Gladbach's rising French star Thuram eyeing shock title

Mönchengladbach (Germany) (AFP) –


Rising star Marcus Thuram admits the word "champions" is no longer taboo at high-flying Borussia Moenchengladbach as the Bundesliga leaders prepare for Saturday's showdown at home to Bayern Munich.

Bayern have won the German title in each of the past seven seasons, but their dominance is coming under threat from Gladbach, who lead the reigning champions by four points.

Leading their attack is the 22-year-old son of Lilian Thuram, France's most capped player with 142 international appearances.

The 1998 World Cup winner finished his career at Barcelona, where Marcus grew up with Lionel Messi as one of his father's team-mates.

Having joined from Guingamp, who were relegated from Ligue 1 last season, Thuram junior has so far repaid the nine million euros ($9.9 million) Gladbach reportedly paid for him with six goals and four assists in 13 league games.

After two months on top of the table, Gladbach fans are dreaming of a first Bundesliga title since 1977 and the word "champions" is starting to be whispered around Borussia Park, where the hosts have won their last five league games.

"It's not a taboo word, but it's not a word used every day here," Thuram told AFP.

"You have to take each game as it comes and we'll see at the end of the season."

The leading quartet of Gladbach, RB Leipzig, Schalke and Bayern are separated by only four points.

Gladbach's shock 2-0 defeat at newcomers Union Berlin a fortnight ago, and Bayern's 2-1 home defeat by Leverkusen last Saturday, demonstrate how open this season's title race is.

"Every weekend I look at the opponents' results, sometimes I understand, sometimes I don't -- it's a very open championship, every team can win every weekend," admitted Thuram.

Thuram has been a key member of Gladbach's attack since he came off the bench with the hosts 1-0 down to Fortuna Duesseldorf in September to inspire a 2-1 win with two second-half goals.

"I define myself as an attacker who likes to create, to pass, to score. An attacker who enjoys playing his team's attacking game," he said.

"I think if you want to be the centre of attention, you have to be a forward."

The France Under-21 international explained why he opted for Gladbach over Marseille, who were also chasing his signature.

"I felt that it (Gladbach) was the club that wanted me and knew me best," he said.

"They explained that they had been following me for some time and seen many of my matches. It's reassuring to go to a club that knows you."

Thurman says having a world champion as his father means he always has a good source of advice.

However, it sometimes meant that as a boy he took for granted the idols his father played alongside at Barcelona from 2006 until 2008.

- A gift from Messi -

"Once Messi gave me a pair of his football shoes. I saw Messi just like the players my father played with, just people I saw every day," he admitted.

When a school friend heard who had given him the boots, "he became obsessed with my football boots. He kept asking for them until finally I gave him the shoes Messi had given me".

"When you're a child, you don't realise these things," he added with a grin.

Thuram will be hoping to receive a call-up from France coach Didier Deschamps, another of his father's former team-mates, for Euro 2020.

World champions France have been drawn in Group F with Germany and holders Portugal.

"To play against Germany? No," he replied when asked whether it would be a dream to play in France's opening match on June 16 in Munich.

"What makes me dream is to play for the French team. After that, I'd dream of playing against any team. Germany, Andorra, Cyprus."