Retegui: 'I want to defend the Italy shirt to death' – June 15 latest

Mateo Retegui underlined his pride at representing Italy, his hunger to impress at Euro 2024 and his debut season in Serie A.

The 25-year-old Argentine-born striker was a surprise inclusion in the Azzurri squad under Roberto Mancini last year, eligible to represent the nation through his great-grandparents, and he quickly impressed, netting four goals across his first eight caps.

Retegui joined Alberto Gilardino’s Genoa last summer and showed a number of positives in his debut season in Serie A, picking up seven goals and two assists across 29 matches, netting against Lazio, Napoli and Roma. He’ll be hoping to prove himself at Euro 2024 with Italy.

Retegui opens up

Speaking to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Retegui was first asked if he feels at home in Italy a year after his arrival.

“Yes. It’s wonderful here. It is thanks to my great-grandparents, those on my mother’s side were originally from Canicatti, that I play for Italy today.”

He explained his decision to join Genoa last summer.

“I knew I had joined a team with an important history, where strong Argentinians like Diego Milito played.

“Today I want to thank everyone, the club that wanted me, coach Gilardino who called me on the phone during the negotiations to tell me he was counting on me, my teammates who helped me fit in quickly, the fans, who are so warm that they look like Argentinians.

“When we play at the Ferraris, we become really strong. When I score under the Curva Nord it’s beautiful, even more when the loudspeaker repeats my name many times after a goal.”

Retegui was asked if his move to Genoa and Italy was destiny, considering his history with Boca Juniors.

“I think that everything that happens to us is the result of destiny. For example, I played my first game on the national team at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona in Napoli, and you all know what Maradona means to us Argentinians.

“I debuted and even scored, against an opponent as strong as England. If this isn’t destiny… My story is all a series of coincidences, as if someone had written it for me.”

He spoke about how he feels representing Italy since his debut.

“They were the same emotions I still feel now. It is always a source of pride to wear the national team jersey and I want to defend it to the death.

“The debut didn’t go as I hoped, because I’m someone who always wants to win. But playing and scoring goals at the Maradona will stay with me.”

Retegui confirmed he knows the entirety of the Italian national anthem.

“Certainly yes. I already knew it. I sing it well, haven’t you ever heard me? (sings Fratelliii d’Italiaaaa, ed.). I know it all, but that’s enough, because I’m ashamed!”

He remembered his first conversation with Mancini.

“I arrived at midnight, and he was waiting for me. ‘Do you know why you’re here?’, ‘to play’, ‘to play, yes, but above all to score goals’, ‘perfect, I live for that’. Against England and Malta, he gave me confidence, and I repaid him with two goals.”

Retegui spoke about his relationship with Luciano Spalletti.

“He has a very strong personality, he’s hot-blooded like me. We are two competitive people who have victory on our minds. Compared to him, Mancini was a bit calmer. With a new coach, the competition between the players increases.”

He commented on the differences between playing under the two coaches.

“Let’s say that he asks me to help the team even when we don’t have the ball, pressing the defenders. But I play in a position where the most important thing is to score goals. At Estudiantes I was coached by Gabriel Milito.

“He used to tell me: ‘You have to score goals. I don’t know how, but you have to score goals, because you have that in your head’. He was right, I want to score goals always, always.

“When I don’t score, I’m angry. I know I can’t do it every time, but I certainly try. And another thing is for sure, we are a very strong team, we can do great things at the European Championship.”

Retegui explained why Italy are strong heading into Euro 2024.

“Because history says so. We are reigning European champions and four-time world champions. Who wants to play against Italy? No one.”

He touched on the competition with Gianluca Scamacca for a starting spot.

“I know I have to stay calm, keep my feet on the ground and work, because I’m very demanding with myself and I can improve in everything. Scamacca has great qualities to play together with other strikers, but I don’t like to make comparisons between me and him.”

Retegui revealed his closest friends on the national team.

“Jorginho and Donnarumma, but I talk to everyone.”

He was asked if he’d have played for Argentina, had Lionel Scaloni given him a call-up.

“I can’t answer that, because he never called me. I sincerely thought he would, because I had scored so much in Argentina, but it was Mancini who called me and I didn’t think about it for a second, I immediately said yes. I got on the first plane and presented myself.”

Retegui was also asked what’s Italian about him.

“I feel Italian. I have lived all my life in Argentina, but here I am at home.”

He commented on his belief in God and his hard work to reach this point.

“Yes. But I have done so much, worked so hard to be here. With the support of my parents and my sister, who helped me to become a better person and a better footballer, I got to where I am now, in Italy and the national team.

“I believe that when you want something so much, and fight for it, you eventually make it your own. Today I am living a dream.”

Retegui discussed the help he’s received from family over the years.

“Football is a very difficult world, one day you are very high, the next you sink. The people you have around you, those who make up your family, become very important.

“In Argentina I played in four teams: in Boca, the most important club but with whom I only played once, in Estudiantes and then in Talleres and Tigre.

“In some of these teams it didn’t go well, and in these cases the help of the family was fundamental so that I didn’t go astray and instead continued to walk with my head held high.

“So, at Genoa, as soon as I arrived everything was great, because I was playing and scoring goals. Then came two knee injuries that also hurt me mentally.

“My parents came to Italy to be close to me, I was scared, and they cuddled me and talked a lot. ‘Come on, Mateo, you can do it, you can’, they repeated. I won’t stop thanking them.”

He was asked if he needs to grow mentally moving forward.

“Playing football has helped me form character, because of what I was saying before, one day you’re up, the next day you go down. If you don’t have character, football passes you by.

“I went through good and bad times, and if I didn’t have strength within me, the support of others, even if it was my loved ones, wouldn’t have been enough.”

Retegui confirmed his favourite club.

“Tigre, a club from Victoria. Diego Martinez, the coach, gave me the push to get me here, the confidence that every footballer needs. He changed my life.

“And then my mum and dad live ten minutes away from the stadium, I used to walk there. Sooner or later, I will go back there, and not to finish my career, but when I still feel strong.”

Finally, Retegui was asked if he plays videogames on a PlayStation, in reference to Spalletti’s frustrations.

“No, I don’t play! I heard what coach Spalletti said and, as my father says, the words of a coach are sacred.”

Source link: Retegui: 'I want to defend the Italy shirt to death' – June 15 latest