Joao Mario: "Happy to be appreciated by the fans"


The Portuguese midfielder appeared on new Inter Channel programme Caffe Doppio to speak about his journey so far

APPIANO GENTILE - The second episode of new Inter Channel programme Caffe Doppio aired on Thursday night, with Portuguese midfielder Joao Mario appearing as special guest.

Given the name of the show, it was only fitting that the first question was on how many cups of coffee Joao Mario gets through in a day: "Three or four at the most. I have one in the morning when I get up, one after lunch and two during the afternoon. I don't like drinking it in the evening, because otherwise I can't get to sleep. Do I take sugar? Occasionally I have a bit. We have lots of coffee in Portugal and it's very good stuff."

Joao Mario was also asked about his relationship with the fans, who seem to have taken him to heart straight away: "I think the Inter fans appreciate my way of playing. They don't know me as a person but they've been very welcoming. It's not just about being good players - we have to be good people, too, so I'm glad that people like the way I go about my business."

The Inter midfielder then revealed his footballing hero: "The footballer I looked up to most wasn't Portuguese - it was Zidane. In Portugal we follow the Italian, Spanish and English leagues closely and obviously we watch all the big teams play. Zidane was the first player to really have an impact on me. He and Rui Costa were both fantastic, elegant players. Am I elegant? I try to be. Danilo says he's the best dresser? Maybe he is - he certainly cares a lot [laughter]!"

The appearance was also a chance for the Nerazzurri fans to get to know a bit more about how Joao Mario got to where he is today.

"I was born in Porto and started playing with Porto from a young age," explained the midfielder. "I spent two years in the youth academy there then went to Sporting Club, where I played for 12 years. It was during that period that I realised that football was my future. I started out as a centre-back and later became a midfielder. Initially I tried to continue studying, but I had too many training commitments - I left school when I was 18 and didn't do so well in my final year, so I still have two exams left to pass.

"I have two brothers, both of whom are footballers - and both better than me [laughter]! One is older: his name is Wilson and he plays for Braga. The other is called Ugo - he plays futsal for a team in Lisbon. My father and uncle played too, albeit not professionally."

Joao Mario went on to reveal his daily routine.

"I get up at eight, then have breakfast here at the training ground at around nine or half nine. Next we have training and then it's lunch. I live alone in Milan - in my free time I relax at home, go out for dinner and enjoy a quiet life. I like watching American TV series, especially in the evenings.

"I get on really well with Gabigol, Miranda and Eder, as we speak basically the same language. I also have two friends from Portugal here, and my family is very supporting. I miss my mum's bacalhau!

"I like to watch matches from the Portuguese league as well as Real Madrid, Barcelona and our rivals, who we study closely at the training centre. I enjoy playing tennis - I'm better with my left hand - and I even like table tennis. I've played against Medel. When we stay together as a squad I watch lots of series and we play games. I listen to hip hop, RnB and a bit of reggaeton. People call me Mario, Joao or Portuga for short."

Joao Mario assured fans that he was adapting to life in Italy well.

"It's a bit different, but there's everything I need," he said. "The food is great - especially pasta. I pay a lot of attention to what I eat - I try not to go out for dinner much and my mum comes to visit all the time. I stay at home a bit more when my family is here, but we do go out to eat too. I like all sorts of different things, but I try to be careful.

"I've also been very positive, very relaxed about Inter. I play for a great club and I've always been convinced that we would improve."

The Portuguese stressed that the whole squad was now focused on the visit of Pescara.

"I've learnt that there are no easy teams in Italy - all of them are quality sides with good physical presence. The players are all of a good standard. We need to prepare well for every game if we're going to win. You're always going to be up for the games against Juventus, AC Milan and Napoli, but we have to do everything we can to win all our matches."

Finally, the Inter No.6 looked back on a wonderful summer which saw him win Euro 2016 with Portugal.

"It was a unique experience," admitted Joao Mario. "I've always dreamt of winning something with my country, but I would never have imagined it happening the way it did. Cristiano is our talisman, our most important player. When's he coming here? I'm talking to him [laughter]! We're mates - he's a great guy who cares about everyone. He's a leader."

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