For Tottenham and Cristian Romero, it’s all about coming back.
Join Arsenal for this Sunday’s north London derby, continue Sky Sports Premier League, this is not the situation the Spurs envisioned at the beginning of the season. Last season, the two teams were separated by two points. Now they’re kind of like chalk and cheese.
Arsenal have shown near-perfect consistency throughout the season, leading the Premier League. On the other side of the divide, it’s less clear which version of Antonio Conte’s Spurs you’re getting each week.
The Spurs must contend with trailing their opponents by 14 points in a Super Sunday matchup — but that doesn’t mean much to Romero.
“I think we can come back from such a distance,” the centre-back told sky sports In an exclusive interview. “But we need to do a lot of work, use everything we have.
“If you’re at the top of the league, you’re supposed to be there, and they are. But we want to be there ourselves. We know we need to improve a lot of things, but we’re trying to think about ourselves, not them.”
Romero knows how to emerge from despair despite all the signs against you. The 17-year-old centre-back was snubbed by boyhood club Belgrano as he battled for relegation from Argentina’s top flight, leaving the game almost entirely.
“I had a couple of bad games, and then my superiors said some bad things to me,” Romero recalled.
“It was a tough time. I was very young and it was my first year playing professionally. Then I spent about 18 months on the bench, always alone, always in the reserves play football.
Romero tried to leave, with European clubs keen on the young defender – but Belgrano refused to let him go. That was pretty much the last straw for his thriving career.
“I say [to the hierarchy]: ‘I don’t want to train anymore. I’m giving up football. I would go and do some other job with my dad, or move on to another thing,” he recalls. “All because they got in the way of my career.
“I didn’t train for two or three days because I didn’t feel fit. Then the athletic director came to me and said: ‘Okay, you can go.'”
Now look at Romero. Not only is the veteran Premier League player of Tottenham Hotspur, but also the consecutive champions of the Argentine team. Copa America, finals, World Cup: we have it all. You do wonder what Belgrano’s hierarchy currently thinks of Romero’s success.
“At the end of the day, these things are valuable and make everything in your head stronger,” he said when asked if he thought about that time when he lifted the World Cup this winter.
“If I hadn’t been through that, I would have been in a much worse situation. It was a very positive growing up moment for me. It’s a great memory for me now.
“Playing in the Premier League, playing for Argentina, winning with Argentina. Those are things in the past.”
Still, there are critics — more of his temperament than his ability. For example, Argentina’s antics in winning the World Cup have been called into question – most notably their wild celebrations against the Netherlands and France.
Two iconic images stood out: Romero and his national team-mates riled up their Dutch opponents in the seconds after their quarter-final penalty shoot-out win, while Lionel May Romero screamed into hat-trick hero Kylian Mbappe’s face heading into the final after West gave Argentina a 3-2 lead.
Romero was quick to respond when asked if people were exaggerating the Argentine’s antics. “Yeah. Just because people only see pictures.
“People don’t think about what was said to get us to this point. Against Holland they said too much before they actually got on the pitch and we were annoyed by that.
“They say we lack respect, but that’s not the case. You can understand what happened next.”
Asked about that incident with Mbappe, Romero replied: “For France, it’s one thing. Messi scored a goal. [Argentina’s third goal] It all just came out. It’s not the most beautiful thing in the world, but it all comes out. “
Romero now faces the prospect of another big game on Sunday, arguably the biggest on Tottenham’s schedule. Don’t be surprised if the Argentine defender shows emotion again.
“It’s always been there. It’s just what it is,” Romero said when asked where his aggressive style of play came from. “The most important thing is that it’s inside me.
“I think some people thought I did something wrong. The aggressiveness was a bit over the top in my opinion. The way I played got me to where I am, that’s one of them.”
Romero spoke Italian in this interview and did not mention Arsenal by name once. He frequently mentioned the club names of Tottenham, Belgrano and former clubs Atalanta and Genoa.
But when it comes to describing Mikel Arteta’s side, it’s ‘them’ (them).
“If I had to say anything about them, it’s that they have a strong roster,” Romero said. “The player and the manager have been together for a long time.
“They’re at a big moment in what they’ve been building for years and we can see that at the moment they’re doing well. For us, we’re in a position where we still need to grow.
“This game is important. We need to win games. We need results. It’s going to be tough but I believe in our team. There’s always momentum between us. It’s not just a derby, although it’s a very important game .
“The Premier League is tough, there are a lot of strong teams and you have to give 100 per cent. Otherwise, you can’t play in this climate.
“We know it’s been a bit of an up and down season, we have to say, but we want to win. We’ll do everything we can to win this game at home.”
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