Cristian Romero exclusive: Tottenham's combative £47m defender feeling at home in the Premier League

Cristian Romero spoke exclusively to Sky Sports about settling into the Premier League, endearing himself to the fans and playing alongside Lionel Messi; Watch Spurs vs Man Utd live on Sky Sports Premier League from 5pm on Saturday; kick-off 5.30pm

Cristian Romero spoke exclusively to Sky Sports
Image: Cristian Romero spoke exclusively to Sky Sports

It was a chastening late September afternoon which prompted plenty of discussion among Tottenham supporters already streaming for the exits at the Emirates Stadium.

A feature of Nuno Espirito Santo's early decisions as head coach had been his reluctance to call upon Cristian Romero, who watched on from the bench as a first-half flurry from Arsenal ended the north London derby as a contest inside 34 minutes.

Signed from Atalanta in the summer, Romero was viewed as a major coup given the interest shown by Chelsea and Manchester United, but Spurs' marquee signing of the transfer window was an unused substitute as Eric Dier and Davinson Sanchez struggled to cope with Arsenal's fluid frontline.

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Nuno was no doubt aware of the player's technical ability to go alongside his physicality but having gradually eased him into the campaign, Romero has subsequently cemented his place in the Tottenham side and is a certainty to be tasked with keeping Manchester United at bay on Saturday Night Football.

"Slowly but surely, I'm feeling more at home here," Romero exclusively tells Sky Sports after starting the last three Premier League matches.

Michail Antonio vies for possession with Romero
Image: Michail Antonio vies for possession with Romero

"It's not something that would happen overnight and every change of environment requires a period of adapting. I'm feeling good at the moment and hopefully I can continue playing at this level."

It has been a start to life in England not without its obstacles.

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Global restrictions as a result of the pandemic contributed to an ill-fated international break last month which saw the Argentine forced to train in Croatia for a spell after travelling to a red-list country.

Romero was reportedly disciplined for making the trip to South America against the club's wishes but that is now in the past, and the centre-back has certainly endeared himself to Tottenham fans with his combative approach to winning matches.

Tottenham

Defeat at West Ham came as a blow but the 23-year-old emerged with plenty of credit, and he added to his growing reputation with another commanding performance as Spurs reached the Carabao Cup quarter-finals with victory at Burnley on Wednesday night.

Romero drove forward in possession on several occasions during an impressive individual display at the London Stadium in which he regained possession (8) and made more interceptions (5) than any other team-mate.

His efforts were somewhat unfairly overshadowed by an incident involving Pablo Fornals which led to him receiving a yellow card for an unnecessary altercation on the touchline as tensions boiled over.

"Unfortunately, that happened with Pablo," adds Romero, admitting he had overstepped the mark. "I've met him before once when we were at an airport and he's an excellent guy.

"What happened the other day wasn't his fault and I reacted in a bad way. These are the kind of things which happen in the heat of battle. You do anything to fight for your team, but he's a good guy."

Romero is the sort who gets consumed by fixing what broke for a fourth time in London derbies this season.

Brought in as a replacement for Toby Alderweireld, the numbers back up claims he can emulate the Belgian as a mainstay of the Tottenham defence at the start of a new cycle at the club.

Romero vs Alderweireld

At £47m he is Spurs' second-biggest signing after Tanguy Ndombele, but Romero has wasted little time in adapting to the rigours of the Premier League - helped by the club's Spanish-speaking contingent.

"Gio [Lo Celso] has helped me to settle in and I like having him as a team-mate for both club and country," he says. "He's a very good friend and clearly it helps having people like him here as we play together for Argentina.

"But he didn't influence my decision to join. It was fully my decision to come to Tottenham as it's a big club playing in the best league in the world."

'Messi is a footballing god'

Lionel Messi mural in Rosario, Argentina
Image: Lionel Messi mural in Rosario, Argentina

It was with Argentina that Romero collected the first piece of silverware in his career in July as Argentina won their first Copa America title since 1993.

Elected as the best defender in Serie A during the 2020/21 season at Atalanta, Romero carried his excellent form into the summer as he was named in the team of the tournament.

