West Ham’s Gianluca Scamacca on idolising Eric Cantona, learning from Marco van Basten and showing no fear in England

    MOULDED by Marco van Basten and Ruud van Nistelrooy, but desperate to become east London’s very own Eric Cantona.

    West Ham’s newest frontman Gianluca Scamacca is certainly no shrinking violet, covered in tattoos, blonde highlights in his ruffled brown hair and a stylish slit in his left eyebrow.

    Gianluca Scamacca got his move to England with West Ham this summer

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    Gianluca Scamacca got his move to England with West Ham this summerCredit: Getty
    Cantona went down as a Premier League legend while at Manchester United

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    Cantona went down as a Premier League legend while at Manchester UnitedCredit: PA

    In his first national interview since joining the Hammers from Sassuolo this summer for £30.5m, the Italian is in a jovial mood, reclined on a sofa wearing a hoodie with his shoelaces undone.

    At just 23 years old in a new country, speaking a second language, he oozes confidence. When asked if he was the best of his age group growing up in his hometown of Rome, playing in the streets, he chuckled.

    “Yes. Why do you ask?” It is pointed out there may have been other good players. He replied: “Yeah, but they didn’t follow my path.”

    That path saw Scamacca leave Roma’s academy for PSV in Holland aged 16, where he worked under legendary Dutch strikers Marco van Basten and Ruud van Nistelrooy.

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    It was a period where he insists he had “no fear” despite his tender age, before returning to Italy in 2017 to make his name in Serie A with the likes of Cremonese, Ascoli and Genoa on loan.

    Earlier this year, during a season where he scored 16 goals in 36 league games for Sassuolo, Scamacca claimed: “My way of hitting the ball is a gift from above.”

    Hardly surprising then that his footballing icon is Manchester United maverick and Hollywood big-time Eric Cantona.

    As a teenager, Scamacca would trawl through old videos and adverts of the great striker in his 90s era of dominance and delight, searching for inspiration.

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    You get the impression that if West Ham’s kit had a collar, Scamacca would pop it.

    But he is under no illusion that if he is to emulate the effervescent Frenchman in the Premier League, there is still room for improvement.

    Scamacca explained: “Definitely [Cantona] was an influence and he was very imposing, also a little bit arrogant in his way in his approach.

    “I am still trying to work towards that for myself, trying to be a little more imposing in my physique and also a bit more confident in games. I’ve got to get that confidence.

    “To be able to use my physique more, to try to have more of an impact on a physical level.

    “In Italy it was different. It’s more tactical rather than physical. But here in the Premier League, you need to be more imposing. 

    “It’s a different way of playing. They’re faster. Definitely it surprised me and it’s something I’m getting used to. I need to get used to it quickly. It’s a different type of game.”

    Scamacca’s start to life in England has been a mixed bag. In the Europa Conference League, he has shone with four goals in seven outings. In the Prem, has found the net just twice.

    Not that this start will dent his belief of transforming into one of the league’s all-time greats.

    Scamacca admits he has been surprised by the physicality of the Prem

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    Scamacca admits he has been surprised by the physicality of the PremCredit: Alamy

    It is suggested it may take him a few years to reach the levels he wants. Scamacca responded: “A couple of years? No, a couple of months!

    “I’m at 70 per cent of my potential. In a couple of months, I’ll get there, or be on my way there. I know I can do better.

    “I found confidence on my journey. I had a lot of difficulties in the past. I had to work on myself. On my mind. This made me more confident.”

    Those difficult moments include an incident in May of last year when his father Emiliano was arrested for breaking into Roma’s training ground armed with an iron bar, allegedly damaging several cars.

    Later that year, Scamacca publicly distanced himself from him in an Instagram post, stating: “I grew up with my mother and my sister and they are family for me. No one else.”

    Asked about the importance of his mother in his career so far, Scamacca said: “She was important. The mum is always important, she supported me when it was a little difficult.

    “If it wasn’t for the fact I’m so passionate about football and I love it so much since an early age I wouldn’t be here now.”

    It is the ‘now’ that Scamacca is focused on. West Ham have the chance to end this period on a high with the visit of Leicester before the World Cup in Qatar.

    Ready to watch from home following Italy’s failure to qualify, Scamacca admits to ignoring the standards set by the likes of Harry Kane, Mohamed Salah and Erling Haaland this campaign.

    He said: “I am not worried about comparisons. This is for other people to do. My main focus is on myself and trying to get to the best level and potential I can give.

    “It is not difficult for me. This is my work. This is my passion. I live for that. It is a dream for me. I don’t worry about pressure. 

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    “I don’t worry because I’m far from home. No. I just live for football. It’s enough for me.”

    Could there one day be chants of “Ooh, Aah, Scamacca” ringing around the London Stadium? Only time will tell.

    Scamacca celebrates scoring a goal for Italy U17 in 2014

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    Scamacca celebrates scoring a goal for Italy U17 in 2014Credit: Getty
    The Italian left Roma’s academy for PSV in Holland aged 16 to work under legendary strikers

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    The Italian left Roma’s academy for PSV in Holland aged 16 to work under legendary strikersCredit: Getty

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