France's meeting with Argentina in Paris tonight may only be a friendly but David Trezeguet has no hesitation describing it as "one of the biggest matches of my career". The Juventus striker was born in Rouen but moved to South America with his Argentinian parents when he was two and grew up in Buenos Aires. On returning to France aged 16, Trezeguet's talent was quickly spotted by AS Monaco FC, and by the time he received a call to play for Les Bleus at Under-17 level his heart was set on representing the country of his birth.
Having helped France win the FIFA World Cup and UEFA EURO 2000™, famously scoring the 'golden goal' in the latter final, Trezeguet is now part of French folklore. Amazingly, though, he will be crossing swords with Argentina for the first time at the Stade de France. "It's going to be a very special, emotional occasion," he said. "I've not played Argentina at any level before. This is the country that enabled me to make my first steps in life, and I still have very strong links over there."
Trezeguet memorably donned a light blue and white hat whilst parading the World Cup trophy on the pitch in 1998, a poignant display of respect to the nation that introduced him to the game. "I got to know and love football in Argentina, and that is where I developed the most as a player," he said.
A natural-born goalscorer, he turned out for local club Union Vecinal de Villa Adalina before joining CA Platense where he made his first appearances as a professional. But it is his memory of watching the 1986 World Cup on television that stands out most vividly. "When you experience an event like that in a country that lives and breathes football, you are affected for life. Diego Maradona was my idol and I'll never forget the day he lifted the trophy."
Trezeguet admitted that as an awe-inspired youngster he dreamed of representing Argentina. Once the Maradona infatuation had calmed down, he modelled his game on Gabriel Batistuta, then later adopted Hernán Crespo, who lived in his neighbourhood, as a role model. But he also kept a close eye on French sport, following Michel Platini's fortunes, supporting Les Bleus at rugby and cheering for Alain Prost in Formula One. His schoolmates nicknamed him 'El Frances'.
'I've been adopted'
But today Trezeguet does not regret opting for France. "When I arrived in Monaco I didn't speak good French but I adapted and I feel I've been adopted by France," explained Trezeguet, who has scored 34 goals in 68 internationals. "It wasn't an easy choice but I went with my gut feeling and I'm pleased I did. I've been part of some of the best moments in France's history and wearing the blue shirt makes me proud."
The past year has arguably been the most difficult in Trezeguet's exceptional career. Relegated to Serie B with Juventus, he also missed the decisive penalty in last summer's World Cup final. But the 29-year-old is confident that 2007 will be more enjoyable, starting with Wednesday night. "I've been looking forward to the game for months," he said. "Thankfully I've been picked in the squad. If I play perhaps that's a sign that my fortunes are improving."
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