"INTER, WITH AMBITION AND WORK, YOU CAN ACHIEVE EVERYTHING" - Godin: "Simeone talked a lot about Inter and here I am. Ronaldo? I don't like those who lack respect"
“I AM THE SHERIFF OF INTER.”
“Beautiful football? Winning matters the most.”
The new Inter defender: “I dream of the Champions League. To beat Juve, we need ambition and a lot of work.”
“INTER, THINK ONLY ABOUT WINNING AND I LIVE MY LIFE AS LEADER.”
“Conte is real just like Cholo (Simeone). To beat Juve, we need ambition and a lot of work. We will try to do that this year. Inter are just like Atletico against Real Madrid and Barcelona.”
“Simone is a great coach, he told me a lot about Inter. My dream? Champions League.”
This is the land of casinos, of Chinese insignia, western luxuries and Portuguese flavors. Inter this summer signed a leader in Diego Godin: a well proven defender and most importantly a winner. One who explains his world with these words: “Do you know why we Uruguayans are different? The whole world is asking how it is possible that so many champions come from 3.5 million inhabitants. Simple: It’s just a cultural fact. Only those who have lived there can understand: there is not a square meter in the whole country where you do not see a ball rolling and a child running after it. Football is the hope of every family and that their child can make it and with it economic issues would go away. And so we play everywhere: on the road, on a hill, on dirt. There is an immense competition. Football is played in all weather conditions: cold, heat, rain, sun. We have a very high level of tolerance. It’s like a filter: if you can play there, you can play at any latitude.”
You could make your debut here in Macau and the team will be asked to repeat the performance against Juve. Did the game in Nanjing confirm that the Bianconeri are within reach?
“I don’t know how close we are. To fight with them we will have to understand that it will not be enough to do it only in direct matches. The one against Juve is as important as other matches.”
Why Inter? Why do you join the Nerazzurri after Atletico?
“They came first and were a lot more decisive in signing me than other clubs. They showed me the project: it’s ambitious, like myself. And I liked the idea of being part of it and being able to help Inter realize it.”
Is it true that you had offers from Juve?
“Yes, a year ago there were Juve, Manchester United and in the past I had Manchester City as well. but at the moment I had a contract with Atletico and so I didn’t think about leaving. This time it was different, mine was expiring. But I can say no club convinced me like Inter managed to.”
You managed to win a La Liga title against two superpowers in Real Madrid and Barcelona. Now, you are asked to do the same here in Italy where Juventus have dominated for 8 years. Are there similarities?
“Many. The objective of Inter is to win, this was explained to me in the days of negotiation. It has been a Juve’s monologue in these years. We need to work and stay ambitious to try and beat them.”
What was your understanding about our league looking in from the outside?
“That it is more difficult to play for a striker than for a defender. In theory, that’s better for me… But I have to quickly understand what the coach wants from me, I want to help my teammates on and off the pitch.”
Conte, what are your thoughts about him? Albeit it is only a short period but do you have any idea what he’s like?
“He remains me very much of Simeone. They live football with the same passion, they pay attention to details, they get the most out of the players that they coach. To me, Conte seems to be a very concrete type: he knows what he wants, he goes straight to the point and this is ideal for a player.”
Tell us the truth, how much did Simeone tell you about Inter?
“He talked about this team a lot, it’s the truth. When we saw each other, he told me that it was the greatest team that he had ever known, one with passionate fans. Diego is great. He followed an idea of play and culture that allowed Atletico Madrid to fight with Barca and Real Madrid. It was mandatory, the only way to compete against them. If we had done their style of football, we would never have stood up against them.”
What is a justification for the fact that Atletico play less… beautiful than the others? In Italy, the debate is very heated.
“I would say that what does it mean by playing well? I think differently: it is one thing to have ‘bonito’ style of play, to play beautiful football. And another is playing well. For me, playing well means winning. Victory is achieved by defending well and attacking well. There are so many teams that play beautiful football, they hold the ball for I don’t know how many minutes but then they lose. That’s not complete, that’s not good football. The important thing is the result.”
