AS Roma Match Program (F. Viola) We spoke to Mario Rui ahead of the league derby to mark his return to the first team after his long injury. It boded well, the Portuguese defender was selected in the squad and the game finished 2-0 to us. A good reason to interview Mario Rui again on the eve of the Coppa Italia match, after 6 appearances in all competitions and with his performances continually improving.
The league game against Lazio marked your return to the first team and your first appearance on the bench. How do you feel now, a few months after that?
Let’s say I’m a lot better now that a few months have passed. I was still recovering from my injury at that time, and I was definitely not 100% fit. I was lacking match sharpness, minutes on the pitch, and I wasn’t training at my best. These are things that can only be obtained after a lot of training sessions. I think I’m in good shape now, there’s still a few things missing but it’s just a matter of time. At a personal level I need to regain a bit of confidence, but I think I’m nearly at 100%.
How do you feel after your injury? Strootman has said he came out of his injury stronger. You?
I’m a much stronger character than I was before. I’ve never had that sort of injury before, it was my first serious layoff. It had a big impact, I didn’t know what I was in for. But with everyone’s help I was able to wake up with a smile on my face every morning and face each day with optimism. That helped me a lot.
What do you need to improve?
I can definitely improve in every way. Before the injury I knew I had to improve everything and today, after the injury, even more so. I hope to regain some self-confidence and to go back to doing what I did before.
Lazio are coming up again – what happened in the first leg?
It’s difficult to say, the derby is a game apart, there’s always something different that happens every game. It was a bad defeat, we definitely didn’t deserve to lose by 2 goals. We know that we can turn the result around.
Now you have the chance to turn the 2 goal lead around and get back into the game, how will you go into the match?
The most difficult thing getting is the result, preparing for it is very easy. We’re 2 goals behind so the only thing we can do is try to win and score as early as possible.
Do you think the game against Lyon might be a lesson in how to manage the second leg in the right way?
It’s definitely given us something extra than we had before. Before that game we’d never had to overturn a bad result. Although it didn’t go well in the end, we saw that we had the chances to turn the tie around. We showed once again that we’re a strong side. Hopefully we’ll be able to do that again against Lazio.
Which of their players do you fear?
Their whole team is strong, they have good players. But I think their strength is as a collective.
Tell us about what happened when Empoli came to play at the Olimpico against Lazio in the league
I just went to find my old team when they came to Rome to play against Lazio… I’m still very close to a lot of the players and the staff, it was nothing unusual.
The barriers have been taken down and the Curva will be back in the stadium. How important is the fans’ support?
I think it’s very important, you could see that against Lyon. Even though we were 2 goals down, their support gave us the strength to keep pressing to try and find the result. It will be easier with their support because we’ll have added strength.
Do you think you’ve understood what the Rome derby means?
It was clear how important this game was, even before I joined Roma. I’ve since had the chance to experience 2 derbies up close, we won 1 and lost the other. Being able to play in that sort of game is a magnificent experience.
How different is it for a player to move from a calm, relaxed environment like Empoli into a metropolitan environment like Rome?
It’s very different, because there isn’t the same pressure at Empoli. The people are great, but they give you a lot more freedom and, in some ways, make you more relaxed. You can go out of your house in Empoli, you can walk around the town centre without anyone stopping you. It’s a bit different here, but it’s nice to receive appreciation from the fans when you’re out and about.
This season Roma have played with a 4 man defence and with a 3 man defence, with the full back playing slightly higher up. What’s the difference between the 2 roles for you?
At the start it was a bit difficult for me because I’ve played in a 4 man defence in the last few years, but I’ve gradually adapted to this role and in the end really there isn’t much difference. The full back is a bit higher up, but still needs to help out defensively. You definitely have a bit more freedom to attack though.
You’ve had Sarri, Giampaolo and Spalletti at Empoli and Roma: which of your coaches has given you the most, and what have you learned from each of them?
They’re 3 very good, well-prepared coaches, among the best in Italian football. All 3 know how to make their teams play well, you can see that every Sunday. All 3 of them have taught me a lot.
What are the differences, if any, between them?
There are differences. Each coach has strengths and weaknesses over the others. The quality that they all have in common is in wanting to make their teams play good football. All 3 go out onto the pitch, thinking that they can win every game.
When you were growing up, which left back was your idol?
It’s an odd story because I wasn’t a left back when I was growing up. My idol was always Roberto Carlos. I remember the early [Pro Evo] games on Playstation when all the players’ names were mixed up. Up front were Ronaride and Roberto Larcos, who were actually Ronaldo, the phenomenon, and Roberto Carlos. I, like everyone, put Roberto Carlos up front because he was small and quick and had a powerful shot. From then on I liked Roberto Carlos, and, I don’t know if it was destiny or not, then I started to play in that position as well.