MILAN – His first steps on the pitch, his roots, his experience in a Cagliari jersey and his growth at Inter. Nicolò Barella reveals all in the “Linea Diletta” programme broadcast today on DAZN.
You have evolved as a footballer and are a very tidy player on the pitch.
“The coach has helped me a lot, I used to be much more free-spirited. With Conte I am more disciplined, I choose my moments. I study a lot while on the pitch; I play with great champions and every positive trait of theirs I try to adapt to my own game”.
What memories do you have from when you started playing as a child?
“I started when I was… three and a half years old. I was already attentive, and I listened well to coaches since I was little, it interested me. At around 14 or 15 years old I realised that I could probably aspire to a career. I met Gigi Riva when I was 17, on the birthday of his school of football. There we talked, and he told me he was following me, I was stunned, he made me very happy indeed”.
How much do your roots shape who you are?
“I am very proud to be Sardinian. We are a very international team, so I do not know if everyone knows what the Sardinians are like, but in my attitude on and off the pitch I feel Sardinian. I hope my teammates and other people appreciate that”.
You have great experience, both on and off the pitch. What do you take with you from Cagliari?
“The greatest experience in a Cagliari jersey was wearing the captain’s armband. It was a moment in which I felt almost invincible, a very proud moment”.
The Europa League final...
“This was my greatest disappointment since I have been playing, I hope I do not have to relive it again. I was angry, I think that from the experience in Germany, with the long time away, and being far from our families, we felt we deserved a different ending”.
You scored a beautiful goal against Cagliari.
“It was beautiful, second only to the one I scored against Verona. It was strange, I was happy and a little sorry, I got emotional. I'm sorry that someone insinuated that I enjoyed this goal, but I have broad shoulders, I felt sorry for my parents and my family”.
Did they compliment you?
“Many have written to me, I have always surrounded myself with people who I was sure want the best for me, not their own interests, so I know that whoever wrote to me and complimented me did so for this reason and that's what counts".
Stankovic left you a video message. What do you think of him?
“His goals have always lit up my eyes, but he is an example all-around, he never gives up on the pitch, he doesn’t need to speak, leaders can be seen by their attitude and I liked his. When he would score and the San Siro would erupt, even watching it through the TV you could feel the emotion”.
We have labeled Lukaku as the Shaquille O’Neal of football, would you agree?
“Yes, they are two people who have made physical power their greatest strength, however Romelu is much more than that, just like Shaquille O’Neal, but it is understandable that this characteristic stands out”.
What kind of leader is he?
"He is a force of nature, he is incredible. He manages to have an excellent relationship with everybody and always has a good word to say about everyone. On the pitch he can often determine the result. When he arrived for the first time he greeted everyone in Italian which for us was strange, but since then we have seen that he knows all the languages of the world".
Let’s talk about the National Team, what is your relationship like with Mancini and with the group?
“The National Team gives me great pride; it is the dream of every footballer. I owe a lot to many coaches and also to Mancini because he believed in me even before I joined Inter, and also because he managed to create a beautiful group which is not easy. He has done a great job because he has given everyone maximum freedom, and everyone is free to express themselves”.
What are your main strengths and weaknesses?
“My biggest strength is being a humble person who is true to his values. My biggest weakness is that on the pitch I get caught up in the action and in this respect I must improve”.
You have a very large family…
“My family is one thing that gives me the strength to want to be better and to make them even more proud of me. I wish that my daughters can achieve their dreams and that they always give 110% in everything they do, because that’s what I will teach them”.