For Australian teenager Giancarlo Gallifuoco, every moment at Premier League outfit Tottenham Hotspur is a dream come true.
By: Glenn Osborne
The 19-year-old midfielder has become one of the first names on the team sheet for the Spurs Under-21 side in the last year, marking an incredible transition from the Sutherland Sharks, south of Sydney, where he played his junior club football.
And the call from North London came from his good friend – and now Spurs team-mate – Massimo Luongo.
“I was trialling in Italy but I was signed to a club in Australia, and while I was trialling in Italy, I was talking to Massimo (Luongo),” he says.
“A club in Italy had offered me a contract and I told Massimo, and he talked to Tim (Sherwood) and some people here, and then from there, they got in contact with me and I flew here,” he said.
“So Massimo recommended you?,” I asked.
“Yeah,” he said with a laugh.
Gallifuoco was told, several years ago now, while part of the Australian Institute of Sport’s football program, that he simply wasn’t good enough for a professional football career.
How times have changed.
“I feel incredibly happy that I didn’t let somebody’s opinion change me, or my game,” he said.
“I’m very happy that I worked hard, but I do have to pinch myself that a club like Tottenham appreciated me and took a chance on me, and I’m now becoming the player that I’m becoming.”
When he arrived at Spurs, in February 2012 as an 18-year-old, he was blown away by the Chigwell training base – and that was before the club had moved into its new world class centre at Enfield.
“Even in the old place, I’d never seen facilities like that before. I’d never seen a football culture like England before,” he says.
It has been a steep learning curve for Gallifuoco, but he’s learning at a rapid rate.
“It’s hard to say one specific thing. I think as a player all-round I have got better. As a person being away from home, I’ve matured, and I feel like my football has matured. I’m more responsible now, on the pitch.”
“What about off it? No comment?,” I asked him.
“Haha, no,” he replied.
That learning curve has seen him play at the famous home of Spurs, White Hart Lane, including against the might of Barcelona, in the Next Gen series. The Lane and the passionate Spurs fans had an impact.
“It was unbelievable. There were a lot of people there, it was incredible. It’s beautiful there,” he said.
Gallifuoco has often been used as the defensive player in a three-man midfield in the under-21 team, allowing more attacking players the freedom to show their wares. The versatile Gallifuoco has even slotted into centre half at times.
“My preferred position is defensive midfield, but I love centre back as well,” he explains.
He’s a big, strong presence, and good in the air – scoring a winning goal against rivals West Ham last season.
The player he wants to be like – no doubt causing some consternation among Spurs fans – is a former Arsenal midfielder.
“There’s one player that comes to mind, but he’s incredibly good, and I’m not trying to say I’m as good as him, but I feel like I could play a similar style to Patrick Vieira,” he says.
“He was smart in possession, tall and powerful, wins a lot of the ball, but his range is long, but he’s responsible, and has a big stride pattern.”
He’s not sure if he will go out on loan this season like good friend Massimo Luongo, who’s made the trip west of London along the M4 to Swindon Town. That, he says, is up to the boss, Andre Villas-Boas – for whom he has glowing praise.
“He’s awesome. He’s a very good coach, I love training with him, I love his training drills. Every tip and bit of advice he’s given me has been very good.”
And he has equally complementary words for team-mate Gareth Bale.
“Unbelievable, incredible, fantastic, and any other adjective you can think of. When you train with players like him, it brings out the best in you, because their touch is perfect, their pass is perfect, their movement is perfect. You have to keep up with that, and you find yourself competing with these players. It’s great.”
Here are some of his answers to other of my questions.
Best trainer at the club? “Tom Carroll”.
Class clown? “Laste Dombaxe”.
Most annoying team-mate? “I can’t answer that one”.
Best mate at the club? “Massimo Luongo, of course”.