Thursday Dec 22, 2016. 15:34
That RB Leipzig have been grabbing most of the Bundesliga headlines this season is understandable, as never before in the history of the competition has a promoted rookie team had such a start.
Behind them, unbeaten Hoffenheim and the usual suspects Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have been in the spotlight, which has left very few headlines for the remaining teams.
One of the teams who have benefited from not being under constant pressure are Hertha Berlin as the team from the capital has – as they did last season – started like a house on fire.
The same, however, cannot be said for Salomon Kalou, who did not feature for Hertha until the eighth matchday.
The Cote d’Ivoire international had to overcome the unexpected passing of his father and a close aunt and obviously needed time to come to terms with the loss.
“I was at the funeral of my father and that was a sort of closure of a lengthy grieving process,” he said.
“Of course the loss will be with me for a long, long time, but after the funeral I was able to concentrate on football again and was willing to give 100 per cent to the club.”
The striker returned to Berlin four days earlier than expected after withdrawing from the Elephants' side that played Mali in a World Cup qualifier.
“I wanted to show the Berlin coach that I was the old Kalou again and willing to sacrifice a national team match for the club,” he said.
It was a gesture that did not go unnoticed by coach Pal Derdai and when Swiss striker Valentin Stocker was suspended after being sent off, Kalou was given a chance.
It was a chance he took with both feet, so to say, playing virtually the entire match against Cologne.
He started the next match on the bench, but was brought on. In Hertha's 10th
league game of the season against Borussia Moenchengladbach he was again given the opportunity to start.
He ended up being the man of the match, as he scored all three goals in his side's 3-0 win.
He added another goal three games later in Berlin's dramatic last-gasp win in Wolfsburg when he took on the responsibility to take a penalty in injury time.
His performances have hopefully brought an end to the roller coast-season the 31-year-old has endured so far this season, after missing the first few games through injury and the struggling to get going.
However, he has now scored five goals in nine appearances as Hertha sit third at the winter break and Kalou looks as bright as ever.
That is something that not only Dardai will be pleased about, as Kalou still features in Ivorian coach Michel Dussuyer's plans for the Elephants for next year's Africa Cup of Nations.
That, on the other hand, is something that Dardai will not only be pleased about as the Ivory Coast are not only defending champions, they also go into the competition as one of the pre-tournament favourites.
Which, in turn, is something that Dardai will be less enthusiastic about, as the striker could potentially miss Hertha's three first matches after the winter break.
“That would be a pity, as Kalou is one of the most popular African players in the Bundesliga,” said Sports channels director of Star Times, Muke Mwai Mugo.
“But then our viewers will probably be able to see him for a few seasons to come as he has indicated that he is keen to renew his contract, which ends at the end of the season,” Mugo said.
Kalou told journalists that he wants to sign a new contract in January.
“I like playing in Berlin and I think we have a good side that can go places. However, I want to end my career at Feyenoord Rotterdam, the club I started out. But that can wait for a few years,” he said.