We sat down with Roma midfielder Leandro Paredes to learn more about his career in football - from his fiery introduction to the professional game at his boyhood club, his relationship with the great Juan Roman Riquelme, and how his family have helped him reach the highest level.
Paredes, 22, is enjoying a fine first full season at the Stadio Olimpico - having enjoyed an extremely productive loan spell at Empoli last term.
Born in Buenos Aires, he made his debut for domestic superpowers Boca Juniors as a 16-year-old, going on to establish himself with the club before making the switch to Italy.
Now settled in his deep lying midfield role for the Giallorossi, Paredes seems to be progressing at a great rate - with the likes of Daniele De Rossi and Kevin Strootman on hand to help guide him.
Find out more about Paredes' path to the Stadio Olimpico and his career in football...
Who was your idol when you were growing up?
“It was my father Victor Daniel, without question. He was the one who passed on his passion for football. I always had a ball at my feet and it’s thanks to him that I got into this sport. He was a professional player up until the age of 17 and played for Racing Club. However, he stopped because my mother got pregnant, so he had to start working.
"In footballing terms, I’d say [Juan Roman] Riquelme. He was the player I watched and liked the most. I learned so much from him, also when he was my team-mate.”
Did you play any other sports before football?
“I’ve only ever played football. [I used to play] just by my house, in the streets of San Justo, which is my district of Buenos Aires.”
What position did you start playing?
“As a trequartista, which is where I played until the age of 19.”
What do you remember about your footballing debut?
“It was the best thing that could possibly have happened to me. I was just 16, very young. For me, playing in the top league of Argentinian football was a dream come true. It was a home game, at the Bombonera stadium, against Argentinos Juniors. I played on the same pitch at the same stadium I used to go to when I was young, to watch Boca [Juniors] with my family, when we had enough money. I only played for six minutes, replacing Lucas Viatri.”
Which game sticks in your mind the most?
“When we beat San Lorenzo 3-0. I scored a double, which marked my first two goals in the Primera Division. That’s when I became a starter for the team.”
Who is the best player you’ve been up against?
“Well, apart from [Lionel] Messi... Looking back at the Argentinian league I’d say [Erik] Lamela, who I faced in the derby against River Plate.”
And the best you’ve played with?
“I have to mention Riquelme again. He was so important, fundamental, to my development as a footballer. He used to give me loads of advice when we played together and we still keep in touch. When he sees me play, he writes to me.
"Before he stopped playing, he told everyone I’d be his footballing successor. That was an immense honour for me.”
Which is the greatest stadium you’ve ever played in?
“Without doubt the Bombonera. I have so many ties to it. I used to go there before becoming a professional and so many games have stayed in my heart, including those I watched as a fan. One stands out; the semi-final of the Copa Libertadores in 2004 against River Plate. We [Boca] won 1-0 at home and lost 2-1 away, ultimately reaching the final on penalties. I was there at the ground with my sister and I’ll never forget that.”
Who would you say has had the biggest influence on your career?
“I think I’d have to say my whole family, who have been so important to me. I owe everything to them. They are always by my side, with each step I take. My father Victor Daniel, my mother Miriam and my sisters Vanessa and Jimena, they are such a huge part of my life. I should also mention my brother-in-law Lallo, who is married to Vanessa. He’s also been important.”
What’s the best thing about being a professional footballer?
“The fact you’re working whilst doing the thing you love most in the world. You can never see your profession as being a burden. You have the privilege of being paid for doing what you like more than anything else.”