Stefano Beltrame exclusive: Playing with Pirlo and CR7 at Juventus; excelling with Den Bosch; finding form in Indonesia

It is fair to say that Stefano Beltrame’s career didn’t reach the heights Juventus hoped it might when they signed him for just under a million euros in 2012. But like many players who start off in the academy at some of the world’s biggest clubs, Beltrame’s career has taken him from club to club and country to country.

Whilst some spells have been more successful than others, his career is a reminder that for all the stars we watch on the television who make it at the top level, there are thousands of youngsters who have far more complicated times in football.

After Juventus and then co-owned by Sampdoria, Beltrame was loaned out year after year in Italy’s Serie B. He eventually found a home in the Netherlands in the Eredivisie (although still on loan). The Italian would enjoy spells with both Den Bosch (twice) and Go Ahead Eagles. It was there where Beltrame spent the best years of his career and whilst a far-cry from training with Andrea Pirlo and Cristiano Ronaldo at Juventus, he was finally settled.

After three years out on loan in the Netherlands, Beltrame spent a year in Juventus’ Serie C NextGen side before moving to Bulgaria’s CSKA Sofia. From there he moved to Maritimo in Portugal before joining Indonesian side Persib Bandung where Beltrame still now plays.

Your career so far has taken you far and wide, but where were you at your happiest and what spell have you found the most difficult?

“All the experiences [n my career] helped me grow a lot. I left Italy when I was 23-24 years old and you know that for us Italians leaving our country is never easy, because we have that idea in our head that if you are a footballer in Italy, you should play only in Italy. When I left Italy and went to the Netherlands, I grew a lot as a person, I learned a new language and those 3 years in the Netherlands were the best for me and it was the country where I felt the best.

“The most difficult experience for me was in Bulgaria and this was not due to the team, the fans, or the city because everything was good, but it was due to covid. Due to the pandemic situation.

“I was shut in my home alone for two months without the possibility of going back to my country and this was very difficult for me from a mental point of view. And if it would have not been for covid I would have stayed in Bulgaria because I liked a lot the city, the club, and the fans.”

During your experiences in many different countries, you have played with some great players but who would you say were the best players you played alongside and against?

“For me, the best players I have played with are two Andrea Pirlo and Cristiano Ronaldo. When I was part of Juventus, I had the chance to play with them and train with them.

“The most difficult opponent for me has been the Portuguese defender, Pepe, he is so strong psychically and he always finds the right moment to confront you and to win the ball.”

Some decent names in there! Moving on, can you tell me about your time in the Netherlands, the period of your career that you described as being your happiest so far?

“So, in that country, I had the three most beautiful years of my career until now. In the beginning it was not easy for me in a new country and a new language.

“There, the football is always oriented towards the attack and that’s why in that league in every match there are a lot of goals, and it’s very technical.

“In the training sessions we always used the ball in every moment, high-intensity training – one touch, two touches maximum. I enjoyed my experience in the Netherlands a lot and as I told you it was my best experience until now.”

And how about your spell with Maritimo in Portugal, do you speak of your time there so glowingly?

“The experience there was 50-50, I arrived there in January and in the first 6 months I played only 3 matches because I got injured twice. And the next year I did well, I played all of the matches, and we stayed in the league.

“In the final year, I had some problems with the coach, and I declined the offer from the club regarding my renewal. So, I didn’t give there what I could have given. The football in Portugal is very technical and there are more tactics than in the Netherlands for example.”

You now play in Indonisia for Persib, a big move in your career and a world away from European football. How have you found that experience so far?

“I arrived here in November, and in the first matches I played only a little bit because I arrived after a period of 6 months without a team. Now I am getting better and better, and I have scored different goals.

“I thought in the beginning that the football here would be of a low level but when I came, I started rethinking about it and I have changed my mind. The Indonesian footballers here know how to play, they understand football very well. The only problem here is that they should become better and work more on tactics.

“They know how to play football and what to do with the ball, but they should become better in a mental aspect and tactical aspect. The league here is getting better and better and the foreign players that are here are helping to raise the level of the league. And I think that with time this league will become one of the strongest in Asia.”

As a former Juventus player, what did you make of the 2023/24 Serie A season?

The greatest surprise of this season is Bologna for me, they are doing incredible and are guided by a great and very talented coach in Motta. And they have a striker in Zirkee who is showing his qualities every day, and nobody thought that this player would have these kinds of qualities.”

Finally, how much hope do you hold for Italy in next month’s European Championship and what do you make of the new national manager Luciano Spalletti?

“Spalletti is a great coach and has demonstrated this in every place he has been. I think that Luciano is the right man to open a new era of the national team and to implement a new attacking philosophy.

“Nowadays football has changed and there aren’t any more small teams and big teams, we have seen in different tournaments that everyone can win or lose against everyone.

“And I am sure we will fight until the last second and the team is going to make us all proud.”

– adapted by Harry Dunnett

Source link