In the second part of our exclusive interview with former France striker David Trezeguet, FIFA.com discovered the lethal goalgetter’s verdict on the current state of Argentinian football, his abiding affection for River Plate and, having recently turned 35, his objectives for his remaining time in the game.
FIFA.com: Now that you’re back in Argentina, how would you say it differs from the European game?
David Trezeguet: It’s completely different, in every way. In terms of the basics, by which I mean its organisation, there’s a lot of improvements still need to be made here. And in footballing terms it’s true that in Europe the game is much more dynamic, fast and tactical. Argentinian football is definitely more technical and slower paced, which is also due to the playing surfaces. There’s significant room for improvement but I think that, with time, hard work and composure, it can be done. That said, the qualities that South American players have are also a very important part of European football.
As someone who left Argentina at a very young age, are today’s young Argentinian players very different from the ones of your generation?
Yes, of course. But it’s not just a generational thing, football itself has changed. In the 1990s, [professional] football players were older, as there was a lengthier process to go through before going to Europe. It took more time, more work and players needed to develop more. Nowadays teams contain a lot of young kids who are being exposed to the pro game much more quickly than in previous eras and without their development being complete. That can turn out to be a positive or negative factor, depending on the player.
How would you improve that situation?
Argentinian football needs to go back to its roots if it wants to start taking forward strides again. It's noticeable that we’re struggling to get players of a certain standard into Europe’s biggest clubs, which tells us something. It’s a wake-up call. It’s clear that, for the moment, people over there [in Europe] don’t see Argentinian football quite the same way [as in the past].
After your brief spell in the United Arab Emirates, some were surprised to see you join River Plate…
I'd intended to stay in the Emirates but later, due to various circumstances, I realised that I’d not made the right choice. And then this opportunity came along: River opened their doors to me and offered an experience that interested me. It was totally different to what I was going through, particularly in terms of the passion with which they live the game over here. As I left Argentina so young, I wanted to discover more about its football, which was a motivating factor for me. It’s been a powerful and interesting discovery, an important step in my career and also a unique and very rich experience.
Given your personal goals and River’s own objectives, would you say it was the right match at the right time?
I don’t know if River needed to sign me that much, as they were already second in the table and had an interesting squad. In personal terms, coming here made me understand how passionate people are about River. Even though I was already a fan of the club, being part of it from the inside makes you experience everything in a different light. Fortunately we managed to win promotion and another novel experience has started: a new, long adventure with the aim of quickly getting River back to where they’ve been in the past.
It's noticeable that we’re struggling to get players of a certain standard into Europe’s biggest clubs, which tells us something. It’s a wake-up call.
Your dad’s a Boca Juniors fan, so how did you end up following River?
There’s a bit of everything in my family, that’s true. On the one hand where we lived made me a River fan, because there were loads of River supporters in [the] Martelli [neighbourhood]. And on the other hand, River drew me in because they had all the qualities that I’d admired since I was a small, such as elegant play and skilful football. I grew up in the era of [Enzo] Francescoli alongside a new generation made up of Matias [Almeyda], [Marcelo] Gallardo and [Hernan] Crespo – that was the team I admired most. I was later lucky enough to play with Gallardo at Monaco and Marcelo Salas at Juventus. They were like heroes to me! Boca, for their part, always played the game a different way.
How would you rate, in order of importance, the goals you scored against Almirante Brown that sealed promotion for River, the winner in the final of UEFA EURO 2000 and your goal against Saudi Arabia at France 1998?
That’s a very tough one. Each of those moments represents a very important part of my career. The World Cup goal was unique because I went on to win the world title at 20 years of age. I was really involved in that tournament: what for many would come late in their careers happened at the start of mine. The goal in the EURO was also unique because it came in the final of a championship during which we performed extraordinarily well and were deserved winners. And though it’s true those two goals were my most significant for River, they weren’t the only ones. They were goals that left a mark. What happened last year was so intense it’s going to stay with me for a long time. I experienced something like that in Italy with Juventus and I’ve lived it at River now too. I hope that we can make much quicker progress than Juventus, who have taken six years to win the championship again [after relegation].
At the age of 35 and with such a vast medal collection, what keeps you motivated?
Helping River to keep growing, since virtually half the squad is between 20 and 22-years-old. We’ve got youngsters who’ve had to grow up fast because that’s what it’s like in ‘River World’: there’s no time, you have to constantly progress and evolve. If the club’s able to keep a certain core based around these lads, then in a short space of time they could start aiming higher, but the plan at the moment is to build and maintain a structure, move up the Promedio (average points’ standings) and try to get certain basic things right. But, as time goes by, we’ll have to add new and bigger goals. Personally, that’s something I’m part of: trying to give advice so that soon there’s a more positive and winning mentality around the club. Given my age too, once I see that everything’s on the right lines it’ll be time to step aside to give the lads coming through to chance to grow.
And in raw statistical terms?
I’d like to hit a target that I’m very close to reaching: scoring my 300th goal as a professional. I am counting, myself, and I've scored 293 already. I’d like to do it wearing the River shirt. It’d be really meaningful and the culmination of a successful professional career during which I’ve had the good fortune and the opportunity to win almost everything. If I could add another league title to all that, now that I’m River captain, that’d be the ideal way to sign off.