And is there a secret to it?
“No, but it doesn’t come just by chance. You will win if you have these ingredients: a good group that shares the same ambition and wants to work, work and work. Then you need a good coach. And the communion with the fans: we the players will feel it on the pitch, we will realize it, it’s positive energy.”
Can Inter already do that this year?
“We will try, I can assure you that.”
You signed for three years. Do you think you will be able to play another Champions League final?
“I would like that. I know the path well, I know it’s very difficult. But it’s a dream that I keep in mind.”
You have faced Ronaldo numerous times. What is the most complicated aspect of marking him?
“It’s not about the technical part of it, it’s about mental and concentration. For 90 minutes, you cannot give up a second because that second is enough for him to score.”
One time you punched him.
“What happens on the pitch will remain there. And I don’t talk about it. But I don’t like it when you lack respect.”
That gesture of Ronaldo after the Champions League return leg in March, do you want to talk about that?
“Simeone turned to his fans, tension led him to do that gesture and he didn’t do it against Juve. Ronaldo’s gesture was different, he did not respect the fans.”
Griezmann said that he had never seen a leader like Godin. Do you feel like you could take on that same role at Inter?
“I just arrived in a new team, I have to enter it slowly, to show respect to my teammates. I’m not the one raising my voice. It’s essential that everyone feels important in their own role, even those who play less minutes. It’s important in a season with lots of matches.”
But you are already talking like a leader…
“I don’t like ti impose anything, simply things will happen little by little if teammates ask me.”
When we say Tabarez…
“He is more than just a coach. He is a trainer of men. He gives priority to the human side of things rather than the pitch. He educated me and I learned a lot from him.”
Do Inter have the strongest defense in Europe, as Julio Cesar told us?
“It’s an honor. I’m just getting to know my teammates although last season I saw a lot matches of De Vrij and Skriniar, they are spectacular but I also think about D’Ambrosio. It is myself who will have to adapt quickly to the team: in a role like mine, having empathy with teammates is fundamental, there must be a relationship.”
Juve paid €75M for De Ligt. Too much?
“That’s the market price, it doesn’t depend on the boy. He is very young and has shown great personality. He is certainly a good player and can become a top player, time will tell.”
What did you dream as a child?
“That I would be a swimmer. When I was 15, I had several records at youth level in Uruguay. I liked many sports: I played basketball, handball. Then at 16 I decided that football would be my life.”
“An offer came from a club in Montevideo (Atletico Cerro). They signed me, it was a door that opened up and I couldn’t help but to walk in. And I succeeded. I even played as a trequartista. My idol was Francescoli. He scored goals, it was beautiful to see, a symbol of Uruguayan that won Copa America in 1995, all the kids were looking up to him.”
It’s said that Godin’s header is like a work of art.
“I don’t do any special training, only focus on strength and explosiveness. But heading is different depending on the area of the pitch: the great timing that I have on the ball helps me in defense. On the other hand, in attack, you have to be aggressive because the only objective in the box for you is to score. And, of course, you must have an understanding with those who cross the ball.”
Do you see yourself as a coach?
“Now I would say no: too much tension, too many hours to devote to football off the pitch, even at home you have to study… No, I think I’ll do something else. But it’ll be football related because it’s my world.”
You are not very social, it seems almost in contrast with modern football.
“I don’t make judgements. But I don’t like to show too much of my private life and I think it’s right to be like that.”
You talked about Simeone, but who else pushed you to Italy?
“My father in law is Pepe Herrera who played in Cagliari with Francescoli. He had an amazing memory of Serie A and I talked to him a long time about it. And then there is my wife: she was born in Cagliari, she speaks Italian, I still don’t…”
Where do you see yourself living in a few years?
“In Uruguay… if I can convince my wife to leave Europe.”