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Aziz Bouhaddouz and Mats Møller Dæhli returned to full training on Monday after being granted an extra week off to compensate for being away on international duty. It may have been a very short break, but Bouhaddouz was able to recharge his batteries and is now raring to go.

Aziz Bouhaddouz can look back on the best season of his career. Ten goals and a string of excellent performances led kicker Sportmagazin to vote him the second-best striker in the second half of last season behind the league's leading goalscorer, Simon Terodde. He was also called up by Morocco for the first time in the first half and went on to make several appearances for the national team. "You always want to get the best out of yourself, of course, but I couldn't have done it without the team," the 30-year-old said, who after almost two weeks off "can't wait to play with the lads again."

The centre-forward is fully focused and determined to ensure there is no repeat of last season's poor start. Here, Bouhaddouz draws confidence from the makeup of the squad, which shows little change compared with the second half of last season. He also sees the handover from Ewald Lienen to former assistant Olaf Janssen positively. "I have a very good feeling about that," he said. "The new boss knows us well. He contributed a lot last year and had a major hand in the positive way the season developed."

His confidence has not taken a hit after the signing of Sami Allagui from Hertha BSC – quite the opposite. "Competition for places is always good," he said, adding words of praise for his new strike partner. "Sami is an experienced and versatile striker who will take us forward with his quality." Bouhaddouz already knows Allagui, having met him by chance in a restaurant during a brief holiday in Ibiza shortly before he hooked up with Morocco a few weeks ago.

A potent attacking force, a well-honed team, and bundles of confidence are the trump cards held by the Boys in Brown, according to Bouhaddouz. "I'm at an age where I still have goals," the 30-year-old said, who would love to play a division higher at some point. That said, he is not about to indulge in dreaming and is fully focused on the new season: "If you work hard, you'll get your reward."


Photo: FC St. Pauli