Retegui: ‘I want to defend Italy’s jersey to the death’

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

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

Retegui joined Genoa from Alberto Gilardino last summer and showed a number of positives in his first season in Serie A, collecting seven goals and two assists in 29 matches, against Lazio, Napoli and Roma . He hopes to prove himself at Euro 2024 with Italy.

Retegui opens

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’s thanks to my great-grandparents, my mother’s were 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 Argentines like Diego Milito played.

“Today I want to thank everyone, the club who 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 integrate quickly, the supporters, who are so warm that they look like Argentinians.

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

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

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

“I made my debut and I even scored, against an opponent as strong as England. If it’s not fate… My story is just a series of coincidences, as if someone wrote it for me.

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

“These are the same emotions I still feel now. It’s always a source of pride to wear the national team jersey and I want to defend it to the death.

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

Retegui confirmed that he knows the entire Italian national anthem.

“Yes, certainly. I already knew it. I sing it well, have you never heard me? (sings Fratelliii d’Italiaaaa, ed.). I know everything, but that’s enough, because I’m ashamed!

He remembers his first conversation with Mancini.

“I arrived at midnight and he was waiting for me. ‘Do you know why you are 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 rewarded him with two goals.

Retegui spoke about his relationship with Luciano Spalletti.

“He has a very strong personality, he is hot-blooded like me. We are two competitive people who have winning in mind. Compared to him, Mancini was a little calmer. With a new coach, the competition between the players intensifies.

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

“Let’s say he asks me to help the team even when we don’t have the ball, by 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 told me: ‘We have to score goals. I don’t know how, but you have to score goals, because you have that in mind.” He was right, I always, always want to score goals.

“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 the reigning European champions and four-time world champions. Who wants to play against Italy? Person.”

He spoke of the competition with Gianluca Scamacca for a starting place.

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

Retegui revealed his closest friends from the national team.

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

He was asked if he would have played for Argentina if Lionel Scaloni had called him up.

“I can’t answer that because he never called me. I honestly thought he would, because I 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 introduced myself.

Retegui was also asked what Italian he had at home.

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

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

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

“I believe that when you want something so much and you fight for it, you end up making it your own. Today I’m living a dream.

Retegui spoke about the help he received from his family over the years.

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

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

“In some of these teams it did not go well, and in these cases the help of family was fundamental so that I did not lose my way and continued to walk with my head held high.

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

“My parents came to Italy to be near me, I was scared, they gave me hugs 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 needed to grow mentally moving forward.

“Playing football helped me build my character, because of what I was saying earlier, one day you’re up, the next day you’re going down. If you don’t have character, football eludes you .

“I’ve been through good times and bad, and if I didn’t have the strength within me, the support of others, even those close to me, wouldn’t have been enough. »

Retegui confirmed his favorite club.

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

“And then my mother and father live ten minutes from the stadium, I used to go there on foot. Sooner or later I will return, and not to finish my career, but when I still feel strong.

Finally, Retegui was asked if he played video games on PlayStation, in reference to Spalletti’s frustrations.

“No, I’m not playing!” I heard what Coach Spalletti said and like my dad says, a coach’s words are sacred.

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