Karsdorp discusses his time at Roma, his return to form and more: “I knew I wasn’t done at Roma. I fought hard to return.”

Andy Mattioli

Rick Karsdorp seemed to be on his way out in the summer of 2020, when he first was close to joining Atalanta and then Genoa after concluding a loan spell of ups and downs at his boyhood club, Feyenoord. However, former manager Paulo Fonseca took a chance on him and decided that the Dutchman should stay in the capital.

What followed was a return from the ashes for Rick, now 26 years old, who concluded the 20/21 campaign with 45 total appearances across all competitions, 1 goal and 6 assists.

The full-back was recently interviewed by Il Romanista, where he shared his thoughts on a number of topics, including his return to form, Roma under Mourinho and the objectives for the upcoming season.

When asked what changed ever since he came to Roma in the summer of 2017, Rick said:

“I got older. It was a nice change: I was only 22 at the time, now four years later I’m more experienced, I’ve endured certain experiences that made me stronger, especially the numerous injuries. I also made a brief return to Feyenoord, but I’m happy to be back at Roma where I was given the opportunity to show everyone what I’m made of. And most importantly, I came back and learned to have fun in playing football.”

“Last year I played almost every game. That fills me with hope for the season ahead.”

On what he thinks he still needs to improve:

“As a footballer you always want to get better, you never reach a certain limit. For example, I’m good at sprinting, it’s something I just do very well, it’s a quality I have. This doesn’t mean that I can’t get better at it. That’s why we train so hard every day.”

When asked what he likes the most about dishing out assists to his teammates.

“It’s certainly something that I like to do a lot. It’s a way of helping out the team. But it’s also an area up for improvement.”

On what his feelings were once he made his return to the capital after his brief stint in Rotterdam and whether he considered leaving the Italian capital for good:

“When you go out on loan you never know what the future might hold for you. Even though I still had a contract with Roma. I just felt like something wasn’t right, like I hadn’t completed a job here. I wasn’t done with Roma. I had always been injured, but I didn’t want my name to represent failure. I didn’t want to leave this kind of bad memory.”

“That’s what kept me going. And that’s why I made the best of the opportunities I was given. I fought. I returned. And I ended up playing a lot. And I hope to keep this going.”

On whether he gave some words of encouragement to the likes of Zaniolo and Spina who also, similarly to Karsdorp, sustained a number of serious injuries.

“It’s difficult, every player is different, and recovery is different for every player even when it’s the same type of injury. When it happens it’s our job to motivate each other and tell the other person that they’ll be back stronger. Thankfully, knock on wood, that’s been the case for me. Spinazzola is older than me and more experienced. Meanwhile Zaniolo, even though he’s young, knew exactly what recovery would look like the second time around.”

When asked about an interview he gave upon his return to Feyenoord where he described his early experience in the Italian capital as lonely, he said:

“When I came here I was very young, only 22 years old, it was my first experience abroad. Luckily my wife speaks Italian, and this helped me a lot. I went through several injuries and that motivated me to return home, which also helped me quite a bit. There were players there that I knew from way back, it was a familiar place, I got some playing time back into my legs and that also motivated me to return stronger, both physically and mentally.”

“That’s what helped me play a lot last season: it’s a cycle, the more you play the more you’re appreciated, which then helps you play even more.”

His thoughts on the Conference League:

“I was lucky enough to win a championship and a cup in Holland, and I have them inked on my skin. If it were to happen at Roma, I would certainly find a place on my body for another tattoo.”

On the mental pressure that athletes are faced with on a regular basis:

“Personally, I’m not the type to succumb to pressure. Before games I never have any trouble sleeping, I’m calm and I sleep well. I felt tension in my first two years here. That was because of the injuries that kept on happening. I had been paid a lot of money to come here and I wanted to play and give back some of the confidence that had been placed in me, but I couldn’t do it because of all the physical problems.”

“There is also a kind of environmental tension: at my former club I saw a number of players play well on the smaller stage and as soon as the lights got brighter, the tension made them feel insecure and couldn’t play as well as they did before. When they would return to a smaller club, they’d go back to playing well.”

“Certainly in football there is a lot of pressure. You have to win at all costs, meet high expectations, but it depends on the player.”

On the current atmosphere at Roma:

“It’s nice, I like it here. I’m very happy. With a new coach you’re bound to start from scratch. There’s a new staff, everything’s new. I like how the manager makes us work, I like the training sessions. There’s a lot of scrimmages, set plays, reminds me a bit of my time in Holland.”

The main difference from last season:

“It’s too early to tell. But with a new manager you start from scratch and everybody wants to showcase their talent. Everybody’ll give 120% effort.”

On his expectations of Mourinho as a manager:

“Everybody knows him. He’s the Special One. I only knew him from TV, from his interviews: I like how he works, I like his training methods. The sessions are hard, intense. But I like them that way. That’s how you get better. I like how he addresses us, and he can also be very funny. When I got back from holiday I was curious as to what he was going to be like. I had only known him from TV.”

“He’s a really funny guy. He knows exactly when to make a joke. And that’s important for the team. But only outside the pitch. On the pitch you work hard. He’s very serious on the pitch.”

On his rapport with Dzeko whose goal he assisted in the friendly against Belenses:

“We talk very often during training. And he always tells me: if the ball is there, you’ll find me here and over there, if the ball is there I’ll make this movement. We train to be better. Not only as individuals but also as teammates. Last season was, after all, the first season we played together. I like to play with him a lot.”

On his relationship with fellow full-back, 19-year-old Bryan Reynolds who arrived at Roma in January from MLS.

“He’s American, I speak English and that makes everything much easier. There’s no problems in communicating with each other. He’s a young guy and arrived here not too long ago but I certainly try and help him integrate with the rest of the team. During matches I tend to talk to him and give him some tips on what to do on the pitch. Everybody does their own thing, everybody’s different, but if I can help somebody out, I will be glad to do so.”

When asked about what happened with his failed transfer to Atalanta and Genoa in the summer of 2020, and how went on to become one of the main reference points of the team, he said:

“I had just returned from my loan at Feyenoord, at the beginning my ideas weren’t too clear and I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I also had no idea what Roma wanted to do with me, what they expected of me at that point. But as I said before, I wanted to see what I can do and who I can be here at Roma.”

“There was some interest from Atalanta, who asked for me. But then, along with the management, we made a decision to continue together. And I renewed my contract. Facts speak for themselves: I wanted to play, and that’s what I did.”

He concluded by remembering a very difficult situation he had to face in his early days at Roma and how he overcame that.

“Now it’s out there. My child had a kidney problem. It was a problem that at first they hadn’t discovered in Holland and did not resolve. They managed to resolve it here, in Rome, at the Bambino Gesu Hospital. And I’ll be forever grateful to them for this.”

“Certainly it gave me a lot of strength to see my son get better. That gave me a lot of strength to fight on the pitch, too. He was in a very difficult situation. He was in bed a lot, but then he started to get better. Now, thankfully it’s all resolved. And that gives me all the strength I need.”

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MatchDay 37
19 May 20:45