Barrios: Maradona is my hero

Argentinian hitman Lucas Barrios, currently banging in the goals for Bundesliga outfit Borussia Dortmund, is certainly no stranger to hard work, needing spells in his homeland, Mexico and Chile before earning a summer 2009 move to Europe. And the world’s top league scorer in 2008 has quickly translated his impressive form in Latin America to the German game, with fifth-placed Borussia, the 1997 UEFA Champions League winners, reaping the benefits.

The 25-year-old sharpshooter, one of eight children from a humble family hailing from near Buenos Aires, gave an exclusive interview with on his career so far, his Albiceleste dream, his hero Maradona and the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. Lucas, you started your career with Argentinos Juniors, a club where Diego Maradona also started out. What are your memories of this time?
Lucas Barrios: I progressed through all the youth teams at the club and eventually made it into the first team. That was where I gained my first experiences as a professional before I was loaned out to Chile.

How important was the time in Argentina’s second division for you?
I didn’t play a great deal, but the experience I gained there was very important for my future development. I learned what it means to play hard. That still helps me today when I play for Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga.

Your international breakthrough came while you were with Cobreloa in Chile. Why did everything click into place there?
It was a very well-run club and I was treated fantastically. The people there supported me from the outset and I repaid their faith with goals. The support I received from all quarters made a real impression on me.

Then you moved again to Mexico to Atlas…
Yes, after an excellent season with Cobreloa I had the opportunity and good fortune to go to Mexico. But I had back luck there from the start. The team was poorly assembled and there were problems within the squad. That affected my performances and I only managed one goal in my time there.

But top Chilean club Colo Colo showed an interest and signed you up…
My coach there Claudio Borghi put his faith in me from day one. He gave me complete freedom on the pitch and that allowed me to score goals. Everything went perfectly for me and the club. I was top scorer in the Apertura and Clausura tournaments and we won the Chilean championship.

So what made your mind up to move to Europe and Borussia Dortmund?
I had a number of enquiries from European clubs. Several clubs wanted to talk to me but Borussia Dortmund showed the most interest. They made it clear from the first meeting that they definitely wanted me. Negotiations went well from both sides and I signed my contract. I hope now I’ll be scoring goals for BVB for a long time to come.

Naturally the language is a slight problem but I’m working hard to learn it and also to find my feet in life outside football. It will take some time but I feel quite at home here.
Lucas Barrios on his move to Germany

How difficult did you find it moving from South America to Germany?
The first couple of months were difficult for me. Obviously if you compare South America with Germany the two cultures are very different. Here in Dortmund everything is very well-organised, which is something that struck me straight away. Naturally the language is a slight problem but I’m working hard to learn it and also to find my feet in life outside football. It will take some time but I feel quite at home here.

You have already scored 15 goals in competitive games this season. Where do you get your incredible confidence in front of goal?
My time with Colo Colo was crucial. Looking back, that was where I really learned to keep a cool head in front of goal. I’m much more mature, calm and versatile than at the beginning of my career. And fortunately, I keep managing to score more and more goals.

On the other hand, you have also picked up a lot of yellow cards. Are you something of a ‘hard man’?
Well, that’s probably because I also put in a lot of work defensively for the team. That means I often go in for tackles and sometimes commit fouls. But I don’t consider myself an unfair player.

Let’s talk about the Argentinian national team, which you have yet to play for. How do you rate your fellow countrymen four months before the 2010 FIFA World Cup?
La Albiceleste have qualified for the World Cup, which was a great success. The football world and particularly opposing nations know Argentina have a very strong team. I’m confident they’ll have a good tournament in South Africa. They won’t be outright favourites going into the finals, but in Lionel Messi they have an exceptional player who will be instrumental in the team’s success.

And when are we going to see you in an Argentina shirt?
The main thing for me is to perform well for Dortmund and score goals. That’s what I did at Colo Colo and that’s all I can do at the moment. Then if I receive the call from the national team at some stage I’ll be very grateful and proud.

The final decision lies with coach Maradona. Have you had any contact with him?
No, not yet. But he has hinted in the press that he’s watching me and has me on his radar. Diego Maradona is my biggest hero. He’s been my idol since I was a young boy and he’s one of the reasons why I absolutely want to play for the national team. Obviously it would also be a huge honour to play for my country and wear the Argentina shirt.

What do you need to do to finally make it into the national squad?
I always try to give my best. Everything else is out of my hands. If I carry on in that fashion, then I’m on the right path. I’m not driving myself crazy waiting for an international call-up. I’m simply working hard on my game and keeping a cool head. If I become too impatient it could backfire. I’m only 25 so I’ve got almost my whole career in front of me. If I haven’t made it into the team so far, then there is a reason for it. The coach will know when the time is right.