Lautaro Martinez reflected on Argentina’s World Cup win, Inter’s chances in the title race and the upcoming clash with Napoli.
The 25-year-old Nerazzurri striker did not have the most positive tournament, failing to find the back of the net across his six appearances, but he did net the winning penalty in their quarter-final victory over the Netherlands. Lautaro only started twice in Qatar and Inter will be hoping for him to be at full fitness ahead of the second half of this season.
Speaking to gathered reporters at Appiano Gentile, Lautaro first revealed what the first thing he thought was when Argentina’s winning penalty went in against France.
“To everything I have done in the past, I dreamed of that moment as a child and I didn’t think it could be so beautiful.”
He confirmed that the World Cup victory was the biggest dream of his career.
“Definitely yes, it was the biggest step of my career, the highest point to reach because you play for the people of your country.
“It was also beautiful and exciting because of how we won it, but now we have to keep winning because this is the mentality, to win all the competitions you play in.”
The 25-year-old touched on the Nerazzurri’s chances in the title race this season.
“Yes, I believe in everything. The first part is not even over yet, although we lost important points, and we know that. Wednesday, we have an important game ahead of us, we will have to be smart and play our game. Then Parma comes and we will also have to be ready for the Supercoppa.”
Lautaro discussed the celebrations in his home town of Bahia Blanca.
“It’s hard to explain the emotion, in Bahia Blanca they gave me and my family great recognition. It was an incredible emotion, total happiness, even the one experienced in Buenos Aires. The World Cup had been missing for so long and it deserved such a celebration.”
He touched on how much he slept after the final.
“One hour on the plane back, a little at home, also because the baby was jet-lagged and we slept very little.”
The 25-year-old remembered his three favourite moments in Qatar.
“For the first one I choose the defeat with Arabia because we talked to each other and got to work as we had been doing these three years.
“Then I put the game with the Netherlands, where they caught up with us in extra time, it was difficult, but the strength of the group came out again. The third one, however, is Montiel’s penalty.”
He spoke about the change in physique after such a tournament.
“I believe that a World Cup win gives you more strength, maybe in your head you are more tired from all you have experienced, but it is more a mental thing than a physical thing.”
Lautaro commented on if the World Cup win would help him maintain confidence with Inter.
“Yes, even here we faced many difficult moments. When I don’t score goals I try to help differently, giving 100% in every game.
“For a month, already before the World Cup, I was playing with an injured ankle, and I arrived at the World Cup not the way I wanted. When I go to sleep, I have a clear conscience because I gave everything and no one can tell me anything.”
He provided an update on the state of his ankle now.
“I’m ready, I’m back after 10 days of rest and now I’m fine. If the coach chooses to play me, I am ready to help the team.”
The 25-year-old discussed how difficult it was to prepare for the Napoli game after the World Cup win.
“It’s difficult, but I celebrated, drank and slept little, so I did it all. Already on the plane back my mind was on Napoli and the things the coach will tell us to prepare for this challenge in the best possible way because it will be very important.”
He revealed what Simone Inzaghi told him after the victory.
“He congratulated me, as did all the teammates who wrote to me right away. I am happy to be here with them fighting for all the goals.”
Lautaro touched on how the World Cup changed him as a man.
“I started by playing, but the World Cup is like that, you have to be 100% all the time, and I had some ankle problems. But I am very happy with everything I experienced and learned.”
He noted which moment would be his lasting image of the triumph.
“There are beautiful moments that I lived both with Argentina and Inter. I am very proud and happy to be part of this squad that has won trophies in these years.
“The most beautiful moment lived in the national team is when my daughter touched the World Cup. She is almost two years old and since she has been there, I have won almost every trophy. She has been good for me.”
He felt that he was ready to be a leader for Inter.
“Definitely yes, I’ve been here almost five years and I definitely feel important. I have taken responsibility in the locker room, and I always try to help someone who needs a hand, even young players, because that’s how squad are created.
“We have many important players in this locker room.”
The 25-year-old spoke about Inter’s gratefulness for his hard work despite his ankle issue.
“After Atalanta they thanked me so much because I never backed down. I am tough and hide the pain. I try to be sensor on the field to help everyone.
“We are all ready, even Lukaku is fine, then the coach will choose but we are full and we will arrive at the best to the match.”
Lautaro spoke about the loss of Diego Maradona.
“Diego’s absence hurt all of us Argentines, he is a legend and now he is enjoying this World Cup there, where he is right now.”
He commented on the Italian national team and their absence from the tournament.
“I read so many messages from Italians who were close to us, and this makes me happy, it’s nice because Italy has been missing for two World Cups and this year would have deserved to participate.
“Now there are so many strong young players with talent, I hope Italy will be there at the next World Cup.”
Finally, Lautaro reflected on his development at Inter and the next steps.
“I have had many coaches and I have changed both physically and tactically. I can’t tell you what I still want to improve in, but in everything to be even more mature on the pitch and help the team with what is needed.”