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Running is an inclusive sport, I have not run long distances professionally but in Argentina I run as a young amateur : Crespo

Ambar Bhattacharya, abptakmaa, Kolkata, 13th Dec 2019 : A Serie-A icon and the fourth highest scorer in his national jersey, Argentine marksman Hernan Crespo, who is in city as International  event ambassador of TSK 25K, feels Premiere League is the most competitive league in the modern times.

Crespo, who plyed his trade in Italy and England, said: “When we played Italy was the toughest league. The world’s best player played there. But today English Premiere League is the top league. Look at the top eight teams. All of them set such high standards for themselves.”

The former Chelsea man is in the city as the  International  event ambassador of TSK 25K and can’t wait to get to the Grandstand on Redroad on Sunday. “Running is an all encompassing sport. It’s the warmth of running together, the fun of it and the healthy lifestyle it gives. Winning is not important, what matters is that some twenty thousand people will be running together. It’s the ambience that makes it so special,” with a glitter in his eyes.

Running is an important part of the training system of any striker and Valdanito, as he is often called after compatriot Jorge Valdano, was no exception. He explained: “Running was a part of the game’s ecosystem. You need to run, stay fit. So running has been sacred to me all my life. And though I have not run long distances professionally, yes back home in Argentina I have run as a young amateur.”

Though he did not get a chance to care the city much today, he planned to go to a couple of places should time permit. But he did certainly lay his hands on some Bengali delicacy in ‘Nolen Gurer Rosogolla’ and ‘Misti Doi’.

Coming back to world football, the former sharp-shooter, who played for five Italian clubs in the top flight including Inter Milan, AC Milan, Parma, Lazio and Genoa, said: “England has both money and the best players. The league is competitive, bitterly fought, fast paced and very entertaining. Look at Liverpool. The speed with which (Roberto) Firmino, (Mo) Salah and (Sadio) Mane accelerates. Wow it’s breathtaking!

In Italy it is much more startegic and much more like a chess. Lot of planning goes. Its all about different culture and way they play their game. But after Juventus and the two Milans the Gap is big.”

Asked who did he rate as a better player, Messi or Ronaldo, he said: “He said Messi is the greatest living footballer. The skill sets he has and the fluidity with which he plays is unparalleled.”

Asked which club would he have loved to play for, if he was playing now. “I would have loved to play besides Messi and hence Barcelona. Besides, I had never played in La Liga. So there is some extra motivation,” he laughed.

Asked about Indian football, Crespo, who had been to Mumbai and Goa for futsal meets, said: “I know about ISL. A lot of big names are coming and then there is the ILeague also. I know Kolkata has a huge Argentine fan base and Maradona came here twice. I also know that Messi captained Argentina for the first time here while playing a friendly with Venezuela. And yes here the U-17 world cup finals happened. So yes I know a lot about Indian football.”

He said he was floored by the warmth he received whenever he came to India. And Kolkata as a pit stop was always on his list.

Speaking about Argentine football, he said: “It will be a challenge to qualify for the next world cup. For Argentina under new coach Calisto is a new project and Copa America is tough with teams like Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela, Uruguay coming up in a big way. Its no more a two horse race, the other being Brazil. I really hope we win the world cup next time.”

Asked about Messi’s contribution to the national side and the fact that the world cup eludes him, he said: ” Messi is a living legend. He does not need a world cup to prove that, though winning it in 2022 would be sweet. He is heads and heels above others and his talent and goal scoring ability is up there with the best.”

He signed off saying while Franco Baresi was his toughest marker, Gabriel Batistuta was his best friend and competitor. Publicity : Carpediem Communique. Photography : Rajen Biswas and M. Roy.

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