West Ham’s Gianluca Scamacca admits he can improve as he aims for Premier League success
If only West Ham’s shirt had a collar, Gianluca Scamacca might have worn his own. That’s the impression you get listening to the £35.5m striker explain why he wants to look more like Eric Cantona in his first interview since switching to English football.
As with every new Premier League import, one has to wonder who he grew up admiring with. Cantona is his surprise pick, given that the enigmatic Frenchman quit playing football even before Scamacca was born on New Year’s Day 1999.
Still, the 23-year-old Italian was searching YouTube for clips of Cantona, including his old Nike commercials. He was impressed. How he was always so cool and confident. Intrepid and fearsome. Arrogant in a good way with that popped collar and puffy chest.
Gianluca Scamacca moved to West Ham from Sassuolo for £35.5m this summer
He revealed that Manchester United legend Eric Cantona was his idol growing up
It is also the aura that Scamacca wants to bring to the Premier League.
“Years ago they were doing commercials with Cantona,” he says, sitting on a sofa in the club’s training ground. “I watched them and saw videos from when he was playing for Manchester United. He was an influence and very imposing, also a little arrogant in his approach.
“I always try to work in this direction for myself. I have to have that confidence. I am at 70% of my potential. In a few months, I’ll get there or I’ll be on my way.
Scamacca has scored six goals this season, the last two assisted by Lucas Paqueta, West Ham’s other £51million summer signing. “I get on well with Paqueta. But I know I can do better. That’s why I want to work on my confidence, my intensity and my presence on the pitch.
“Here in the Premier League you have to be bigger. I’m not worried about comparisons (with Erling Haaland or Harry Kane). It’s up to others to do it. It doesn’t affect me. My main concern is to give the best of what I can do.
Scamacca has had a good start to life in England but believes he can still improve
Scamacca has already formed a solid relationship on the pitch with Lucas Paqueta
There is an Italian translator seated next to Scamacca, although he tries to conduct most of this interview in English. There’s no mention of seagulls and trawlers, but he has a surprisingly good command of the language, considering he only moved to London at the end of July.
Cockney slang is fine too. “Look at you, me old China,” was one of the first phrases he learned after arriving. Smiling, he continues: “It’s decidedly different! England is good. I like it and have fun at West Ham. They support new players.
‘It’s very different. In Italy, it’s tactical. Here it’s fast and physical. It’s a different kind of game. But it’s going to get better. When my agent told me West Ham were interested, I said: “Try to do it quickly.” I was happy.’
He was intrigued by the ‘projecto’ sold to him by manager David Moyes and spoke to former West Ham players in Italy, including Pedro Obiang. The word “brividi” – “goosebumps” – came up during the fanbase discussion.
Scamacca has also sought the advice of Italy coach Roberto Mancini. “He said it was a great opportunity to grow. He said, “When it’s hard, you can grow.”
Scamacca spoke to ex-Man City boss Roberto Mancini before joining the Premier League
Patience is needed with new Premier League players, but Scamacca rejects the mentioned schedule. ‘A few years? No. Some months. He (Mancini) said work hard and you will see results.
‘It’s my job. This is my passion. I live for it. It’s a dream for me. I don’t worry about the pressure. I don’t care because I’m far from home. No. I only live for football. It’s enough for me.
“I regained confidence in my journey. I had a lot of difficulties in the past. I had to work on myself, on my mind. It made me more confident. Everyone lives their footballing experience. If it wasn’t because I’m so passionate about football that I wouldn’t be here now.
Beneath his casual clothes, Scamacca wears a tapestry of tattoos. The words “Dios bendiga mi familia” – “God bless my family” – are under the wings of an angel on his chest. On his left hand is an elephant whose trunk runs over his middle finger. To her right is a rose and the word “HOPE” spelled across her knuckles. A portrait of a woman sits on the right side of her neck and a lion on the other. Not to mention a sleeve of tattoos running down his right arm.
They tell a story, but a story that Scamacca does not want to reveal. “I prefer to keep it to myself. A little mystery never hurts. It certainly didn’t hurt the cryptic Cantona.
Scamacca grew up in Borgata Fidene, on the northern outskirts of Rome. A Roma fan, he played street football. “We play, we play, we play. I was in love.’ Was he the best of all the guys around? “Yes,” he said, surprised at the question. ‘Why do you ask?!’
He is close to his mother, Cristiana, and his sister, Giuly, but there are complications with the other side of the Scamacca family.
Scamacca said he ‘lives for football’ and is determined to succeed in the Premier League
In May 2021, reports in Italy emerged that Scamacca’s father Emiliano broke into Roma’s training ground and destroyed cars with an iron bar. Months later, it was reported that his grandfather, Sandro, had put a knife to the throat of a bar owner in Rome.
“I find myself again having to distance myself from violent and indescribable episodes committed by people related to my last name but with whom I have formed all kinds of relationships,” Scamacca said at the time.
“I grew up with my mother and my sister and they are my family. Nobody else.’
Scamacca doesn’t like to dwell on family he doesn’t see. Instead, he prefers to praise the parent who gave him everything. “She supported me and helped me when it was a bit difficult.”
After spending time at the academies of Roma and Lazio, Scamacca signed for PSV Eindhoven, moving to the Netherlands aged 16. This raised eyebrows in his native country. Young people were not supposed to want to leave Italy to complete their football training. But Scamacca did.
“I went there because I wanted to improve,” he says. “It was the best place to learn football. I felt like I couldn’t do it in Italy.
“In Italy, it’s different. In the academies, the under 18s, the under 19s, they don’t work on the individual. They work on the team, on tactics, how to win games. But in other countries they work individually on the players.
Scamacca took advice from ex-Man United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy
Mark van Bommel was one of his mentors at PSV. Just like Ruud van Nistelrooy, who paid special attention to Scamacca. ‘It was really good. He told me you had to stay in the club.
Was Holland a scary prospect for a teenager who didn’t speak a word of Dutch? ‘No,’ he said. ‘Afraid of what ? Because I was alone? Nope.’
That fearlessness sums up Scamacca, who became the 50th striker signed under West Ham owners David Sullivan and David Gold. Some purchases were good. Some bad. Some worse, like the £45m squandered on Sebastien Haller.
Scamacca is determined to succeed. He plans to use Italy’s absence from the 2022 World Cup to improve, with one of his mantras being to ‘train while others sleep, study while others sleep. amuse”.
With that, our time with Scamacca is over. “Ciao,” he said as he left after an intriguing half hour with West Ham’s new striker.