What do you think your best position is in Roma's playing system?
“I think I can perform well behind the front man. I like playing there as I have space to roam. [Henrikh] Mkhitaryan, Carles Perez, [Nicolo] Zaniolo and others can play there too, though. In any case, I'm easy. I'll play wherever the boss thinks I can help the team.”
You played against Roma for Chelsea in the 2017-18 Champions League. What do Roma need to get to the level of that Giallorossi side, which went on to reach the semi-finals?
“I think we're a very good team with lots of young players building for the medium to long term. We also have experienced players like Edin [Dzeko] and Micki. One of the targets we've set ourselves is to get back in the Champions League. We have the right mix of youth and experience. The Roma team I faced with Chelsea was an excellent side and they showed it by getting to the semi-finals.”
You've beaten Juventus before, in the Champions League final, and you've won more than any other player in the Roma squad. You'll be up against Italy's most successful team. Do you feel a greater sense of responsibility?
“There's always a big sense of responsibility when you play the reigning champions. We have to set out to win every game, not just against Juventus. We must play with a winning mentality in every competition we're involved in.”
What do you remember about the Stadio Olimpico on 27 May 2009?
“I'll never forget the wonderful memories I have of that day – the first time I won the Champions League. It was my first year as a professional and I was still young but I came on towards the end. Now I'll get to play in the same stadium again – hopefully many, many times.”
This is the first time in your career that you've been at a club that doesn't have the clearly stated aim of winning. What made you choose a club that's still developing?
“My motivation is always the same: I have a strong inner desire to win and to achieve goals. It's not easy and it's something you have to attain game by game. The squad we have here is perfectly capable of finishing in the top three or four. It's too early to make any assessments but that has to be our goal.”
Has Dzeko spoken to you recently? Is he happy to stay at Roma?
“Edin is our captain and he's a key figure in the dressing room. He looks happy. He's an exceptional footballer who's scored so many goals. He's a top player who scores and helps you win games. I'm happy he's staying as he'll help us grow. I hope he plays on Sunday and does well.”
You already have a winning mentality. What advice do you have for your team-mates going into this game against Juventus?
“We know Juventus are a tricky customer and it's going to be a difficult match. We need to be solid both in defence and in attack, and not get distracted by anything going on outside the club. We'll need a big performance if we want to win.”
How important are Dzeko and Mkhitaryan?
“Very important. They're top players with a wealth of experience. As I said before, this is a young side with experienced players who make you stronger. I'm happy to be here, playing for a great team. I'd like to thank my team-mates for the way they've welcomed me and the fans too – they've been so nice to me whenever I've been in the city centre. I hope to repay them soon.”
Is Roma's target to get back in the Champions League?
“Our target has to be to win, always. Every time I step on the pitch I do so with the aim of winning and I get angry if I draw or lose a match, even in training, You should always aim for the top and try to win every competition you enter. Of course, we know it's difficult but that's where you need to set the bar. If you start off aiming for fourth, you'll end up seventh. Roma can aim to win and deserve to play in next year's Champions League.”
How difficult was it to play against a team like Verona that marks man-to-man across the pitch?
“I was familiar with Italian football before and I knew how difficult it is to find space between the lines because it's very tactical here. You need to move around a lot to create openings. I've come from a league where it's the complete opposite in that sense. I might have some difficulty initially but I'm trying to adapt quickly. I work hard in training and I'm watching lots of Serie A games to learn more quickly.”
What has surprised you most about Rome and the Roma fans?
“It's a stunning city with so much history. I've walked around the centre and got to see this marvellous city from the inside. I love the relationship I've struck up with the fans – that's another reason why I'm so happy here. Now it's up to me to do my best on the pitch.”
How do you think you can help Roma grow?
“It's not just me – the whole team needs to believe how good they are, that they're a tough proposition for any opponent. I'll try to put my experience to good use but we must be united if we want to reach a high level as a team. That could be key to our success this season.”
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