You are also like Zola in that you get a lot of physical attention on the pitch, you get kicked a lot but you both tend to keep your cool, you don’t react, you don’t retaliate. It’s that difficult?
No, it is natural, and it is the education. My parents they always said to me if the guy kicks you, show him on the pitch, and that is my philosophy. Simple! Now you know that every game I get kicked but you know my philosophy is okay, the defender who gave me the kick, I will try to give him a nutmeg or something like that, because if I want to punch the guy I am small and I will lose [he laughs], for sure!
What about decision-making on the pitch. Do you try to see all the options around you, do you guess what is likely to happen next?
I try. I try to see everything but in football you need to think quick, you don’t have 10 seconds to think can I pass on the right or on the left because if you think too much the defender takes the ball. I like to say that I play with instinct, every time I have the ball I try to find the right solution. If the right solution is to dribble, I dribble and if the best solution is to pass the ball, I pass the ball or I move. I always play with instinct, that is it.
Players like you have a particular pressure on them in that sometimes everyone is looking to you to make the difference, particularly if a game is not going that well. That is quite a lot of pressure to deal with.
For me, I don’t like to say I don’t feel the pressure because in football you always have a bit of pressure, but you don’t think a lot about this. I am thinking when I am playing football that I try to give my best. If the team needs me, I will try to give my best. Sometimes yes, the game is not easy, they are defending well, we are attacking well but we don’t arrive to score and sometimes we are the type of player who can change the game. Zola when he was playing was this kind of player, we can change the game in one second and yes, the attention is on us but we can deal with that, no problem.
With the odd exception, generally over the years you have avoided injuries. Is there anything particularly important in preventing them?
I am lucky I am strong. You can see sometimes people in football are fragile and they have a lot of injuries but I am lucky. I had the injury in my ankle last year but most of the time I am good, I can play, why I don’t know. I take care of my body for sure, I am professional for sure but I can’t explain. We can see some players who don’t get injured even if they do everything different from me. I think it is the body, maybe you are lucky or not lucky.
Given your height you score a fair few headers. Are you happy with how many?
Yes, because I can jump, that is why. Sometimes in England the defenders they are tall and I am small and I can beat them, so it is good but it is not my football, it is just a bonus because I like to play with the ball at my feet.