Dalot: Who my heroes were growing up
Diogo Dalot has revealed who his football heroes were as a youngster and reflects on two important achievements in his fledging career to date.
The Braga-born full-back joined FC Porto’s youth system in 2008 at the age of nine and has since blossomed into one of the most promising players in his native Portugal.
Dalot only made his first-team debut for Porto in October 2017 but gained vital experience in Primeira Liga, prior to his move to United last summer.
Speaking to United Review recently, the 19-year-old discussed the icons who inspired him to become a professional footballer and his early memories of Porto’s 2004 Champions League triumph as a five-year-old.
“Of course, when you grow up, it’s all about big players like [Cristiano] Ronaldo, the other Ronaldo, Iniesta, Xavi and Messi,” he told the club’s official matchday programme.
“You grow up seeing those kind of players in big clubs, in big games, and you watch them because you want to be a football player one day and you want to be the best.
“I also remember Porto winning the European Cup when I was five. We had some very good players. If you ask me about watching the game, I don’t remember, but I remember celebrating! It was a great moment for me as a fan and for the club.
“We had the opportunities sometimes to talk to players like Paulo Ferreira and the players who won when they came to our training centre. It was good to be able to communicate and share in their experiences.”
MY FIRST BIG, BIG EMOTIONAL WIN
Capped by Portugal at youth level from Under-15s to Under-21s, Diogo won the Under-17 European Championship in Azerbaijan in 2016, scoring two crucial goals during his five appearances and being named in the Team of the Tournament.
“The European Under-17 Championship in 2016 was my first big, big emotional win,” Dalot stated. “Only a few days after do you realise you are a champion! I think Portugal nowadays has something to say in Europe and last summer we also won the U19 European Championship again.
“I think it was the first step for big things that are coming. If you watched all the team [that won the U17 Euros] I think you will see quality, you will see desire to win, you will see everything that you can think about in a player.
“Most of them are playing for big teams and in big leagues now and I think you will see some pretty good players in a few years, and a very good [national] team. I love to play with them.”
PORTUGUESE FOOTBALL'S BIGGEST MOMENT
Later that year, the Portuguese prodigy also played his part in helping the Under-19 team reach the quarter-finals of the European Championship. Despite the team’s last-eight exit, Dalot had still shown enough to earn a place in the finals' best XI.
However, it proved to be a golden summer for his country, who won the European Championship final at the expense of Paul Pogba’s France – an occasion Diogo described as the biggest moment ever in Portuguese football.
“After I won it with the Under-17s, I then went to the Under-19 championship,” Dalot recalled. “We were in the hotel there watching Portugal beat France in the Euro 2016 final, and the day and the celebrations we had were amazing.”
He went on: “It was the biggest moment in Portuguese football history. We were in our rooms and then the referee blew the final whistle and we went to the corridor and celebrated, banging walls, singing, everything!
“It was a great victory, but not so good for Paul [Pogba]! Of course, he says he didn’t deserve to lose, but I think Portugal deserved to win. It was a great day for us.
“We were nervous when Ronaldo was injured, but when he came back out after the injury and started talking with the players, I think it gave more strength to those out on the pitch. I have no doubt that Ronaldo helped to inspire Eder’s winner.”
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