If Atalanta play Lazio, it is he who is chasing Immobile; if he plays against Milan, he is the limpet of Ibrahimovic; If Juventus is measured, he marks Cristiano and if he visits Anfield he takes care of Salah. Cristian Romero's mission (Córdoba, Argentina, 22 years old) is always the most difficult in the most daring defense in Europe. So far he has never lost a big duel: Immobile, Cristiano, Ibrahimovic and Salah were left dry. This Wednesday Madrid assaults the central revelation's trench in Bergamo.
Question. What is the difference between playing against Madrid, Juventus, Inter or Milan?
Answer. It is the most beautiful game of my career. The Champions is another level. Starting with the players. To think about eliminating a team like Madrid we have to give more than we give in Serie A.
P. When you want to praise a striker, you say he is daring. Isn't daring today also a virtue of the central markers?
R. It depends in what sense. The best step I took in my career was not staying at Juventus and coming on loan to Atalanta. Juve is a great club and I thought that maybe in a squad with so many players [they have Chiellini, Bonucci and De Ligt at the back] they wouldn't have as many opportunities to continue growing. Being at my current level is part of [Gian Piero ] Gasperini's job.
Q. What did he teach you?
R. He is behind me, correcting me, talking to me, helping me to be more complete and making me grow especially tactically . Because before, practically, I was a disaster in the tactical aspect, and now I feel comfortable. The game system we have is not easy and I have adapted quite quickly
P. Gasperini has said that order, balanced lines and symmetry are good for defending but that to attack you have to get disorderly. How do you defend yourself without the reference of the lines, when all the lines have to be broken to create?
R. The Atalanta lines are defined, beyond the fact that in the matches … it is not that we get disordered but that we always seek to achieve superiority With the ball. We want to find spaces in the areas occupied by players who are not defending the rival team. It depends on the adversary. But 90% of the forwards that we face do not defend, and that is where the three centrals try to find the spaces to take the ball to the rival field. It seems that we are messy but tactically we are very balanced. We received fewer goals than a year ago.
Our idea is to attack 90 minutes and for that we need the three centrals to also attack
Q. With Gasperini the centrals play as flyers too?
R. Our idea is to attack 90 minutes and for that we need the three centrals to attack as well. I who play in the center do not do it as much, but the center on the right and the one on the left are constant supports for the attackers. They have to try to get the whole game into the opponent's half court
R. Because if the midfield line and the centrals do not get the ball as cleanly as possible, for those above it is harder to make a difference. It is complicated because playing like this the errors of the centrals in control and in the pass are more obvious, since they can cause a clearer chance for the opponent. There is a risk, but in the group stage of the Champions League this risk paid off for us
Q. You are the defender who has stolen the most balls in this Champions League: 10 balls on average per game in the group stage. How do you get out of your zone and anticipate so effectively?
A. Our system is to make the opponent play badly. Defenders basically play man against man. If it's my turn to mark Benzema [injured in the first leg ] and Benzema runs to the Madrid area, I'll follow him. This can happen because Benzema is a type of striker who doesn't give you reference points, he moves with total freedom. If as central your reference is not the area but the player, that starting point helps you because it eliminates doubts: the reference is your man and you follow him. Gasperini assigns each brand well in advance. The games are worked on during the week because each rival plays in a different way and defensively we adapt.
If Ilicic played for Juventus or Inter he would be the best player in Serie A
Q. Who are the Madrid players that should be left to think less?
R. In Barcelona and Madrid the best in the world play in all positions. But if I have to name three of Madrid they are Modric, Kroos and Benzema. They are the ones who most influence their colleagues .
P. Gasperini demands audacity. They say that when you made your debut in Belgrano de Córdoba you reacted to your mistakes by attacking the rival goal. Shouldn't the center-backs be more afraid of being wrong?
R. I defined my position when I was 14 years old, but in lower categories I have always liked to play in the middle or above. Anticipation and driving in attack are things that always came out of me. In this game we are all going to make mistakes. Playing in fear is difficult. I try to be as loose as possible. With 100% confidence. That helps make good decisions. Every mistake I made when I started in Primera helped me to grow, to mature faster and learn many things.
Q. How do you define Josip Ilicic?
R. I have scored the great forwards of Serie A; Ibrahimovic, Cristiano, Dybala, Immobile, Lukaku… Ilicic is at that level and more. He has not won so many titles but watching him every day I have no doubt that if he played for Juventus or Inter he would be the best player in Serie A. He does things that only different people can do. Every time he plays he simplifies everything because he solves very difficult situations, assists, generates, unbalances, defines. It is important for us that he is always well.
P. Why in the last decade were Argentine central centers of category and good ball handling so scarce?
R. I don't know. Now I see that great centers pass through the national team who are also great players, like Lisandro Martínez, from Ajax, or Marco Senesi, from Feyenoord. Lisandro is one of the defenders with the greatest potential. It will go very far. He has a technique that helps him play in midfield adapting to Ajax's style of possession.
Q. What center-backs inspire him?
R. Ramos, Chiellini, Bonucci and De Ligt. I watch Real Madrid and Juventus matches to see them