Simone Zaza believes he is playing for “a big club” in Valencia as the striker warns the rest of La Liga “now I’m back”.
Zaza is beginning to adapt to life in La Liga after two goals against Athletic Bilbao and Real Madrid, and the Italian explained in a wide-ranging interview with Marca the secrets behind his return to form.
“Valencia? I think I'm at a big club. When I came here, we weren’t in a good situation,” he began.
“It was complicated, but for me it was all new and, little by little, we’re doing things well and winning games.
“We’re moving up the table. I’m happy for myself, my teammates and the fans. The fans are very demanding, but this is Valencia, it’s a great club and the fans are used to winning here. I’ve been happy at Valencia until now and I hope to continue like this.
“At Valencia I feel fantastic. Goals for a striker is the most important thing, but for me the key is to be physically fit.
“If I’m well mentally and physically, I know I’ll do well. Two goals in less than a week feels like a complete release, but I’m not happy like this. I want to do much more.
“My ‘gladiator’ style of play? A lot of the time it’s dangerous for the cards I may pick up, I know, but I‘ve always played like this.
“Now I do even more because I went a long time without playing and enjoying myself. In England I didn’t feel good, both physically and mentally, but now I’m back.
“The other day against Leganes, we won but I didn’t score. Until the last 10 minutes, I enjoyed dying for each ball, running, pressing. I feel alive and strong.
“I know that by doing so, I’ll help the team, and I’m sure that if my teammates see me press the whole pitch, they’ll follow suit.
“First impressions of Spain? In England it’s all more physical, in Italy it’s more tactical but here you play with the ball more.
“There are times when it can be boring, but here it’s very difficult to win the ball back from the other team.
“Almost all the teams in La Liga can play you head on, something that doesn’t happen in Italy, like we did against Real Madrid.
“What I’m struggling most with? The only thing is my tendency to foul, the referees punish you more here, but little by little I’ll adapt.
“The ’curse’ of Italian strikers at Valencia? I feel very good here. I like living in Valencia and I want to play here.
“Valencia are the team that gave me the opportunity to play again as I know how. That, for me, is very important and I’m mindful of it.
“I’m very grateful to this club for the chance they took on me. I thought [Marco] Di Vaio did well here.
“I’ve scored two goals at Mestalla on the side of our fans so far. The game against Madrid was incredible.
“I was very tense and nervous for my first goal and I really couldn’t enjoy it like I wanted to, but my goal against Real Madrid, when the whole stadium shook… I could feel it from the grass.
“Atletico Madrid next? We have the possibility of playing them toe-to-toe. We’re in better shape [than them], but we know it’ll be a tricky match.
“I won’t say that if we play well, we’ll win, but if we play like we know we can, we can do damage, with all due respect, against a great team. We’ll be toe-to-toe with them, I can assure you.
“Valencia not playing with a recognised striker for a long time? There are players that can play as one like Nani, but he’s much better on the left.
“Munir can also do it, but he too is better on the wing. Santi [Mina], before his injury, scored three goals in four games, but he’s not a striker. Rodrigo [Moreno] is also a wide attacker.
“We’ve lacked a reference point in attack, and little by little I’m adapting to the team and beginning to understand them.
“We’re playing a different type of football now because before there wasn’t a target man up top and there weren’t so many central attackers. Now, we’re starting to get to know each other.
“Here, I feel looked after, I feel that the fans love me and respect me, and that to me is important.
“Now, when I play, I can do things right or wrong, but I’ll still give everything I have and the fans know that.
“I know that I’m not a Cristiano, Messi, Maradona, Van Basten or Ronaldo, but I’m a good player that can do things well.
“If I play and give everything I have to help the team and reach my limit, to that limit in each game, I’ll do well.”