QPR's rising star talks FFT's James Maw through his youth career at Spurs, this season's great hopes for his current club, and – of course – that Ballon d'Or listing...
You've already admitted your Ballon d'Or nomination sounded like a wind-up… so has it sunk in now?
A little bit, but I’ve just about got my head around it. It took me two days to realise it was real! I didn't take any notice of it at first – I stayed away from my phone so when people asked me, I couldn't give them a real answer because I didn't know myself. I'm using it as motivation now.
Reflecting now, do you think ‘Actually, I deserve this’ after your starring role at the Asian Cup and at club level?
That's a difficult one. It comes with individual accomplishments so based on that, I guess so. If you compare me to the top players, though, it’s difficult to compare because I'm not at a top club. Personally, I like being at this level for now, because it gives me the chance to play every week. [FFT: Is that the immediate aim, then? Getting to the top?] Of course. I think it’s a lot of players’ goals so as I said, I want to use it is a motivation to get there.
It took me two days to realise it was real! I didn't take any notice of it at first
How did your Australian team-mates respond to it? What have they been saying?
They were on the wind-up all the time, trying to use it as a bit of banter. It was quite funny. They keep on bringing it up in general conversation. Or when they ask if I want a coffee and I say yes, they then say "Of course, anything for the Ballon d'Or". [FFT: What about your QPR team-mates?] Yeah but I'm new so I haven't blended in with the boys like the Australian squad yet.
You worked under Chris Ramsey in Tottenham’s youth team. How big of an influence was he in your move to QPR?
It was a big influence, but it wasn't just the coaches. I had a good season last year and there was a lot of interest. The fact they responded straight after the season ended was a big sign I needed to come here; because they were so eager.
What is it about Ramsey that makes him a good coach?
I'm only young so I still need to be coached, rather than managed. I think I have a better chance of developing here than at a bigger club or being abroad.
The papers were suggesting over the summer that Aston Villa were also interested in you. You know Tim Sherwood well too, so why not choose them?
It was just the fact that QPR contacted me so quickly. I know Tim quite well and of course Chris knows Tim too, so I'm sure there would have been some conversations.
I'm only young so I still need to be coached, rather than managed. I think I have a better chance of developing here than at a bigger club or being abroad
It’s been over two years since you left Tottenham for good. How gutted are you that it didn't work out there?
A little bit. It was the choice of managers at the time which didn't suit me. I think for a lot of players now, it didn't suit them when Harry [Redknapp] was in charge, but for me I got a lot of exposure to the first team and my debut from it. Had things been different, who knows what it could have turned out to be? AVB came in and that was probably when I made my decision to leave permanently rather than on loan because it pushed me further and further away from the first team.
Did you not think you were going to get a chance under Villas-Boas, then?
Exactly. I came back from loan and felt forgotten about. And from that, I made my decision about Tottenham.
Did you have conversations with him about that?
No, that is as far as it went. My conversations were with Tim Sherwood and Chris Ramsey while I was still part of the reserve team. Then unfortunately Tim took over and you're kicking yourself because you think you might have been given a chance, but I don't think I would have been.
Is it frustrating seeing Harry Kane, Nabil Bentaleb, Ryan Mason and Alex Pritchard mixing with the first team; players who you would have played with?
Yes and no. No being I have done pretty well myself so far and I am learning football a little bit differently. I have always gone the longer route which I hope works out for me.
I came back from loan and felt forgotten about. And from that, I made my decision about Tottenham
How have you found things at QPR? How far do you think this team can go this season?
I think we can go all the way. On paper we have Premier League players and we have done well to keep a lot of them – Charlie Austin, Matty Phillips, Leroy Fer – so the depth in our squad is really good. We have brought in new players, power in midfield. I think we can do well and push for the play-offs.
Is the pressure here bigger than at your previous clubs? Expectations here are that you should be winning the league...
I think people give us the benefit of the doubt because of the reputation of the club. We have just come down so people could think we might collapse. Saying that, we kept a lot of our players and they do expect a lot from the club.
There must be a lot of hunger there to get back up? You have Charlie Austin there who has previously played in the Premier League, and guys like you who are on their way up...
Yeah, it’s a good thing. There’s competition for places, our midfield is quite thick and we have a few forwards scoring goals so there is a lot of competition. Everyone has the same motivation to play in the Premier League so everyone wants to be there.
You're playing in a slightly different position than last season, a bit further forward. How are you finding that?
I'm playing in the 10 position but games in the Championship are stretched. Last game I played I was doing more of a team job than running in behind. It has been a bit of a learning curve for me at the moment.
We have just come down so people could think we might collapse. Saying that, we kept a lot of our players
Do you see that benefiting you in the long term? Being able to play in different positions and roles?
Yeah, it is frustrating at the moment. I think if I do well in this position it can be but at the moment I'm learning and adjusting to it.
It’s been a big year for you in Australia, breaking into the senior team permanently. Does it feel a bit more settled for you now?
Yeah, definitely. Before I was the new guy, I didn't really know anyone. It was sort of a quick introduction. I was at the World Cup and then onto the Asian Cup. Now, though, it’s always nice to go back to an international game. It's quite a family team, we're all close.
What was the experience like for you, going to the World Cup as a young player? Even if you didn't play…
Yeah, just from training every day I learned a lot. I remember coming back to Swindon from the World Cup and feeling so much better as a player. I felt like I'd just grown just from being there. I wanted more and it motivated me to have a good season at Swindon.
Is there a particular moment of the trip which stands out for you?
Not really. Obviously it wasn't me playing personally, but the Holland game was amazing, the best team Australia had played up to that point. I know we lost 3-2 but we were 2-1 up at one point, missed a chance and they scored at the other end. It was heartbreaking but an unbelievable game. I think it put us out there a little bit.
Your old Swindon boss Mark Cooper once labelled you the Australian David Beckham. What did you make of that one then?
I think he referred to me as the pin-up boy! I broke through in the Asian Cup and everyone was talking about me, all these chances came up!
The pin-up boy? How do you feel about that?
Yeah, I like all that [laughs]. I think it’s easier being the underdog or the new boy coming in when no one expects much from you. Mentally, you need to step up a little bit and expected to be one of the main players. If I can keep holding that then I think people will start looking up to me when I'm older.
Given your Italian roots, is Serie A somewhere you imagine playing in the future? Do you watch a lot of that?
It's hard to watch. England tends to cut itself off from the football world. Like, the Asian Cup didn't even get noticed over here! I don't think it was until the Ballon d'Or when people started thinking "Australia? Oh, they really were good in that". I have always spoken to the missus about it and said I would always like to play in Italy, it’s something different. I wouldn't say no to it.
Do you speak any of the lingo, then?
No, not really. I can understand it a little bit but when I go with my family I learn a little bit more. If you asked me to say it, I wouldn't say anything.
I think it’s easier being the underdog or the new boy coming in when no one expects much from you. Mentally, you need to step up a little bit
Does your dad support an Italian team?
Not really, he does love football though. He’ll watch any football; English, Italian, American. If it’s on, he will watch it. It’s probably how he got me into it.
What about you? Who was your team as a kid?
Italian, Juventus. They were just the biggest one. Buffon, their keeper... As I got older, a lot of my coaches supported Tottenham so I started supporting them. Then funnily enough, I went on to sign for them. I like watching the best teams.
Massimo Luongo wears the new Baltic/Serene Green New Balance Football Visaro boot, designed for players who Make Chances. To find out more about New Balance Football go to newbalance.com/football or follow @NBFootball on Twitter and Instagram.