It’s not always been this easy – you arrived at Real Madrid aged 19, having played only 31 league games as a professional. Were you too young?
I don’t know about too young, but 19 is young to suddenly arrive in Europe, and the truth is that I came from having played very few games in Argentina and suddenly I’m at the biggest club in the world.
The advantage was that I came from a team that was similar: River Plate’s a club that’s used to winning things; a club where pressure is the same and the fans demand that you play well and score goals in every single game. That meant that I didn’t suffer as much as some players; Madrid is another dimension, but with the same basic ingredients.
Does having a footballing father help? He’s seen it before.
Yes, I think so. We had confrontations, but that’s normal for a father and son. He didn’t want the bad things that happened to him to happen to me. There were things I struggled to understand because I was young, and at times there were arguments – in the good sense of the word. He’d tell me to look after myself, remind me that I am an elite player and that there are certain things I can’t do that maybe I wanted to. He played for 15 or 20 years and he had been through it. He also warned me not to read the press. A footballer knows when he has played well and when he has played badly.
But can you really ignore the media at a club like Real Madrid, where the pressure is so intense?
It’s hard, very hard. Everything you do at a club like this has massive repercussions all over the world – the pressure is immense. But you have to keep a cool head. It’s very important. This is the biggest club in the world and every little thing you do gets analysed; everything has twice the impact it would somewhere else.
What did you think when Madrid spent €258m on new players?
I knew it would be hard. But it’s important to always have faith in yourself. I always trusted in my possibilities and my chances and my talent... and look at me now: I’m playing, I’m scoring goals, I’m very happy.
It’s often said you’re better in epic situations, scoring late goals when it’s least expected...
It’s important to have personality but I don’t know if it’s a case of enjoying epic situations, or of rising to the challenge when everything’s on the edge. Maybe it’s just that those opportunities presented themselves to me in those moments.
You scored on your Argentina debut, but it took a while to get a call-up.
When you’re Argentinian and you don’t get called up, you’re sad. I was in a bad way when Maradona didn’t call me but I respected his decision and not getting in gave me that little extra motivation. In the end I got the chance – I got it late, but I got it... not late in the sense of me complaining; late in the sense that I waited a long time for it. Then when I got my chance, I took it. It’s a lovely feeling to score for the national team and it was vital we reached the World Cup finals.
What did you