What a week for FC Cologne mascot Hennes VIII. The most famous goat in Germany celebrated his 10th birthday last week, but then, according to Welt am Sonntag, his girlfriend Anneliese passed away over the weekend. Nevertheless, he was still on duty Saturday at the RheinEnergieStadion where he watched his team beat Hertha Berlin 4-2, as Anthony Modeste scored his second hat trick of the season. Modeste passed Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski is now just one behind Borussia Dortmund forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the Bundesliga's Golden Boot race.
How has this 28-year-old Frenchman, who had previously never topped 15 in a season, done it? He showed signs of what he could do at Hoffenheim, contributing 12 goals in a forward line alongside Roberto Firmino and Kevin Volland. But in Cologne, he has become a different beast. He is playing for a side where the collective is everything, and the team is taking advantage of the struggles of bigger teams like Borussia Monchengladbach, Schalke and Bayer Leverkusen to chase for a European place.
Cologne had not won any of the previous five games, so coach Peter Stöger picked five attacking players in what was sometimes a 4-2-4 formation.
“Modeste was too fast for us, we could not cope with his speed,” said Hertha coach Pal Dardai.
Stöger was keen to make the story less about Modeste and more about the team. He said former Austria Vienna striker Philipp Hosiner, whom he coached in 2012, was just as good in front of goal. But the fans, who shout “Football God” after every Modeste goal, might disagree.
Modeste has now scored 22 out of FC Cologne’s 37 goals this season: that’s a 60% share. Cologne reportedly turned down an offer of €50 million from Chinese side Tianjin Quanjian last January. The debate in France is whether Modeste, who is having a breakout season at 28, can “do a Gignac” and force his way into the France squad like Tigres UANL's Andre-Pierre Gignac has later into his career.
With the likes of Alexandre Lacazette, Karim Benzema and Nabil Fekir not getting picked for the latest squad, it would appear to be a long shot, but not because he hasn't had a worthy season.
“He is not sexy enough and nor is his club,” wrote So Foot’s Ali Farhat. “That’s a pity.”