If first impressions count, Vincenzo Montella has what it takes to make a name for himself in England.
The former Italy forward trained with his new Fulham team-mates yesterday and, after a quick shower, he was happy to talk about his decision to leave AS Roma and try his luck on loan at Craven Cottage until the end of the season.
Montella may not have any tattoos or drive a Bentley — yet — but he cost Roma £17 million when he left Sampdoria 7½ years ago and his Serie A record of scoring a goal every other game marks him out as one of the best finishers in the business.
“It was a very difficult decision to leave Rome because of what the club meant to me,” Montella, 32, said. “It will take time to settle and get used to the rhythm of the Premiership, but football is a universal language. “I know [Andriy] Shevchenko has encountered problems here but look at what Gianfranco Zola achieved.”
Zola, the diminutive forward who lit up Stamford Bridge between 1996 and 2003, still retains a special place in the affections of supporters and Montella’s standing among Roma fans was equally high until shoulder and back injuries hampered his progress at the start of this season.
Montella, who is likely to make his debut when Fulham travel to Leicester City in the FA Cup third round tomorrow, has a knack of scoring decisive goals in crucial games, a distinctive feature of the Roma side that won the Scudetto the following season.
“I have spoken to Italian players who have played in England and they gave me good advice,” Montella, whose nickname is L’Aeroplanino [The Little Aeroplane] because of his distinctive goal celebrations, said. “I will do everything in my power to make sure that Fulham will be happy with me. I am very ambitious and I am very confident in my ability. I am here to work hard and to use all my experience and qualities to perform well for the club.”
When leaving Roma for London Montella said “I am here to play and score goals, I can’t wait to do it with Fulham. I am very happy, playing in the Premiership has always been an ambition of mine and I am glad I have finally had the chance to do it.”
“I decided to leave because there was no room for me at Roma. The team is playing the best football in Italy and will go on doing so, which means I would have continued not playing.
It’s hard to leave Rome, I feel loved there and I have more to lose than to gain by leaving. I could have stayed at the club, but I would not have felt good with myself just being a substitute. A year without playing would have been hard to take. I like to compete, but in the last four matches I didn’t even play for one minute.
I will leave a few things in my locker, because I know I will be back in July. There are no hard feelings with the club, they helped me find a club to go to.”
Finally, Fulham manager Chris Coleman said: “I am very glad to have a player of Montella’s calibre playing for us, he will be of great help in the second part of the season. He has great qualities and is very motivated – he wants to play and score goals. I don’t see a better reason for welcoming him to the club.”