballer, however I never joined a youth academy. I am not a typical French player who grew up playing in the youth teams of clubs like Lille, Bordeaux or Saint-Etienne. Moreover, at that time I did not have the right mentality to be a professional. For sure it didn’t help me to change clubs every year, from Clermont to Moulins to Clermont again, then Strasbourg, four months in Belgium at Charleroi and then a return to France with Angers.
IF: Then you definitely settled in Belgium…
JP: I had a good time with Charleroi and I became a little sick of playing in the French second division, or worse. And at Angers, where I was on loan from Strasbourg, a knee injury ruled me out for months. I thought it was time to leave and when French coach Albert Cartier asked me to join him at Tubize, I agreed.
IF: What is the current level of football in Belgium?
JP: In my opinion it is increasing year after year. Look at the Belgian clubs in Europe. Anderlecht, Standard Liege and Club Brugge have all qualified for the Europa League knockout stage. Three or four years ago it was impossible to imagine something like this; the Belgian league is often underrated, maybe because it lacks media exposure. However, the level is good.
IF: Alongside Standard Liege, Mons are the only Walloon club in the Jupiler Pro League, while all the rest are Flemish – apart from Anderlecht. How can you explain this?
JP: I’ve played for clubs from both regions – Charleroi, Tubize and Mons are Walloon, while Lokeren are Flemish, and I can say that there is no difference between football in Flanders and Wallonia except for the language. The first speak Dutch, the second French. But if we talk about training facilities, organisation, football stadiums, it becomes a question of club, not of region.
IF: The two previous Jupiler Pro League top scorers moved to two big teams – Romelu Lukaku joined Chelsea and Ivan Perisic signed for Borussia Dortmund. Where will Perbet go?
JP: First of all, I still have to win the Gouden Schoen (Golden Shoe. ed). The season hasn’t finished yet and there is still a lot to do. Then, who knows? The football world moves so fast that it is impossible to make any predictions. I’ve heard about interest from many foreign clubs, but I am actually happy here with Mons.
IF: But if you could choose, which league would you like to play in at some point in the future?
JP: The Premier League and Spanish La Liga are currently the best competitions. However, I feel that Holland’s Eredivisie is the right league for me to show my true potential. There they play attacking football, just like Van Dijk does here at Mons. It’s a great shop window for a striker.
IF: As the most productive French footballer in 2011, have you ever thought about a call-up to the national team?
JP: No, never. I am aware that normally a league’s top scorer gets a national team call-up, but I have never had any contact with anybody in France. It is something I’ve never thought about.
Fonte: Inside Futbol