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Fanis Gekas joined Bundesliga strugglers Hertha BSC Berlin on loan from leaders Bayer 04 Leverkusen last month yet the forward insists he is relishing life in the German capital.
Top scorer in the 2006/07 Bundesliga with 20 goals for VfL Bochum 1848, Gekas was unable to reproduce that form at Leverkusen despite striking 11 times in his debut campaign. The 29-year-old started just one league game last season and this, enduring an equally fruitless loan spell at Portsmouth FC last term. His meagre six appearances this season prompted his move to Hertha – stranded at the foot of the table – until the summer.
"I didn't get many minutes on the pitch at Leverkusen, and that counted for me, not being in the team," the Greek international told UEFA.com. "I needed to make a change in my career, to get myself playing games. Firstly for myself, and secondly because of the [FIFA] World Cup this summer. My switch to Hertha has been crucial because the people there have a lot of faith in me. This club shouldn't be bottom of the league, they don't deserve to be."
Friedhelm Funkel's charges have won just two Bundesliga fixtures all term, sitting seven points adrift of safety, yet have found solace in Europe. Thursday's 1-1 home draw with SL Benfica in their UEFA Europa League round of 32 first leg maintained hopes of further progress. "Yes, these are two different things," added Gekas. "In the Bundesliga we are fighting for survival. The Europa League is a challenge, and we are trying to get as far as we can. It would be great if we could continue in the competition."
While domestic duties remain the priority, and the UEFA Europa League a welcome distraction, Gekas – this continent's ten-goal leading marksman in World Cup qualifying – also has his sights on the summer finals in South Africa. "The World Cup with the national team is very important for me," said the former Panathinaikos FC attacker. "If we reach the second stage, it would be a great success."
For now, Hertha's second-leg trip to Lisbon on 23 February – scene of his country's UEFA EURO 2004 triumph – occupies Gekas's attentions. "For me, it is very important to win there and proceed to the next round," he said. "But the fact we'll be playing in Portugal is special in itself."
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