The Argentine strike reveals why he loved his Chelsea time in an exclusive interview with Target, although he never netted with the Blues.
Nobody learned of France Di Santo or the club from which he joined when the Blues paid 3.4 million ($5 million) pounds to Audax Italiano in 2008 in a dressing room full of superstars such as Didiers Drogba, Michael Ballack and John Terry.
Many players simply believed the 18-year-old hailed from Italy. Di Santo, though, was well introduced to scouting and football fans.
In effect, after his successes in the Copa Sudamericana, he was considered one of his homeland’s most promising young prospects.
After having made a prolific start to his tenure with Chelsea’S reserves, Di Santo was then dubbed “the next Diego Maradona.”
Naturally, he never stayed with the top team to do so without having scoring a single goal, for which he only made 16 appointments.
But Di Santo loved his time with the Blues and proved that at Stamford Bridge, he felt at home.
Di Santo tells Goal: “New Maradona did not influence me.” “My play style wasn’t like his, and nevertheless nobody is like him. I was only given a nickname because I had 16 goals for the Chelsea reserves in 13 games.
“At Stamford Bridge, I was really relaxed. There I felt glad and, even though a small team that nobody knew, they made me feel important and like one of them. They’d been like, ‘Wow, you came from Italy,’ when I talked of my last Audax Italiano band, to the guys. I’ve been like: ‘No, Chile is here!’
“This squad was not known to one player. Yet in every sense, they were genuinely humble and supported me. It helped me get them up. There have been so many decent athletes. Each of them was incredible.
“When the world games came together you knew it: we just had two players not called up. All their national teams were required, which were at that time the level of Chelsea. It’s been an awesome band.
“With how he was both on and off the pitch, I had the most impression of Didier Drogba. He was one of the best examples I have ever seen as a better athlete, but he also was a wonderful guy. For all the young players, he was an inspiration.
“John Terry still tried to support us in general. But everybody’s been healthy. In Chelsea, I didn’t have many minutes. I’ve just been playing several games from the bench. I didn’t have the chance [Carlo] Ancelotti to play and I went to Chelsea to play more games in 2010.
“I feel I’ve done a decent job at Wigan. I was the top scorer in my club last season and we were winning the FA Cup as a little team. In England, I’ve been glad about my job.
“I CAME FROM A SMALL TEAM IN CHILE, SO IT WAS REALLY A WONDERFUL AND VERY HUGE JUMP FOR ME TO TRANSFER FROM THERE TO ENGLAND FOR A BIG CLUB, ONE OF THE LARGEST CLUBS IN THE WORLD. LOOKING BACK, I BELIEVE I’M GLAD THERE’S MY PROFESSION.”
In 2008, when a training session was unexpectedly disrupted by the football legend, who passed away last year, Di Santo will visit his compañero at Chelsea’s practise venue.
Di Santo is very excited about “Diego meeting was wonderful and a dream come true.” “Nobody knew he’d come and we were delighted when everybody of us saw him. Except in Italian and Spanish, he didn’t speak any language and I was the only one in Argentina.
“It was my first time with him, it’s been my luck to be with him, to have a few words. Diego was one of the best players ever for me and will still be. No one like him will ever be.
“We knew him from the stories our parents and grandparents taught us about our age, who did not see him play. We’ve seen the clips and he’s an Argentina hero. No words will clarify the meaning of Diego for us.
“I’VE BEEN SHOCKED TO GREET HIM, EMBRACE HIM AND TALK TO HIM. HE IS AN IDOL AND ONE OF THE BEST PEOPLE. I WILL ALWAYS TREASURE THESE MEMORIES.”
Following his departure from the UK as the double winner of the 2013 FA Cup, Di Santo spent six years in Germany, first with Werder Bremen, and then with Schalke. In Spain as well (Rayo Vallecano) and Brazil (Atletico Mineiro), before eventually arriving home in San Lorenzo last year, he also enjoyed brief spells.
“I LEFT MY LAND YOUNG AND HAD NEVER PLAYED, SO IT WAS MY AMBITION THAT I WOULD RETURN HERE WHILE I COULD STILL DRIVE,”
Jokes Di Santo. “Now I’m 31, both emotionally and psychologically, I feel fine. I have not had a major wound, 31; I feel younger. I don’t feel 31.
I prepare and look about myself from the pitch professionally, so I foresee a lot for the remainder of my career. I want to win San Lorenzo trophies and want years more than average. Where appropriate, I want to play till 40. You never do! You never do!
“I returned to Argentina for several things, but one is because we decided to have our child here, close to our families and friends, because our girlfriends were pregnant. However, I’m also free to return to Europe.
“I STILL FEEL I CAN PLAY AT A HIGH LEVEL AND NEVER STOPPED COMING BACK IN THE NATIONAL TEAM. IT IS A GOAL TO AID AND SUPPORT MY COUNTRY. HOWEVER, ANOTHER TARGET IS TO BE GLAD.”