It has been a sharp ascent. Born in Cordoba, the defender only moved to Italy as a 20-year-old in July 2018 having featured just 19 times for Argentine Primera Division side Belgrano.

Romero comes up against Neymar for Argentina
Image: Romero comes up against Neymar for Argentina

He made his senior debut for Argentina in June, but the Albiceleste are yet to lose during the eight occasions Lionel Scaloni has called upon his services.

Ending a 28-year trophy drought was all the more satisfying as it came at Brazil's expense inside the Maracanã, with Lionel Messi's international career finally being provided its crowning moment.

"Winning trophies with my country is the ultimate and to win the Copa America last summer was the highlight of my career so far," Romero adds. "I love playing for my country and playing with Messi is a real joy.

"I only know him as a player, but he's a footballing god. It's a real privilege to have him as a team-mate and compatriot. He's always helping the younger players in the group when we've met up in camps and he's a very modest, humble guy.

"For me, he's the best player in the world so it's always fun being able to play alongside him."

Romero and Spurs in search of consistency

tottenham

Romero signed a five-year contract upon his arrival at Tottenham and he is committed to following in the shoes of previous Argentines who have graced this famous club, where the likes of Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa were part of a glorious era in the early 1980s at White Hart Lane.

But the current group have been plagued by an inconsistency that has often shown itself even within games, to such an extent when after this issue is raised with Romero his initial response is, "Do you mean the first half of the season compared to the second or the games themselves?"

Wolves were regarded as a second-half team under Nuno but there seems to have been an inversion of those numbers at Tottenham during the early part of his tenure - something which Romero is unable to put his finger on.

"The game against West Ham was a bit peculiar as we had practically all of the ball in the second half but we couldn't create chances and then we conceded a soft goal. They hadn't really done anything in order to collect the three points.

"We created chances in the first half but weren't able to convert them which made things more complicated but we're already working hard to ensure this doesn't happen again."

Nuno has lost four of his first nine Premier League matches as Spurs boss - the only manager to lose more than four of his first 10 Premier League games in charge of Tottenham was Christian Gross in 1997/98, who lost five.

Tottenham

Romero will hope to be part of a Spurs side that ensures this unwanted record is not matched this weekend against Manchester United, live on Sky Sports.

"Of course, after every defeat you are left feeling bitter but we're already looking ahead," he continues. "The group remains strong and united in what we're trying to achieve and we're already focused on reacting to the setback.

"From my time working under Nuno, I've already learned he's a very calm manager. He brings a lot of calmness to the dressing room given we've only had a short time working together as a group.

Tottenham

"There's no real need to panic given we're inside the top six positions in the league and it's very tight from fourth place downwards. We're focused on giving the best version of ourselves as we know with clear heads we can bring back a positive momentum.

"We'll prepare for Manchester United in the best way possible in order to win in front of our supporters. I came here to compete for trophies and to compete in the Champions League and that is the level I feel we should all be aspiring to reach. In order to achieve this target, we have to remain united."

'Romero already greeted as Argentina's saviour'

HT Newcastle 1-3 Tottenham

South American football expert Tim Vickery:

"Centre-back has been a real problem position for Argentina for years and just since the start of June when he first played, Cristian Romero has been greeted as the saviour. Even with just eight caps, he's now the first defender on the team sheet for Argentina.

"He had a few injuries during the Copa America and only played three games, but Argentina didn't concede in those three games and had a splendid season at Atalanta, who are an attacking club. Their defence was often exposed but he came through that very well.

"He's combative - sometimes a little too combative - he's 23 so there's a lot of football ahead of him. Tottenham may be paying a little over the odds for him, but there's plenty to like about him. He's a real fighter."

How to follow Tottenham vs Man Utd

Tottenham vs Man Utd

Tottenham vs Man Utd is live on Sky Sports Premier League from 5pm; kick-off 5.30pm. Sky Sports customers can watch in-game clips in the live match blog on the Sky Sports website and app.

Highlights will also be published on the Sky Sports digital platforms and the Sky Sports Football YouTube channel shortly after the final whistle.

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