Festy Ebosele: Wayne Rooney's advice, facing Zlatan Ibrahimović and representing Ireland

The Udinese winger is currently with the Irish U21s as they prepare to face Iceland in a friendly at Turner's Cross on 
Festy Ebosele: Wayne Rooney's advice, facing Zlatan Ibrahimović and representing Ireland

BRIGHT FUTURE: Festy Ebosele poses for a portrait during a Republic of Ireland U21's media conference at Carlton Hotel Blanchardstown in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Given everything Wayne Rooney has achieved in the game, it takes a strong personality to defy his words of advice.

But as things began to unravel at Derby County under the guidance of the Manchester United and England legend last season, Festy Ebosele did just that when he was considering a move to a new club.

“I think he wanted me to stay in England, he wanted me to go to the Prem,” admitted Ebosele.

“But listen, everyone has their opinions, I respect his opinion and yeah, we definitely made up. We never fell out over it or anything.

“I was always open to going anywhere, to be honest. Mainly Italy, Germany, or staying in England. They were probably in my top three of what I wanted to do.

“Looking over the teams and all the scenarios, I felt like Italy was the best move and I’m happy with it.”

It is almost a year to the day that Ebosele agreed to join Serie A side Udinese on a five-year-deal before he finally swapped the English East Midlands for the Italian Northeast last summer.

While his Italian is coming along nicely thanks to his two lessons a week, so too is his footballing education.

Last weekend, he faced arguably the toughest test of his young career when he featured against Champions AC Milan and a certain Zlatan Ibrahimović.

“It is a great moment because obviously growing up, these are the players that you hear about,” he continued.

“These are the players that are scoring loads of goals, going on the pitch, and playing against them, it’s good. You feel good. You feel like you worked hard for moments like this.

“I remember watching him when he scored that bicycle kick against England. Obviously, it’s not normal for players still to be playing at his age. I never thought I’d actually play against him. And he's very big, bigger in person.

“Italy is one of the hardest leagues to play in, especially being as young as I am. And they say if you play in Italy, you can play everywhere, so I think obviously I’m a lot more mature now.

“It depends on the individual. If you are going over (to Italy) to play football, not everything's going to go your way. But if you’re mentally strong, then you can. If you don't feel like you are mentally strong, then maybe stay where you’re comfortable. But you’re never going to get better unless you come out of your comfort zone.

“I play football as I want to look after my family as best as I can. I felt like coming to Italy, I can do that, and improve.”

The Wexford native remains confident that he will continue to develop in Italy and that the move will lead to a second call-up to Stephen Kenny’s senior set-up, and then a first cap in the near future.

But for now, his focus is on getting more minutes under his belt, starting with the Republic of Ireland U21s in their friendly against Iceland at Turner’s Cross on Sunday.

“I went once (to the seniors). I’ve not played. I’ve not had a lot of game time this season, so I think that’s why I’ve not been called up again,” claimed the 20-year-old.

“Listen if I go up to the seniors, I go up. If I stay there, I'm still happy. I want to try to play football and get minutes. I reckon if I stay here, I’ll play rather than go up to the seniors, but I'm just happy to play here.

“I didn't know the whole (U21) team when I first came in. But hopefully, over the next couple of days, we can get closer and be like a proper team by the time the game comes against Iceland. Obviously, we’ll grow together as the campaign goes ahead and see how far we can get.”

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