Ahead of Wednesday’s all-important Derby della Madonnina, check out what one of Inter’s forgotten men in Matias Vecino had to say when he sat down with Il Giornale earlier in the week.
What went wrong for the Nerazzurri during their winter of discontent and what has changed during the last month? Was there any truth to those rumours regarding a dressing room split? And what would Mati do if he scored the winning goal on Wednesday evening?
The answers to all those questions and more can be found in the conversation below.
A good lad whose life revolves around home, family and the training ground. Educated, timid, reserved, one of those who doesn’t love posting photos on social media. Low on frills, high on pragmatism. His only concession in that sense is for tattoos: “But that’s normal, pretty much every footballer has one or two nowadays.”
Vecino, are you really that easy-going? Are there no exceptions?
“I certainly don’t like going out on the town and living a frivolous lifestyle. I prefer to keep myself to myself, but in the dressing room I’m friends with everyone and very sociable.”
You’re going through a strange period at the moment, you’re playing less.
“I’ve been suffering with a groin injury since January. I was finding it hard to run and to train at the start and it penalised me. I’m feeling a bit better now but the coach has found other solutions in midfield, so I need to wait my turn. It’s normal. But I’m happy.”
Because Inter have made it out of their crisis...
“The team has recovered its confidence and self-belief, and when that happens you start getting that little bit of luck you need here and there again.”
What happened exactly during that two-month blackout?
“Our standards dropped. We became insecure and when that happens it’s hard to get out of the slump, you don’t even understand why you’re in it.
“Even when you train well and you’re committed you aren’t able to express yourself on the pitch and everything conspires against you.”
What kind of role has Spalletti played this season?
“An important one. He’s given me a lot of confidence. He’s a coach who always pushes you to give everything and go beyond your own limits.”
Inter have always stayed near the top of the table this season, even throughout the difficult period.
“This is the important thing for our season objective. We have the change to extend our advantage over Lazio this week and that’s what we want to do.
“We have to make the Champions League, that’s our objective.”
There’s been talk recently of divisions in the dressing room, of separate clans, of arguments...
“All the kind of bollocks that emerges whenever you aren’t getting results. It’s normal that there are groups - I speak more with the other South Americans because of the language - but we’re a very tight unit.
“When things start going badly people always look for off-pitch things, but they’re just rumours.”
It’s derby time. Thoughts heading into the game?
“I think it’s crucial for us, we have the chance to create a gap.
“We lost the last one in the Coppa Italia but in the first league game we had an unbelievable evening, and we want to experience that again.”
How will the game be decided?
“By individual moments and by the forwards. Our forwards are great and we give them good service in the box we know they can cause Milan damage.”
Come on, go out on a limb for us: who’s going to win?
“I’m not saying, it’ll bring bad luck. But we want to win.”
Is it a cliché to describe it as a special game?
“No, there’s more adrenaline, it has a special feel to it. We’re playing for our fans as much as for ourselves and we don’t want to let them down.”
Is there someone you’d want to take from Milan’s team? Perhaps a friend?
“Hmm... no, honestly no. They’re a good team in great form but I wouldn’t take any of them for our team.
“I know the South Americans and I’m good friends with Kalinic but I’m certainly not going to speak to him before the derby...”
Talking of friends, Davide Astori is another man you were close to.
“It was terrible.
“I first met him at Cagliari and then again in Florence. He was a great guy, really. It was always his voice you heard before the start of every game, more than the coach’s voice.
“He was a great teammate, I was speechless when I heard the news. We have to keep going but my thoughts are with his family, it must be devastating for them.”
Life goes on, it has to. If you were to look to the future, who would you like to play with one day?
“It’s too easy to say Messi or Ronaldo. I’ll say Iniesta and Busquets.”
Two players who will be at the World Cup this summer, just like yourself.
“A dream come true, the most beautiful and important moment of my career.”
You could have played for Italy had you so wished...
“There were a couple of approaches but I never had any doubt about playing for Uruguay. The national team is too important.
“Playing for Italy for me would have been like playing for another club - I don’t feel Italian, it would have been senseless and disrespectful.”
You’ll be going to the World Cup whereas Icardi probably won’t be...
“Let’s hope we both go. Argentina have loads of strikers but someone like him can’t miss out and I think ultimately he’ll go. The best players have all got to be there and he will be there.”
You’re a calm, gentle, reserved guy. But what would happen if you scored the winning goal in the derby? Would you get excited then?
“Of course, everything changes on the pitch. If I score I’ll go mad, I’ll run 100 metres!”