A star performer for Internacional since joining the Porto Alegre outfit nearly three seasons ago, Andres D’Alessandro has succeeded in putting a mixed five-year spell in Europe behind him. Indeed, having struggled for consistency at Wolfsburg, Portsmouth and Real Zaragoza, the former River Plate star has turned his career around since returning to South America first with San Lorenzo and now Inter, and has been rewarded with fans’ favourite status at O Colorado and a place in the Argentina squad for recent friendlies against Spain and Japan.
Still fiercely ambitious at the age of 29, D’Alessandro remains fully focused and determined to continue turning his stellar displays into silverware, after playing a vital role in Inter’s 2010 Copa Libertadores triumph. And next up for the outrageously gifted No10 is an opportunity to further enhance his glowing reputation come this year’s FIFA Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi.
In an exclusive interview with FIFA.com, the midfield man spoke about a range of issues including this December’s showpiece, his debt of gratitude to Inter and his return to the Argentina set-up under coach Sergio Batista.
FIFA.com: Andres, do you think you’re in the best form of your career?
Andres D’Alessandro: I’m having a very good spell, but I’m not sure it’s my best. But it is good because I’ve won titles, which are any player’s main objectives. I performed well in the Libertadores and things are also going well in the Brazilian championship. There’s no doubt that I’ve got to make the most of this period.
After five years in European football you returned to Argentina before making the switch to Brazil. Do you think you’ve grown in maturity in recent years?
As the years go by people grow up in every way, be it as a player or a person. I know that I’m much more mature now in both of those areas. I’ve been playing professional football for ten years now but I’ve stayed humble and I learn new things every day, both on and off the pitch. I’m at an ideal point in my life and playing well. I’ve been achieving my goals and winning titles, which are both vital for making you more mature.
Let's turn to the FIFA Club World Cup. Should Internacional come up against Inter Milan in the final, you may encounter a number of your national team colleagues. Have you spoken to them about this possibility?
We spoke about this a lot, especially on this recent trip to Japan, but we never let the conversations get too serious. I know [Esteban] Cambiasso, [Diego] Milito, [Javier] Zanetti and [Walter] Samuel and they’re excellent players. We feel proud to have this opportunity but, in my mind, European teams are a cut above. Let’s just wait and see how well we fare. We’ve got to play a semi-final match first and we can’t think about them (Inter Milan) until that’s over. Anyway, we’re working hard to make sure that final match comes about and we’re not going to sell ourselves short.
How much does this tournament mean to you? Is it your greatest remaining ambition at club level?
I’ve already won the Libertadores, so there’s no doubt at all that this (the FIFA World Club Cup) would now be the most important title of my career. At club level it’s the biggest competition we can take part in.
After a long while off the international scene, how much do you think your success at Inter has influenced your return to Albiceleste duty?
To be back in the national squad was something I’d hoped for for a long time. And everyone knows that whether you get your chance or not depends on how you’re doing at your club. That’s why Inter have a large share (of responsibility for my return), because they gave me an excellent infrastructure to work in. I’d not been selected for over two years, but I’ve done well and think I deserved to be called up. My main goal was to break back into the squad and now I want to stay there.
Despite once being one of your country’s brightest young hopes, you’ve yet to take part in a FIFA World Cup. Is that something you still wish to achieve?
There’s no doubt that playing at a World Cup is the greatest dream of any professional footballer and I’ve never made it happen. I came close on two occasions but wasn’t selected. So it’s not something I can or want to think about now. At the moment my focus is Inter and the Club World Cup. That said, I want to keep working hard to stay in good shape and give myself a better chance (of appearing at Brazil 2014).
Since Juan Roman Riquelme retired from national team duty, Argentina have appeared to lack a big-name performer in your position. Do you think you could be just the creative midfielder the team needs?
To be honest Argentina haven’t been producing as many players in my position as they used to, but they do have other players with a lot of experience too. It all depends on the coach, the way he wants to play and the tactics he wants to use. I agree with [Sergio] Batista’s footballing philosophy: he doesn’t want to have a style that’s set in stone and can send out a side with or without a specific playmaker. What’s helping me now is the fact that I played in a variety of positions when I was in England and Spain. I can’t be trapped by the fact that I’m a No10 and, if I have to play in a different position, I’ll give it my best shot. All of that’s important for giving the coach more options at his disposal.
Ahead of Argentina’s friendly with Brazil in November, are you looking forward to the opportunity to play for your country against the nation where you’ve earned hero status?
I’ve already played against Brazil but I wasn’t with Inter back then, so this time will be very different. Brazilians have a special regard for me, because I’ve been in this country for a good while now. I’m very grateful for the way I’ve been welcomed here. So it won’t be easy, but games between Brazil and Argentina are always a big deal.