Turkey’s Cengiz Ünder on making it with Roma

“We have made it to the round of 16 and will play Porto on Tuesday. It will be a difficult game and we will do our best to win. I hope we can beat them and match or even surpass the success we had last year. We want to reach the quarter-finals; we showed that we could do this last year by reaching the semi-finals and knocking out Barcelona. We can also do the same this year.”

Current tally
International: 10 appearances, 4 goals
UEFA club competition: 15 appearances, 4 goals
European domestic competition: 141 appearances, 30 goals

2005 final highlights: Liverpool 3-3 Milan (3-2 pens)

“Every footballer’s dream is to play in the Champions League. As a child, I could only watch the first halves of the games shown at 21:45 in Turkey; I would have to go to bed before the second half. The most memorable game for me was the 2005 Liverpool v AC Milan final that ended 3-3 and then went to penalties. It was a very big match that was played in Istanbul.

“Before I came here [in the summer of 2017] I was in pre-season with Başakşehir in Slovenia. I was waiting for some news from my agent during the night and could not sleep after I had received it. I had to return to Istanbul in the morning to pack my bags and fly out to Rome. I was extremely nervous. One of my biggest dreams was to play in one of Europe’s biggest teams and I was able to turn this into a reality by signing for Roma.

“When I first arrived, the team were on tour in the United States and I stayed in Rome because I didn’t have a visa. I was going to have my first training session and [sporting director] Monchi asked me to come into the changing room. When I arrived, Francesco Totti was there, and I felt very nervous. We took a picture and I when I got back home I put that picture up on social media. He is every footballer’s idol, including mine.

“I wish we could have played together. He is a player that fans would go to games to watch. Totti is always part of the team, it is great to see him. He always speaks to me and has a great relationship with everyone. He smiles when he sees me and calls me a goalscorer. That’s really nice.

Cengiz Ünder has settled in Rome after a shaky start

Cengiz Ünder has settled in Rome after a shaky start©Getty Images

“When I first came to the Serie A, I really struggled. After the initial six months, I started to slowly understand [the language] a bit more but it still isn’t great. When I first arrived, I wouldn’t understand the things [coach Eusebio Di Francesco] would say. He would come up to me and show me what he wanted from me. This allowed me to slowly start to understand the system of the team. I would always do what he showed me to do; I continue to perform in the way he wants me to.

“I feel very proud to be at one of the biggest clubs in Europe. I have the whole of Turkey behind me and I will continue to be successful with their continued support. Right now I am 21, and I am happy to have made it to the semi-finals in my first year of Champions League football. I am still young and I believe we will achieve great things in the future and I hope to be able to lift the Champions League trophy one day.”

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