Fernando Gago's short life has been nothing if not eventful. Widely tipped as the heir to Fernando Redondo's crown, the talented young Argentinian with a hunger for trophies was front page news in Spain over the winter before signing for a Real Madrid side keen to build their new project around him.
The reasons behind the Merengues' decision to entrust the future of their midfield to a mere 20-year-old are quite simple. As well as having pure talent and technique, bags of personality and a desire to win, Gago possesses a maturity that belies his years, perhaps the product of the trials and tribulations he has had to endure.
Having overcome the loss of his father in 2005, the boy they call Pintita has all the wisdom and common sense of a battle-hardened veteran. The Madrid man spoke to FIFA.com about life at his new club, his status as one of world football's most promising players and his cherished dream to run out for Argentina at South Africa 2010 .
FIFA.com: Fernando, you have achieved many things thus far in your short career, including a FIFA U-20 World Cup winners medal , a host of trophies with Boca Juniors, a transfer to Real Madrid and your first international cap. How do you manage to handle all this at the age of 20?
Fernando Gago: It's nothing really. I'm just trying to enjoy every minute. I try not to think too much about everything that goes on around me. Whenever I go through something big, I just try and see it as a unique event that might not happen again. That's the key.
You have just moved from Boca Juniors, one of the grandees of South American football, to Real Madrid, a major force in Europe. What are the differences between the two?
The biggest difference I've found is the club itself, above all in terms of infrastructure. After that, well the fact is they're very similar. They're both really big clubs who are always under a lot of pressure to win trophies. That's what their fans expect. Fortunately there aren't that many differences between them.
Some Real Madrid fans have said they would rather see the club promote players from the reserve teams than bring in young foreigners. What is your opinion on that?
It's fine by me. I played for the youth teams at Boca Juniors and I won a few titles with them, so I really understand why the fans identify themselves with players who come through the ranks. The thing is, though, I haven't come to Real Madrid as a youth player but as someone who's played in a lot of important competitions already and who wants to make a contribution.
Players seem to be leaving Argentina at a younger and younger age, a trend that has attracted a lot of criticism recently. What is your view?
In my case I felt the time was right for me to move to Spain. I came here because I knew I was good enough and I was clear about what I had to offer. I knew exactly what I was doing.
You have only just arrived here in Europe, but how do you see the rest of your career? Will you stay here for good or go back to Argentina at some point?
Right now my aim is to make a go of it here, to be a success with Real Madrid. That's all I'm thinking about at the moment. Let's just see what tomorrow brings. If I do go back, it'll be to Boca. That's something I've got in mind - I want to pull that jersey on again.
The game in Spain is different to Argentina. Where do you feel you have to improve to succeed here?
I don't think I have to change anything. I'm playing the same way I've always done and I just want to carry on showing why I got this far. I want to keep playing to the same standard but I don't think I have to change my game in any way.
Are you a football fanatic or do you prefer to switch off away from the training ground?
I really enjoy watching football. I see a lot of games and I like to analyse teams and learn from the great players that are out there.
You watched the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™ as a fan, but many people are convinced you will be playing at South Africa 2010. What are your views, looking back to last year's event and forward to that of 2010?
I thoroughly enjoyed the last World Cup as a fan, and I was hoping Argentina would go all the way. And I suffered like everyone else too - it doesn't matter whether you're a player or not. Now with South Africa coming up, I'm starting the process as part of the team. I made my debut against France in what was a great win, and I hope I can build on that and still be part of the team in 2010.
Finally, how would you like to look back on this phase in your career in, say, four or five years' time?
I don't like thinking about the future too much. I'd rather focus on the present and take things one day at a time. What I want to do now is succeed with Real Madrid, do justice to the club's great history and for us keep on playing well.