Palermo: It's all about instinct
© AFP

There are few strikers that carry the same threat as the evergreen Martin Palermo. Now 34, the Boca Juniors captain and goalscorer-in-chief is as much of a threat in the box as he ever was. And having recently passed the 180-goal mark with the Buenos Aires heavyweights, the insatiable Palermo is now gunning for the club's all-time scoring record.

Still basking in the afterglow of his quickfire tie-winning hat-trick against Atlas in the quarter-finals of the Copa Libertadores, the La Plata goal machine gave FIFA.com his exclusive views on some of the issues surrounding the game, his playing career and a future transition from goal-getter to coach.

FIFA.com: Martin, you scored your 180th goal for Boca Juniors against Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata on 2 March. How many interviews have you been asked to give since reaching that landmark?
Martin Palermo:
Oof, so many I've lost count. It was an important goal in lots of ways and that's why I've been interviewed about it so much, and not just by the sports media.

Has all the attention been too much or is it something you are used to?
It doesn't bother me. Obviously it's not easy to deal with everyone and do everything people want you to because you've only got so much time. We've got a lot of squad get-togethers and matches obviously, but I try and fit it all in as best I can.

With so many landmarks and titles behind you, what type of objectives do you set yourself? How do you stay motivated?
It's hard to say. I never think, for example, about how many goals I want to score each season. What I do think about is winning the Argentinian league, the Copa Libertadores and going back to Japan, for example. That's something I'd like to experience again. The important thing is not so much to set targets but to achieve specific aims.

Looking back at your haul of over 180 goals in the Boca shirt, which was the best one of all?
The goal I scored from the halfway line against Independiente in 2007. There have been one or two others, though. The most important ones were the brace against Real Madrid in Japan. Perhaps the most emotional was the one I scored against River in the quarter-finals of the Copa Libertadores in 2000. I'd just come back from a serious injury, I'd only been on for a few minutes and I got the winner. Those are the ones I remember the most.

You have also scored a lot of headers. Did you know that the Spanish-speaking users of FIFA.com voted you the world's best header of a ball?
Yes, I heard about that and it's great to get that kind of recognition. Heading has been my greatest strength throughout my career, and I think that's partly because I used to play volleyball. I learned to judge distances, time my jumps and hit the ball at just the right time. And I used to work on my heading in training of course.

What dreams do you still want to fulfil in your football career?
When you're playing there are always things you want to achieve. I can't say whether I'll go abroad, for example, as right now I just want to enjoy myself here. But you never know what the future might bring. My contract with Boca runs out on 30 June and I'm hoping to renew it for another year. You've always got to be prepared for anything, but my aim is to stay here.

Who is the best striker in the world? You are an authority on the subject after all.
Ronaldo is the best there is in my opinion. Some people say he can't head the ball or that he's overweight, but there's no one that compares to him. He's a real phenomenon and I hope he makes a quick recovery.

We spoke to Sebastian Abreu a few weeks ago and he expressed his surprise at how fanatical the supporters have become here in Argentina. Do you agree with him?
Yes, absolutely. That was something that really struck me when I came back from Spain. People get a bit too carried away and they are very demanding. I'm not saying they ask you to give more than you can, but they never seem to be happy. You can win a trophy one season, but if you lose a few games at the start of the next then they're hurling insults and all sorts at you. It's much more noticeable than it used to be and families can't come and enjoy themselves in the stadiums any more. They're scared.

As a player how do you feel about that?
It's a real shame, because there's no other place in the world where people experience football quite like they do here - the spectacle, the supporters, everything. It's a pity people can't enjoy themselves and help make Argentinian football even stronger. We're never going to compete with Europe financially, but the quality of the players here is exceptional, and we need to back that up by creating a more positive image of the game, not causing violence and trouble.

Sometimes the fans get so passionate they criticise their heroes. Is that something that bothers you?
Not really. I'm used to it. Some of my team-mates get affected by an insult or if the fans are getting on top of them, but that kind of stuff doesn't get to me now. I take things as they come and I try to turn things around by focusing on what I do out on the pitch. You score a goal and it's problem solved.

You just spoke about the standard of Argentinian football today. What can be done to improve it?
We can make it stronger by keeping hold of the youngest players. We need to get more out of them and stop them leaving so young. They should stay until they're 24 or 25 because they've still got long careers in front of them when they're that age. But what we're seeing are 20-year-old guys, players who are a real asset to the Argentinian game, going to Europe and leaving a huge hole behind them.

We know you like to watch football at home. Will we be seeing you coaching in the future?
I'd love to, of course. It would be fantastic to be in charge of a team and experience things from the other side. You have to be patient about these things, though, and just wait to see what comes up. I wouldn't go and coach anywhere. When you play for Boca you get used to the big-club atmosphere. I need to bide my time.

And how would one of your teams play?
I share the same philosophy as Carlos Bianchi and Alfio Basile. You don't have to invent anything new in football.

What kind of qualities does a penalty-box predator need to have?
You always need to think the ball's heading your way no matter where it might come from. It's what people call 'goalscoring instinct'. You have to be positive and think the ball's always coming your way. It's all about being prepared and obviously your frame of mind has a big part to play as well. If you're feeling confident, you're never going to think 'I won't make it' or 'What's the point of going for that, it's too high?' If you're positive and in good shape, the ball will come to you.

That is how most people see you no doubt. Would you would get a game in one of your teams?
You bet. A player like me would always be in my team.