Interview: Alexander Kacaniklic

Image: Sky Sports

The latest Q&A to be added to our series is with former winger Alex Kacaniklic. The Swedish international joined Fulham as part of a deal that saw Paul Konchesky go the other way to Liverpool in 2010. Kaca made a century of appearances for the Whites, scoring 11 goals across 6 seasons before parting company with the club in 2016. Daniel Smith spoke to Alex to reminisce on his Fulham career.

DB – Which club did you support growing up?

AK – Growing up I supported Barcelona and I’m still a big fan of them because of the way they play the game. 

DB – How did you get your first opportunity in football with Helsingborg and what was it like to play for your hometown club?

AK – I was playing for my local team until the age of 10 when my older brother and I were picked up by the main team of our city, Helsingborg.

I didn’t think too much about it since I was still young and just played the game for fun. Football at a young age in Sweden is not as serious as it is over in the UK. I played there for a couple of years until I moved to Liverpool. 

DB – Have you always played on the left-wing? Or did you want to play somewhere else at the beginning of your career?

AK – I’ve always played on the left-wing which I preferred. It’s just now in recent years I’ve been playing more right-wing and as a 10. The game is changing and wingers are becoming more central players. 

DB – You were only 16 when Liverpool signed you. Was it hard to settle into another country at such a young age?

AK – As I said earlier, football in Sweden as a young player is not that serious, so coming to Liverpool was a big step and change for me. Becoming a full time professional and no spare time for much more. I was lucky enough to have my parents moving with me as support, but I saw a lot of players struggle to leave their countries and families behind.

DB – You joined Fulham as part of a deal that saw Paul Konchesky go the other way. How much did you know about the deal to Fulham and did you have much choice in the move?

AK – I didn’t know much about it! I remember coming into training as normal when my agent called and told me about the transfer plan Liverpool and Fulham had. Honestly, I didn’t think too much about it and didn’t feel in control over the move. It was more a case of just playing along with it and luckily it turned out great. 

DB – When you signed for Fulham, did you expect to be involved with the first team much quicker than you were? It took 20 months for you to make your debut.

AK – I came with the mindset and the information that I was to be involved with the first team straight away but instead I got placed in the reserves dressing room and spent my first season there. Which of course was disappointing. As with any young player I wanted to play in the Premier League and I wanted it to happen overnight, but all I could do was to continue working hard, be patient and wait for a chance to prove myself. That chance came via a loan deal to Watford. Also credit to Martin Jol for giving me the chance and showing belief in me.

DB – It took a while for you to make your debut but when you did, you made a great start to your Fulham career, unbeaten in your first 5 appearances with wins away to Liverpool and Bolton, a draw with Chelsea and beating Norwich twice at home, the latter a 5-0 win on the opening day of the 2012/13 season; a game where you also scored your first goal as Fulham topped the league!

How pleased were you with the way it started and was this your favourite spell in a Fulham shirt?

AK – That was the beginning of everything and I was thrilled. I will always remember the day I made my first appearance for the club, it was very special for me.

Just to be able to add something there, I was 20 at the time and playing in the Premier League was a dream. Later that night I had (as expected) a lot of missed calls and messages, congratulating me. The one that stood out was a message from our captain Brede, saying how happy he was for me, how well he thought I played and to relish the chance and keep working hard every day.

DB – You made 100 appearances for the club. Which match was your favourite and why?

AK – I was part of many good and entertaining games, but if I have to choose one it’s got to be the Norwich game at the start of the 2012/13 season. Scoring my first goal for the club and at the Cottage was very special and of course, we were top of the Premier League that weekend! 

DB – What was your favourite goal?

AK – It has got to be my first goal for the club. It wasn’t the nicest goal but to score on the opening day of the season at the Cottage is something that has stuck with me.

DB – Who was the best player that you played with at Fulham?

AK – There were many good players for many different reasons, Brede as a captain and example. You had Damien Duff who I looked up to a lot as a player. Riise who I was close with and helped me a lot. Berbatov was magic on his day. But to answer the question, Moussa Dembele was for me the best player.

DB – What was your relationship like with the managers that you played under at Fulham?

  • Mark Hughes – No relationship at all really, just had a few chats with him.
  • Martin Jol – The manager who gave me the chance. I learned a lot from Martin.
  • Rene Muelensteen – Was only at the club for a short while and I didn’t really make a connection with him.
  • Felix Magath – What can I say about Magath! Probably didn’t do himself justice with so many strange decisions and he was very outspoken. He was a demanding but good coach who unfortunately didn’t have the players with him.
  • Kit Symons – Again, not really a connection.
  • Slavisa Jokanovic – He is a very good coach as all of us could see both results-wise and the style of play. I had a good relationship with Jokanovic until the last few months at the club when Fulham and I decided to go different ways.

DB – Who were your closest friends at the club and do you keep in touch with anyone from your Fulham days?

AK – I was close with many players. There are many good people at the club and we had many good times both on and off the pitch. Not many from my time there are still with the club but I still in touch with Betts.

DB – You left Fulham in the summer of 2016; was it an easy decision to make?

AK – I had been at the club for 6 years and I felt at the time that I needed a new challenge. But believe me, it wasn’t easy leaving Fulham since I care a lot for the club. 

DB – All of your 19 caps so far for Sweden came when you were at Fulham. Do you remember where you were when you got the first call up?

AK – I got the call after our last friendly game before the Norwich 5-0 in 2012/13. I got to make my debut at 21 and against Brazil of all teams. The biggest thing you can do is represent your country and I’m very proud.

DB – Overall, how do you feel looking back at your time at Fulham?

AK – Fulham still feels like my home. I am proud to have made 100 appearances for the club. Still today the first thing I do coming into the dressing room after games for current clubs is to look for the Fulham result.

DB – How is it going with your current side Hammarby?

Both the club and I are having a great season, we are 2nd – 3 points behind the leaders with 2 games to go. Keep an eye out, hopefully we can win it in the end.

DB – What does the future hold for Alexander Kacaniklic?

AK – In football, you never know what the future holds. I’m still only 27, have achieved a lot and hopefully much more to come. 

DB – Finally Alex, I’m sure you are on a strict diet, but which would you prefer to eat: pie or pasty?

AK – Haha pie! 

Also I want to wish the team all the luck for the rest of the season and hopefully, we can pull something off. Happy for Scotty to get the manager role and hopefully it’ll be a special season for everyone at the club.