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Goal.com Exclusive Interview: Riccardo Montolivo-The Next Totti
11/23/2004 2:36:00 PM

Last weekend, Goal.com's Italian chiefeditor Sergio Stanco met up with Italy's most important prospect, Riccardo Montolivo, a player that has already been linked to clubs the calibre of Inter, Juventus, and Real Madrid. The Atalanta creative spoke to us about his first Serie A season, his emotions, and his dreams.

When you arrive at Zingonia, Atalanta’s headquarters, it doesn’t look like you’re in Bergamo’s countryside. A futuristic structure, made of glass, mirrors and metal, welcomes the sports centre, press hall, but also the players’ rooms.

However, to enter the complex, you must ring the bell of a certain family, so they can open up to let you in. This represents all the success of this club which, apart from last year’s purgatory in Serie B, has been in the ‘football that counts’ for many years, without having the financial advantage other clubs can enjoy.
Atalanta is this: family environment associated with the highest professionalism. After all, it’s well known, that at Bergamo you work hard and look at the results, without thinking too big when things go well, nor get too depressed when things don’t go too well.

When you meet Montolivo then, you think that he exemplifies perfect the Bergamo character: shy, simple and determined.

So Ricardo, let’s start from the present. How did you feel defeating Juventus in the Coppa Italia, the team which also seems to be interested in you?

It was a great emotion because it’s the first time that we beat a big team: it’s a result which gives us a lot of confidence in a delicate moment for us. With regards to the transfer-market, I live with serenity these rumours which I have only read on the newspapers.

The goals by your friend Lazzari have therefore pleased you…

Yes because we have grown-up together. I’m really happy for him, he’s an exceptional lad.

With regards to your performance, I imagine you would have wanted to do better?

Yes I would have obviously liked to be more decisive, but the important thing, in the end, is the team’s performance.

You often repeat that you want to be decisive because you are not right now. Is it because the defences have started to know you?

Well, if we’re last, it’s obvious that I could do something more. In Serie A you don’t get too many playable balls and it’s very different from last year for me, definitely more difficult.

This is your first year in Serie A. How do you feel playing in such important games?

It’s beautiful, a dream come true. It’s a great category, with great players and even great quality. I have always worked to arrive at this point.

An excellent start to the season, in which you also scored your first goal in Serie A and received the compliments of a great champion: Gianfranco Zola. How did it make you feel?

I wanted to do well in that match because I came back from a month-long stop and all went well. Zola’s compliments pleased me a lot. He’s a player and man I admire a lot.

Mandorlini played you everywhere. In all the midfield roles, behind the two strikers and also on the wing. How would you describe yourself as a player to a public that doesn’t know you?

I consider myself as an offensive midfielder. I’m a central midfielder; from the four midfielders I see myself in the middle. Then it’s clear that I play anywhere the mister puts me, but if I had to choose, I would say central midfielder.

Which player do you admire most? Zidane is maybe the one that resembles you mostly in characteristics…

Zidane is a great player but I have always admired Francesco Totti more than anyone else.

And what do you think about Cassano? From the character point of view you two seem opposites.

He’s a great player and has incredible natural qualities. I don’t want to judge him outside the pitch, he should be judged just for what he does on the pitch. I must still work a lot to reach his level as he has already been at the top for the past three or four years.

This interview will end up on the official websites of various rival teams. Tell us what you admire in particular about these teams? Let’s start from Bologna.

Meghni impressed me a lot and Locatelli makes me go crazy; he’s a great player. I was in Atalanta’s youth team when he was in the first squad; I never met him but I always liked him, and even if now he’s not going through a great moment, I’m sure he will be back on top because he has all the qualities.


I know quite well the players who play with me in the Under 21 team; it’s a good team, with a lot of quality youths. And then there’s Gilardino who has been described with all the possible adjectives.


They have an excellent coach. I had Caso in the youth national team and he’s great. I’m sure that they will do well.


We played against them recently. It’s a great solid team; they will surely do better than last year.


The change of coach gave them an extra push. My friend Chiellini plays with them and I’m really happy for him and his national team call-up.

Let’s finish with Milan..

They’re an excellent team, the only alternative to Juve: it will be a great duel till the end.

Speaking about the national team, did you think about it or just about the Under 21?

Absolutely not, because I want to do well just with the Under 21. Up till now I only had one opportunity in which I did well, even though an injury stopped me then. Now I hope to continue from where I stopped.

However Lippi showed he does not fear to make use of the youth…

I know. I noticed but I really don’t think about it. I think it’s still too early for me.

Back to the Under 21: you, Pazzini, Lazzari and Bianchi represent an important part. All from the Atalanta youth team, what is the secret?

I don’t know but I would like to highlight that here the attention is first given to the person not to the player.

