Burnley v Sheffield Weds: Forestieri on mission to propel Owls into big time

Fernando Forestieri, seen scoring for Watford against Manchester City during an FA Cup fourth-round match at the Etihad Stadium, could become a cult hero at Hillsborough (Picture: Dave Thompson/PA).
Fernando Forestieri, seen scoring for Watford against Manchester City during an FA Cup fourth-round match at the Etihad Stadium, could become a cult hero at Hillsborough (Picture: Dave Thompson/PA).
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WHEN asked about his footballing inspiration at Sheffield Wednesday’s Middlewood training ground on Thursday, Fernando Forestieri’s reply came back in his native Spanish: ‘El Gordo’ –which translates as the fat one.

That term in Spain also famously refers to a rather grand lottery which grips the nation when it is drawn.

But to those in the footballing know, it is the colloquial nickname for former three-time world player of the year and Samba superstar Ronaldo.

It is strange for an Argentinian to extol the virtues of a Brazilian. But the Owls’ £3m man certainly has good taste in opting for Ronaldo as his idol.

Ostensibly, the gap-toothed forward may have earned that unflattering moniker in his time at Real Madrid due to his rather weighty physical appearance.

Yet it could just as well have alluded to him dining out on rival defences and devouring many an opponent to earn the respect of millions of football lovers across the globe, including Forestieri.

Many pundits credit Ronaldo with reinventing the centre-forward position.

It is a reference to his ability to drop from the traditional striker’s domain of the penalty area to pick up the ball in midfield and also switch to the flanks if needs be, while all the time bamboozling central defenders with both dribbling and clever runs.

You sense Forestieri would be the first to admit he is not quite in Ronaldo’s class. But equally, traits of his game are not too far from the surface either.

Forestieri can be bracketed as a deep-lying forward who is elusive to pick up and if he can take just a few pages out of his hero’s book, then his new club are onto a winner and he will become box-office in the blue and white half of Sheffield.

Forestieri, eyeing a debut for the Owls today at Burnley following his seven-figure move, said: “In Argentina, when you are young, the first one (football hero) is Maradona, that’s normal. Diego (Maradona) is the top for every Argentinian.

“But for me, I like Ronaldo from Brazil, El Gordo, as he is a striker like me.

“He is cool and scores many goals and knows his No 9 shirt and he drifts and puts the ball past opponents. He is everything you need.”

Forestieri’s time at Watford came to an abrupt end last month when the club owners told him he could move on to pastures new, a development which, he says, broke his heart.

Tears followed, but they have long since dried up and his mission now is earning a place in the affections of Wednesdayites as they pursue the Premier League dream that was ultimately denied him in Hertfordshire.

Born in Rosario, the Argentinian inland port city where the likes of Lionel Messi and Angel di Maria were raised, Forestieri is also seeking to follow in the footsteps of a couple of other crackerjack overseas footballing talents who famously lit up the Steel City football scene in Benito Carbone and, for those with longer memories, Alex Sabella.

Both were taken to the respective footballing bosom of Wednesdayites and Unitedites in their associations with each club, with Forestieri assigned with becoming another poster boy.

On his £3m move north, Forestieri, whose parents are Italian, added: “The owner at Watford said there was no space there and my agent spoke with the head coach (Carlos Carvalhal) and he said he needed one player like me.

“I like to be part of this project as Sheffield want to go to the Premier League. We will see what happens.

“I saw the game with Boro and my dream one day is to see the stadium with 40,000 as now it is 20,000.

“If we win games, maybe one day the stadium is full and I see that. Now I am excited to play and this is good.”

The ex-Watford forward 
arrives at S6 with a mission to 
relight the Owls’ attacking fires and while he readily admits that he knows little about his new club or home, Wednesdayites have already had their card marked regarding his qualities.

The 25-year-old netted three times against the Owls in 2012-13, including twice after coming on from the bench in a 2-1 win at Vicarage Road in February, 2013 in his first season in English football.

A few early goal-scoring contributions would go some way to paying back the first instalments of the big fee that the Owls shelved out to sign him with Forestieri desperate to make up for lost time after featuring just once this season – in a Capital One Cup game for Watford at Preston.

Forestieri, not short of a few familiar faces with ex-Hornets team-mates Daniel Pudil and Lewis McGugan also at the club, added: “I am excited to play as it’s been a long time and I know this league. But I am very sad as we play two games away (first) and I won’t know my supporters.

“I know we have very good players and if we focus and work together, we can do something very important for this club.”

On what he knows about his new place of work, he added: “Seriously, nothing! But I know before it was a good club in the past. Someone spoke to me and said this. After when I check in, I will know the city, club and history. Until then nothing.

“At Watford, I had a good relationship with the supporters. They have said to me that the support here is really nice even though I don’t know them yet.

“I remember one person in Argentina said to me: ‘All the time we play you in Sheffield, you score!’ And now I play with Sheffield.”