Ünder: “I came from a place where youngsters aren’t given chances like this in life.”

John Solano

Cengiz Ünder gave an extensive interview to These are his words:

On meeting Totti during his first day: “I still can’t quite believe it. He is a legend, an inspiration. Having Totti welcome me to Roma on my first day here is difficult to even describe. I can’t even tell you how excited I was. I felt like a fan meeting an idol, he has that effect. I even asked if we could take a photograph together, which I uploaded straight on to Instagram. Totti is something else, he represents something more than football. On and off the pitch he is a legend. He is a name synonymous with Roma. It is impossible not to feel a connection to the club when you walk into your first training session and get welcomed by Totti. Later that day Murat Ozguven [his translator] came over and told me Totti would like a one-to-one chat once I have settled in and learned Italian. I told him I want to live up to the standard he set at Roma and be loved by the fans as he is. Totti then told me: ‘I have faith in you, otherwise you wouldn’t be here.’“

On his move to Roma: “Moving abroad was a real culture shock. There is a lot more involved than I ever imagined. I moved abroad on my own and left my family behind, not knowing anyone or being able to communicate with anyone. I couldn’t talk with anyone. I can’t tell you how frustrating that was. I didn’t think about these things beforehand. It was really tough. I really felt alone for the first time, really alone. It was the first time I experienced real loneliness. I came from a place where youngsters are not given these chances in life.”

On Monchi: “I was convinced after we heard Monchi’s plan. Monchi [Roma’s director of football] explained they were making big changes. He made it clear that he wanted me as a player for the first-team squad, not as a future prospect. He valued me as a footballer in my own right now, as a rising star with potential. He knows what to say and how to explain things. He explained the project in detail, that they are a club not afraid to play young players and that the manager has the courage to give youngsters a shot. That clinched it for me.”

On Di Francesco: ”The manager played a major role in convincing me to join Roma. I have always had an interest in the tactical side of the game. I love that side of the game. It was a real learning curve getting to grips with the manager’s tactics but he was a great help. He took extra time to go through what he expects from me in great detail. He went out of his way to make me feel welcomed. He is a really intelligent coach and he makes sure he drills his tactics into the players. He makes big calls and is willing to take risks. They say Italian football is defensive but he likes attacking football. But he also does demand discipline. The level of planning that goes into preparing for games is like nothing else I have experienced. Some players will complain about training but I’m the opposite. I love it. If there is shooting practice I like to continue practising after the session has finished. I have come a long way in a short time. I like to prove people wrong and exceed expectations. I’ve been doing it since the age of 10.”

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MatchDay 37
19 May 20:45