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#AskElSha: Stephan on his shirt collection, strong start to the season, and more

Read everything forward Stephan El Shaarawy had to say during Wednesday's live Facebook interview...

What do you make of your start to the season?

"It was tough at the start because I started training later than my team-mates because of my back injury. I started two or three weeks late and did my pre-season work in America before coming back to Trigoria to work with the fitness coaches. It went well and I was able to recover, and I think I've made quite a positive start to the season, as has the team. I'm pleased."

This is a more specific question: how do you feel just before you're about to score? For example, in the Udinese game did you have a moment when you knew it was going to happen or do you not think at all and just act?

"You don't think at all in those fractions of a second. You act on instinct, without thinking, but you're filled with a wonderful feeling as soon as the ball goes in. It's not something you get used to - it's always exciting. Obviously there's a difference between scoring when the team is already winning by a large margin and scoring in a derby, but it's still a great feeling in that instant."

What's been the biggest difference in working with Eusebio Di Francesco?

"Di Francesco takes a really detailed approach, especially in attack but also in defence. He does a lot of tactical work out on the pitch. As I've said before, the movement he wants from the wide players works really well for me, because it really slots in nicely with my attributes - things like timing your runs forward and cutting inside. That's the kind of thing I like to do anyway, so it's good for me. On a personal level, you're able to have a proper dialogue and relationship with him."

Are you required to think more during games under Di Francesco?

"Well, even when you don't have the ball there are things he asks you to do. As team-mates we do that too. For example, when the ball is on the right, [Aleksandar] Kolarov is always telling me to push inside and not stay wide. It's not just the coach - we help each other out as players too."

Will we see what you're made of on Saturday night?

"This is from Alessandro Florenzi! This goes back to my Roma debut - I'd just joined and he said: ‘Let's see what you're made of tonight.' I scored on my debut and then he said the same thing again on my second game: ‘Once is a coincidence. Let's see if you can back it up'. I scored again, against Sassuolo, so it went from there. It's a superstition."

What motivates you to work hard day in, day out?

"I think you create motivation for yourself. You have to decide what your objective is in life - whether you're happy the way you are or you want to try to get better every day. I believe it's vital to keep setting new goals and to never rest on your laurels. Work always pays. All that hard work you do during the week - even the small stuff like going to the gym for half an hour before training to work on a specific aspect - helps you to achieve the big things. On top of that, I think you need to have the hunger to improve and be humble."

Which past player would you most liked to have played with?

"Ronaldinho. It's a real shame because I nearly did cross paths with him. He and Kaka were my idols. All the skills I used to do with the ball were all learned from him. He was a great role model, so I would have loved to have played alongside him."

Looking back at last season, how did it feel to score against Juventus?

"It was a really delicate game at a decisive point in the season. We were drawing at the time so it was my goal that gave us the lead. It really was a fantastic feeling, plus the stadium was full so the roar was huge."

What do you make of Egypt qualifying for the World Cup for the first time since 1990?

"It was a historic moment for the national team and I'm really pleased for Momo Salah. He was the driving force behind the team. I'll tell you a little story. When I scored a brace against Udinese, he wrote me a message to say well done on the two goals, so when he got his brace the other day I wrote to him straight away to say that I'd brought him good luck. I'm delighted for him because he's a great player and a top guy. I'm really pleased."

How do you feel about Italy's chances in the play-off?

"It's obviously a positive for us to be a top seed, so it was important that we got the win against Albania. That said, it's still a World Cup play-off, so it'll be difficult whoever we play. We will prepare well for it over the next month or so and we know we'll have to give it our all."

What's the favourite shirt you've collected?

"I have loads - I've never counted but I swap one after every match so I have a huge number. I like all of them and it's not easy to pick just one, but I'll go with Kaka because he's my idol. The first one he ever gave me was a Real Madrid jersey after a friendly in America. I also got one from [Lionel] Messi at the Camp Nou, a Brazil shirt from Neymar and a Real Madrid one from Cristiano Ronaldo when we played them in a friendly in Dubai. I scored a brace in that game."

What job would you have done had you not become a footballer?

"I've never really thought about it, because I started playing when I was four or five and became a professional footballer at the age of 16. It would definitely be something linked to sport. I love pool - you can be a professional at that. Or maybe a hairdresser."

How do you deal with problems in your life?

"Good question! Over time I've learned to deal with problems by staying positive. It's something I'm still working on! I try to see the positive side to negative issues in order to gain some benefit from them. Sometimes you have to focus on yourself - on your strengths - and try to pull yourself through. Of course, family and friends are really important and you need to keep them close because they help you so much in the tough times. They always make you feel better, so they're very important. That said, often you have to put the effort in yourself and get yourself through your problems using your tenacity and strength."

What kind of hairstyle do you think you'll have when you're 50?

"No idea! But in any case, I won't have this kind of hairstyle on my wedding day, for example. Maybe I won't even have any hair when I'm 50, though my dad is 70 and he still has a head of hair, so..."

In your opinion, who has the best collection of hairstyles: David Beckham or Radja Nainggolan?

"That's a close call. Radja's latest one is really...elaborate. One can get away with it, the other... I'm joking!"

What puts you in a good mood?

"The seaside. In my eyes, waking up by the seaside is one of the best things you can do."

Do you like cooking?

"I can do the basics! I can do easy stuff, but I've not tried any tricky recipes."

What pizza do you order when you go to a pizzeria?

"Margherita. Classic."

Do you like travelling? What's the best country you've been to and where would you like to go next?

"Yes, I do like travelling, but when I go on holiday I'm not a big fan of doing visits and doing lots of walking. I like relaxing, but obviously I like seeing new places. I like the USA. In terms of where I'd like to go next, if it's with my friends I'd like to go to Las Vegas, Los Angeles or Miami, even though I've already been to Miami and really loved it. For a more romantic holiday I'd go somewhere like the Maldives or Bora Bora."

Do you play FIFA? Which of your team-mates is the best?

"I barely ever play FIFA. I've not tried FIFA18 yet and I don't play much PlayStation, I have to admit."

Who's your favourite singer?

"I have lots. I listen to lots of different types of music, like rap and pop. I like international music too, but I can't think of a particular name."

How much do you love your fans?

"A lot! The more time goes by, the more I see how much they support me. When they come to Trigoria they always leave me stuff, and I have a few things at home. It makes me really happy, so I'm very thankful for what people do for me."

How are you going to celebrate your birthday?

"I'll be in Rome celebrating with my friends who are probably coming down from Savona. I'm not sure where yet. We play against Bologna on 28 October and my birthday is on 27 October, so maybe we'll celebrate after the game. We went to school together and played together in my very first team, so we still get together whenever I go to Savona or they come down."
Wednesday October 11, 2017
 
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