Patrick Cutrone did not believe he could become an Italy international, until the AC Milan striker experienced a breakout season in Serie A this term.
Italy face Argentina on Friday and Cutrone is relishing the prospect of taking on Barcelona great Lionel Messi. "For me Messi was a PlayStation character," he said. "It will be an honour to face him. He is football," Cutrone added.
Cutrone did not expect whirlwind Milan season and Italy call-up
The 20-year-old had made just one substitute first-team appearance before this campaign, but he has quickly established himself as a key player at San Siro, scoring 15 goals in all competitions.
And as Cutrone prepares for his senior Italy debut - called up to the squad to play friendlies against Argentina and England - he has revealed his rise to prominence felt unlikely just 12 months ago.
"[Milan coach Gennaro] Gattuso has given me a little bit of his character, but I always had a competitive nastiness and a desire to score," the forward told a news conference.
"Last year I was in the [Milan] Primavera and I honestly didn't think I'd get to this point, [but] I showed what I could do and trained hard. The coaches helped me a lot - from those in the youth team to [Vincenzo] Montella and Gattuso.
"Dreams never end, especially for us youngsters. I hope to make my debut soon.
"I still haven't achieved anything, though. My parents help me a lot and keep my feet on the ground. This is an opportunity and I'll try not to waste it. I want to train well and improve. This is a starting point and I want to do more and more."
#Nazionale 🇮🇹— Nazionale Italiana (@Vivo_Azzurro) 17 March 2018
Gli #Azzurri ⚽️ #convocati di Luigi #DiBiagio per le #amichevoli 🆚
🇦🇷 #Argentina - #Manchester 🇬🇧, 23 marzo, h 20.45
⚪️🔴 #Inghilterra - #Londra 🇬🇧, 27 marzo, h 21
ℹ️ Info: https://t.co/yrQzAfAydM#ArgentinaItalia #InghilterraItalia #VivoAzzurro pic.twitter.com/tJnMkWDi1s