Schalke striker Franco di Santo may be an outside bet for Jorge Sampaoli's Argentina World Cup squad; but one thing is for certain, if Germany beat Lionel Messi and Co. once again he's leaving the country... or so he says...
In this wide-ranging interview with bundesliga.com, former Chelsea man Di Santo discusses his and Argentina’s chances in Russia this summer; how the Bundesliga stacks up against the English Premier League, and whether Domenico Tedesco’s Royal Blues should be compared to Barcelona…
bundesliga.com: Franco Di Santo, Schalke have started afresh this season after finishing 10th last, thanks in no small part to Domenico Tedesco. When did you first get the feeling that something could come of this reboot?
Franco Di Santo: “We all felt very early on that this reboot would be more than just a headline that makes for good reading in the press. I remember thinking after the first few games ‘this group can make an impact and we can achieve something great this season.’”
Watch: Di Santo Under Pressure for 60 seconds!
bundesliga.com: Your strike partner Guido Burgstaller says that everyone quickly took to the coach’s philosophy...
Di Santo: “I can sum that up in three words: “teamwork” and “winning mentality”. We all realised that we could only be successful working together. You can never achieve anything in football just depending on one player. Teamwork is also the key to success.”
bundesliga.com: How might that apply to your native Argentina and Lionel Messi? Can the Albiceleste avenge the 2014 World Cup final defeat to Germany?
Di Santo: “I believe and hope so. This team has been through a lot of hardship with losses in the World Cup final to Germany and two Copa America finals against Chile. This generation of players deserves more than final defeats and finishing second. So my great wish as an Argentine, as a fan and as a footballer is for this generation to get one more chance. Maybe even against Germany in the final. But if Germany win that again then I’ll leave the country forever (laughs)!”
Di Santo: “I’d like to think so! It would be great if the fact that we’re performing well at good clubs in a top league is being acknowledged back home. The Bundesliga is a really tough competition. A lot of people say the English Premier League is the best in the world, but I don’t see many differences or any edge over the Bundesliga. Quite the opposite in fact, because the fight for Champions League places is much tougher in the Bundesliga than in England because more teams are fighting for those places. In England, there’s already 17 points between Manchester United in second and Arsenal in sixth. In the Bundesliga, we’ve only got an eight-point lead over Hoffenheim in seventh.”
bundesliga.com: You’ve also played Wigan and Blackburn, as well as Chelsea in England. Do you think Schalke’s current style would please the average English football fan?
Di Santo: “I think so. When you show English fans that you’re willing to bend over backwards for the team at any moment, then they’ll be pleased. I think our fans are happy with our style of play, especially when we keep winning. If some critics believe we should be playing tiki-taka football like Barcelona every week, then they’d be better off getting on a plane to Spain (laughs). First of all, there’s only one Barcelona, and second, your style of play always depends slightly on the opposition. Against some teams you have to run a lot more, while against some it’s sometimes better to allow them more of the ball. That doesn’t mean we can’t play attractive football but simply that things change from game to game. We’ve played some really attractive football in matches this season.
bundesliga.com: You’re currently second and on course for Champions League qualification. Is it even more enjoyable knowing you’re ahead of local rivals Borussia Dortmund?
Di Santo: “We’re not thinking about who’s in front or behind us in the table. It’s important for us to try and do a good job every week. But that only works when you go game by game and don’t think about what the situation may be like in three, four or five weeks. Of course a striker wants to score in every game, preferably three or four times, but the Bundesliga is a top league and no team can score a million goals (laughs). And honestly, if we win then I’m not bothered whether I scored or a teammate did. The important thing is to feel that the coach trusts me.”