And what about the fans? The team is not doing too well, but the crowd is always close to you…

It’s true, they are extraordinary as they always support us and give us that extra push. Also on Friday against Juve in the Coppa Italia, the ‘curva’ was full and never stopped chanting. Simply incredible.

I know you don’t like to talk about the transfer-market, but during this past week, your name has been associated to Inter and Juve more than once. How does that feel?

(He smiles sincerely)I read, I read. It’s useless to hide the fact that this pleases me a lot; it means I’m doing well. However, for now, I will only think about avoiding the relegation with Atalanta.

It’s just a game, but hypothetically do you prefer Mancini’s game or Capello’s capacity to forge champions?

(He blushes shyly) I really don’t know, you put me in difficulty. (He becomes more embarrassed) I can only say that I admire them both.

Which of your team mates would you suggest to the big teams?

If I told you one, I would be excluding the other so I will tell you Pazzini and Lazzari; they’re both great.

Many forget you only have 19 years of age and maybe give you too many responsibilities, but how did your life change now that you are a top-flight player?

I think nearly nothing changed. I live it all with extreme serenity and tranquillity living the same life I had three years ago.

From this point of view, was your family’s support important?

Well, they helped me a lot. Even though they are big fans, they have always let me free and tranquil. They never denied me their support.

As we said before, you are still very young, even though you have been playing in the football that matters for the past three years. Like all lads of your age you probably have your own hobbies. For example, a book or the Playstation?

To be honest, the Playstation…

Therefore during the retreats there are the Fifa Soccer leagues. Who are your rivals?

(He laughs) Pazzini and Marcolini, we enjoy ourselves a lot.

If I’m not wrong, you have a girlfriend. Did you dedicate to her your first goal in Serie A? Where did you meet her?

You remember correctly and she was very happy. I met her at school, we were in class together.

Back to current events; Sunday’s match against Reggina will already be a relegation encounter. How do you live it?

We desperately need the 3 points, we must win but also convince, confirming the good things we showed against Juve.

Finally, what do you wish to Atalanta and yourself for the future?

Sincerely I only think about avoiding the relegation. This club gave me a lot and this is the least I can do to repay her.

Then eventually a call from the big teams is always accepted.

It’s always accepted, but only at the right time. I’m sincere, I think that a transfer is good only at the right time. And I don’t know if this is the right time…

An experience abroad? You know that in Spain they talk very well about you on the newspapers?

I won’t exclude it yet, it might be interesting, but I really think it’s too early as I’m still too young to leave Italy.

Montlivo leaves us like this, with the same serenity and tranquillity with which he welcomed us. A handshake and he’s gone. For now, he will be playing the Champions League matches on the Playstation, at least until he will feel ready for the big jump. Because what he declared aren’t the usual routine statements. At Bergamo there is no time for small talk and we wouldn’t be surprised to see him next year with Atalanta again. He doesn’t need to mature and this interview proved so, but another year as an apprentice in Serie A might do him well. What’s sure is it will do well for Atalanta and its fans…

54,576 Posts
Well it is still tough for him. He maybe has a bit more work to be done until the end of the season. If Atalanta goes down it hi not his fault but this season is where he needs to show everyone what he is made of before Juve or Inter buy him and possibly ruin him. I think a good move for him would actually be Palermo, Fiorentina, Sampdoria or someone along those lines, possibly someone which plays a trequartista which rules out Samp.

2,535 Posts
I'm not to worried about Montolivo if he turns out to be the next Baggio then great but more probably he will be a good player. He might be as great as Baggio but probably not. I doubt anyone doesn't want that to happen but he needs some time yet though the really amazing players usually burst on to the stage early. I have never seen him play so I will have to try to watch him.

In all likelihood it's going to be a while before Italy has a player like Baggio again.

54,576 Posts
I think at last we have a young number 10 with some hope. In the last 5 years we have not had many number 10's entering the scene. Only Cassano and Miccoli from what I can remember...

22,221 Posts
Zangari_Italia said:
I only hope to God that he stays in Italy. It's also interesting to see people are saying next Totti not Baggio.
To be the next baggio my friend you need to be something of super-human,Nevertheless I think that Cassano will be the closest to emulate Baggio if anyone,he's a real genius.

54,576 Posts
I dont mean those are the only grat number 10's w have produced.

I think they are the ONLY number 10's that have came out in the last 5 years. I may b mistaken but where are the Morfeo's or the Locatelli's coming through in Serie A...

6,222 Posts
Cassano does seem to resemble Baggio in atleast one sense - all troubles at club level (though different ones) and excellent NT record (so far atleast).

2,024 Posts
No.10 is given to the 'fantasista' of the team, no matter if he's a midfield playmaker (Rui Costa, Zidane etc) or a 'seconda punta' (Cassano, R.Baggio, Miccoli etc)
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