Leonie Maier was poised to make her long-awaited debut as a part-time barista when fate intervened.
“My dream is to open a little coffee shop sometime, so when I was in London I wanted to get some experience of working in one and it was going to happen,” explains Everton’s summer signing from Arsenal. “But, because of Covid, there was no chance to make it possible. Maybe I’ll get an opportunity now? I think it’s very important to do something besides football.”
Maier is the sort of person, and player, who never skimps on her homework. Accordingly the Germany right-back regards a stint learning the ropes in a barista’s apron as essential if she is to emulate the Manchester City midfielder Jill Scott and former Leeds and Middlesbrough striker Mark Viduka in opening a coffee shop. While that pair’s thriving businesses, in Manchester and the hills above Zagreb respectively, appeal to caffeine purists, Maier aims to attract a broader audience. “I really enjoy cooking and baking,” she says. “I like making people happy so I love trying out new restaurants and getting new ideas for my kitchen.”
For the moment though such reconnaissance missions take second place to helping Everton achieve this season’s ambition of Champions League qualification before playing in next summer’s delayed European Championship in England.
“We haven’t got off to a great start – the first two games weren’t that good,” she acknowledges, referring to the 4-0 defeats against Manchester City and Chelsea sustained in their opening WSL fixtures. “We can do so much better but, in the last game, it was really important to win.”
That 3-1 victory over Birmingham not only marked Maier’s debut but her first goal for Everton. “Scoring was nice but the three points were much more important,” she says. “There’s still a lot of things to improve on but we’ve had eight new signings this summer, we’re a very international squad and it takes time to build a team. We need to come together a little bit more but we’re in a good place now. It’s very exciting.”
Maier’s experience and sheer will to win, forged through her involvement with Germany’s Euro 2013 and Olympic 2016 triumphs and six years at Bayern Munich, are key reasons why Willie Kirk signed a defender boasting 78 caps.
“I guess I have the winning mentality deep inside me,” says the health management graduate who relished the logistical challenges of combining football with studying for a degree. “I think if you want to achieve something you must have that mindset. I hope I can help push Everton on further with my experience, not only on the pitch but, also, off it.
“It was important for me to join an ambitious club. I don’t just want to play, I want to win. Willie Kirk’s very ambitious for this club. He wants us to be the best we can be in every training exercise. That’s how I am as well. I know how important it is to keep working hard if you want to achieve something.”
Fun matters too and Everton’s dressing-room camaraderie has been bolstered by Toni Duggan’s return to her native Merseyside from Atlético Madrid this summer. “Now I understand Toni’s jokes I’m always laughing,” says Maier, who felt in need of a new challenge after losing her place at Arsenal last season. “She’s got a strong Liverpool accent and, at the start, it was very hard to understand but now I’m getting used to it. Everyone’s been very welcoming. It’s been easy to settle down.”
It helps that her boyfriend makes regular trips to Merseyside from Germany and her parents flew in to surprise Maier on her 29th birthday last Wednesday but, having grown up with three older brothers near Stuttgart, she swiftly learned to stand on her own two feet.
“My brothers all played football so every day they took me to the pitch,” she recalls. “There were no female teams in my village so I started in a boys’ side at the age of seven. I can really recommend learning with boys; you have to learn to cope physically and to make quick decisions. I was 17 before I stopped playing in mixed teams and that benefited me. It’s been very important to my game.”
Maier’s influence will be vital as Everton travel to Reading on Sunday. “We need another three points,” she says. “We need to keep winning.”
Get to know the players in England’s top flight better with our WSL player in focus series. Read all our interviews here.
Source : https://www.theguardian.com/football/2021/oct/01/evertons-leonie-maier-i-dont-just-want-to-play-i-want-to-win1409