🎥 EXCLUSIVE: Dejan Kulusevski on Juventus, Spurs future and UCL dreams | OneFootball

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Phil Costa·2 March 2023

🎥 EXCLUSIVE: Dejan Kulusevski on Juventus, Spurs future and UCL dreams

Article image:🎥 EXCLUSIVE: Dejan Kulusevski on Juventus, Spurs future and UCL dreams

The hours of hard work and sacrifice needed to become a professional footballer – especially at the highest level – are often overlooked by those on the outside.

But you also need some luck along the way and Dejan Kulusevski has an unassuming neighbour to thank for his start in the game.

“The first time I played football outside of our house, it was just a normal game with some guys that lived there,” he reveals in an exclusive interview with OneFootball.

“Then suddenly one parent saw me playing and he went straight up to my mom and told her that I’m really talented and that I should sign for a team.”

That team happened to be IF Brommapojkarna, his local club in Western Stockholm and it was there where his talents would develop over the next decade.

But despite Sweden boasting the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimović, Henrik Larsson and Freddie Ljungberg, Kulusevski instead found inspiration from a Belgian with magic feet.

“My favourite player is Eden Hazard. Nobody plays like him and I was so happy that I could watch him play.

“I remember being in school and only thinking about going home and enjoying 90 minutes of his football later that night.

“He was my biggest football idol on the pitch.”

And growing up, some moments just stick in your mind and the 22-year-old remembers an iconic goal which not only affected his career but his family as well.

“My favourite memory of the Champions League is when Goran Pandev scored for Inter and they won against Bayern Munich in the last second (2010/11 season).

“I remember how proud me and my family were, because he is from Macedonia – where I’m from. It was amazing that he could score such an important goal.

“Those were the best times for me. Late nights in Sweden, I was there with popcorn, with my family, watching the best teams and players in the world.”

Article image:🎥 EXCLUSIVE: Dejan Kulusevski on Juventus, Spurs future and UCL dreams

Football is incredibly competitive and less than 30% of academy players receive a professional contract, but Kulusevski was ready to jump when presented with an opportunity.

“I didn’t believe I could play at this level, but then it happened. I met an agent from Italy that saw me in a tournament, I was around 15 or 16 years old.

“And then the idea came that maybe I should go to Europe, to leave Sweden and become a man and fight with the with the best players.

“The strongest interest was from Atalanta and I went there. Honestly, I don’t know if I was ready but it was an opportunity that I had to take.”

And after some early teething issues, the decision to swap Stockholm for Bergamo has already been vindicated with one success following another.

“I went there knowing literally zero Italian. I lived alone without my parents, but I could not give up because my biggest idols in life never gave up.

“I never saw my father complain so that was not an option. After time it got better and I started speaking fluent Italian after six months.

“School was getting easier and my football began to improve as well, I started seeing results, so that’s when Italy started feeling like home.”

Article image:🎥 EXCLUSIVE: Dejan Kulusevski on Juventus, Spurs future and UCL dreams

While on loan at Parma, the Swedish forward established himself in Serie A with several impressive performances, which lead to Juventus securing his signature in January 2020.

“I remember my debut in the Champions League well. It was against Dynamo Kyiv under Andrea Pirlo and I remember being so happy.

“I was thinking to myself ‘finally’ – this is the big stage, this is where I’m going to score three goals on my debut and become a hero for my team.

“We won the game but I wasn’t happy afterwards because I wanted to do much more, but that’s a good thing because you should always aim to be better.

“My first Champions League goal was against Zenit the following season and honestly, I didn’t feel even good coming into in the game (as a substitute).

“But I scored a fantastic goal and didn’t even celebrate because it was just like a relief.

“I’m famous because I’m not very good with my head. We always used to joke about that, but I know that when I get the chance, I can always score.”

After two years with Juventus, Kulusevski would be on the move again – this time swapping Turin for North London – joining Tottenham alongside Bianconeri teammate Rodrigo Bentancur.

“I love Spurs’ stadium. I think it’s the best arena in the world and it’s an amazing feeling, the love I’m getting from the fans.

“I’m so happy the day before I have a home game, where I can meet the fans and play on my favourite pitch. It’s really, really my home.

“Antonio (Conte) reminds me of my dad, to be honest, because you see him work, you see him never complain.”

Article image:🎥 EXCLUSIVE: Dejan Kulusevski on Juventus, Spurs future and UCL dreams

And those who have played under the Italian know how ruthless his methods can be, particularly on the training ground where nothing less than 100 per cent is accepted.

“The thing that surprised me the most with him is the physical part, like doing gym almost every day, going out, doing sprints.

“After that, he tells you to prepare for another session in the afternoon. You think you’re finished but then you are there running for two more hours again.

“It’s crazy to say, but sometimes suffering is a nice feeling. What we’re doing in the gym is not normal strength training, they don’t want you standing around and lifting weights.”

In just over a year at Spurs, Kulusevski has quickly become a fan favourite and remains focused on materialising his sharp trajectory into silverware.

“I think I’m on the right path. I’m enjoying my football and feel that I’m improving every day to become an important player.

“I want to be a winner. I want to win the big titles, the World Cup, the Champions League.

“But I also want to be a guy that respected everybody, someone who brought energy every day to training and stayed thankful for the life that God gave me.”