Maccarone shocked at great start

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MIDDLESBROUGH'S Italian sensation Massimo Maccarone has admitted to being surprised at the fantastic start he has made to his Premiership career.

The Italy international moved to Teesside for a club record £8.15 million in the summer and major things were expected of the former Empoli man.

However, three goals in five games has made him an instant Riverside hero, although the 23-year-old is shocked at the impact he has made in such little time.

"I did not think about beginning really well when I left for England," he admitted.

"I really did not dare hope of launching my time here in such a way.

"They said to me when I signed they liked my character.

"When I took the important decision, to take the transfer to England, I always said I would only choose something that I was firmly convinced by."

Maccarone admits he is looking to cement a place in Italy's squad, after making his international bow last season.

"I do not know what will happen with the national squad, it is hard, but I am looking at the World Cup of 2006," he said.

"I want to become part of the Azzurri, I must demonstrate that I am capable and I am trying to do that.

"At the moment the five strikers in the squad are the best in the Italian league, for a long time they have demonstrated how good they are.

"I have only just begun and I must continue to prove myself and try to create a problem for the manager.

"Here in England, soccer is freer - the speed and the aggressiveness is here.

"The Premier League is an authentic show, the spectators love to watch it."

Asked whether he regretted his move he replied: "Not at all, in Italy too much importance is given to tactics, in Serie B every team would prepare for each game by studying the opposition's effectiveness.

"But here this does not happen, in the Premier League you go on the field to try and score more than the opposition, period.

"I am feeling very good here, Middlesbrough is a small place, a normal city like many others - beautiful even.

"There is green, it is close to Scotland, it is clean, calm and cultured.

"They said that it was an industrial city, but the industries are in the industrial zone which are not in the centre and there is no shadow of smog.

"Sure this place is beautiful, but it is like comparing Oleggio (Italian town near Milan) with Florence."

Maccarone also paid tribute to Gianluca Festa, who helped him settle in the area before moving to Portsmouth.

"I will never stop ringing him," said the young Italian.

"When I arrived he, who has been here six years, explained everything to me.

"He made me understand the English mentality, he gave me an accelerated course which was priceless. Practically to learn everything he taught me would have taken a long time.

"I was disappointed to see him leave, but that is soccer.

"My official interpreter at the moment is Alen Boksic with the alternative being the Argentine Marinelli.

"With my English I still have to work hard, I work hard but it is not simple.

"My house is beautiful in a residential area, my girl who lives in Italy is with me for a month, then she will decide what she wants to do.

"Thanks to Festa, I have found two Sardinian restaurants, one in the city and one near the training ground and I could not ask for better. But I do want to adapt my tastes to this country.

"I just have to learn about the training, in Italy they trained less and had twice the time on the field and it is not easy to become accustomed to this.

"But I just follow the same preparations of the other players, because it does seem that you need a different physique in a different region.

"I like England for attacking, there is more space and I find myself in more room, this appeals to me as I have more chances to score goals."

Maccarone was also delighted to have started scoring with his head.

"The great thing is that I never scored with my head in the past year, I don't know why this is, perhaps I am getting more crosses," he said.

A host of Italian clubs including Juventus, Lazio and Roma are keeping tabs on Maccarone. revealed last week that Internazionale had dispatched Marco Branca to watch him.

But Middlesbrough manager Steve McClaren is unfazed by the reports, saying: "I'm not at all worried about big clubs chasing him.

"If that's the case, and if he's in the Italian national squad, then he must be doing well.

"He's a young player who has done very well in the game so far.

"Everybody has seen the ability the boy has.

"He's a goalscorer, he's quick, works hard and is committed."