Exclusive: Yannick Bolasie on life at Middlesbrough, Neil Warnock's comments at Millwall and his future plans
"He's such a bubbly character. He lifts everybody." That is how Middlesbrough boss Neil Warnock described Yannick Bolasie just two weeks after the winger’s arrival from Everton in January.
Bolasie, 31, has clearly made a positive impression since joining the Teessiders on loan until the end of the season – both with his performances on the pitch and by interacting with fans via social media.
Even when speaking to Bolasie over the phone, his enthusiasm and positive persona comes through.
But after becoming surplus to requirements at Everton and not playing a competitive match for 12 months, the winger is just happy to be competing regularly again.
"The big difference is just being part of the matchday squad,” Bolasie, whose loan spell at Sporting Lisbon was cut short in March 2020, tells the Mail.
“I didn’t have that routine for a long while until I started playing for Middlesbrough
"It was tough doing training sessions in my garden, literally waiting to try and get in and then training at Everton.
"I left Sporting quite early because their season stopped and I was literally back in the country just waiting at Everton.
"I did the hard part to keep myself in shape but you can’t replicate games.”
It’s been well documented that Bolasie was close to joining Boro last October, yet the deal wasn’t completed in time.
There were other offers to go abroad in January, yet the wideman, who flourished under Warnock at Crystal Palace, was keen to link up with his former boss.
The transition into the Boro dressing room appears to have been seamless, while Bolasie’s international team-mate, Neeskens Kebano, joined Boro in the same month.
“It’s a very good group, great bunch of lads and they have welcomed me with open arms,” Bolasie adds.
“I think I get on well with everyone. Kebano I get on well with from playing with him at Congo.
“I get along with everyone, I know Chuba (Akpom), Britt (Assombalonga), I’ve come across (Ashley) Fletcher, I’ve played against Jonny (Howson), Paddy (McNair), Dael (Fry), all the guys I know really.”
With eight games remaining,Boro’s aim is to mount a late charge for the play-offs, and Bolasie admits the upcoming fixtures against Bournemouth and Watford are vital.
A 1-0 defeat at Millwall before the international break left Boro six points off the top six, while Warnock didn’t hold back with his post-match assessment.
But Bolasie, who was substituted at half-time, says the side have moved on from that frustrating afternoon.
"That’s the gaffer for you,” Bolasie laughs when asked about his manager’s comments. "I’ve known the gaffer for a long time and you take that with a pinch of salt.
"A lot of the time a line gets drawn under those things.”
Boro fans will be hoping to see the winger live when supporters can attend matches again next season.
So what does Bolasie, who will be out of contract at Everton this summer, have to say about his future?
"At the minute I’m just concentrating on what I’m doing, nothing as of yet for next season,” he says
“I’m sure the gaffer will come and have a chat so you never know and we’ll see what happens but I’m sure the gaffer will come when he’s ready.”