The Argentinian forward, who completed his move from Roma to Spartak this summer and has already opened his goalscoring account, spoke to our press office. He will try to find the net again in the return leg against Braga.
We have sat down in an empty waiting lounge in Porto’s airport just hours after the first game vs Braga, while the team was awaiting the return flight to Moscow.
— What do you feel after losing to Braga by a single goal?
— A bitter aftertaste. We have arrived in Portugal aiming for a different result. We had chances to make the final score a more comfortable one, but missed those unfortunately. However I’m positive about the odds. I believe in my teammates and myself. We will put up an almighty fight in Moscow to qualify for the group stages.
— What can you say about Braga?
— The team does good work on the ball. But if we play at our best, we will be able to beat them and go through.
— Home comforts to the rescue?
— Of course, our supporters will be a big help! We’ll find it much easier to show good football with the fans’ backing. I have watched the derby vs CSKA from the stands and the atmosphere was brilliant. The supporters showed how much they care and their energy was palpable on the pitch. I would like to thank them once again.
— How was it, being on the sidelines for the match?
— When you witness these games as a spectator, you understand such matches are the subject of dreams of every footballer. It’s unbelievable to take part in such a game. I was very disappointed I couldn’t play.
— The next game of this magnitude is just around the corner: Spartak will host Zenit. Your suspension in the league will be behind you and you will be able to take part.
— I look forward to this game. I want to prove to my teammates, to our supporters, to everyone who believed in me, that I can be useful in the national league. We have a big opportunity and hopefully we’ll take it.
— After the harsh punishment you faced for the foul on Anton Shunin, can we expect you to become more careful in the opposition’s box?
— I have learned my lessons from that match. I could have avoided the collision with Anton Shunin, but my desire to score a goal was overwhelming in the moment. I only thought about helping my team win. That’s the style of play I stick to.
— So you weren’t called a «tank» in Argentina for nothing...
— A friend of mine came up with the nickname. He had a hobby - gave everyone nicknames. Me, I got called that because of my physical attributes and playstyle. I like the aggressive type of game. It’s a rather common nickname for players with by proportions. I like it.
— How did you take the three-match ban?
— It was the right thing to do, sending me off. However the subsequent ban was overly harsh in my opinion. But I have already said you need to accept and respect the football authorities’ decisions. I won’t get those three games back, I can only prepare for the next one.
— You’ve scored twice, against Thun, in the Europa League, while serving your ban in the league. Can you say this set off your absence in the league nicely?
— I can. Playing in the Europa League became an escape of sorts. If there were no european games, which allowed me to do my job, the ban could have knocked me out of my stride completely.
— Another bonus is your recent call-up to the Argentinian national side for the upcoming Olympics. Were you expecting a call-up?
— Not a lot of people get the opportunity to represent their country. I have worked hard. And I’m happy that bore fruit. I’ll do everything in my power to continue playing for my national team.
— A call-up to the U23s is a chance for you to go and represent the senior side in the future?
— It is, but I’ll need to prove myself in the qualifiers to the Olympics first, which will take place Columbia this January. This is an important period for Argentina. It makes my job to score regularly for Spartak even more important.
— How many do you think you need to score to win competition for places, when up against Icardi, Aguero and other star forwards?
— It’s hard to give an exact number, but every goal counts. I shouldn’t think too much about the senior side anyway, for now. I know since my childhood days that working hard is sacrificing something every day, it’s the only way to achieve your goals.
— You had plans to become Spartak’s top goalscorer, however now you face unexpected competition from Samuel Gigot.
— I’m very happy for him, but I’ll do everything to outscore him!
— How are you settling in in Russia?
— It’s going well. People at the club, my new teammates - all of them welcomed me in, so I’m feeling part of the family already. I really like Moscow too, as does my family. Though I didn’t get the chance to properly explore the city, because we have a very tough schedule.
— Before the home match against Thun you took to the pitch with your newborn baby. Ayrton did the same recently. Is that a common theme in North America?
— Yes, no one is surprised by that there. I was happy my son came close to place of work, became part of what I do. I love my family very much, they are always by my side.
— You said your dad helped you a lot on your career path.
— Dad always tried to steer me the right way, so that I would become a good player. His advice is priceless to me. He watches every Spartak game now.
— How’s your progress learning Russian?
— For now I only have an interpreter, who helps me a lot!