From the moment Rodrigo Bentancur walks into the media room at Tottenham’s training ground, he can’t help but smile.
The 24-year-old fulfills a lifelong dream.
“Playing in the Premier League is something I’ve always wanted to do,” Spurs new midfielder says exclusively sky sports via an interpreter, while continuing to improve his English. “I consider the Premier League to be the best league in the world.
“It was definitely a real dream for me to play in this league. I used to watch English football and the Premier League when I was a kid.
“I’m very happy to be here and to arrive at Tottenham, it’s a huge club.
“Things went very well. I had the help of all my team-mates and all the staff in the back office, so I’m delighted to start.”
Before completing his £21.5million deadline day move from Juventus to Tottenham, the Uruguayan brought in two stellar international team-mates.
Rave reports from former Liverpool striker Luis Suarez and Manchester United striker Edinson Cavani encouraged Bentancur to move to England.
He reveals: “I was following my situation [transfer to Tottenham] while he was on international duty, and as soon as Luis Suarez found out that there was a possibility of me coming to play in the Premier League, and for Tottenham, he made himself available to give me all the information I needed needed.
“Suarez said it would be a good decision for me and it would help me both professionally and personally. If I needed anything, he was ready to help me.
“Edinson Cavani got involved too. I asked him [about the move]even though he will be an opponent, and he said it was a spectacular league to play and it would benefit me greatly.
“They both said what a fantastic league it was.
“I knew it was a big step in my career, so getting information and information about the league was very important.
“It’s a decision I didn’t hesitate to make.”
Suarez even reportedly advised Aston Villa manager and former Liverpool team-mate Steven Gerrard to sign Bentancur last month, leading Villa to turn down a £20.5million offer from Juve.
But even with Villa’s interest, Tottenham had a trump card.
“The fact that [head coach] Having Antonio Conte here was a huge factor in helping me make my decision to join Tottenham, and a big motivation,” said Bentancur, who knows all about the Italian from his time at Inter Milan.
“I feel he can improve me as a player considerably and I’m looking forward to learning a lot from him.
“His track record is incredible. He has won many titles and been successful wherever he has gone.”
Bentancur himself has something to shout about when it comes to silverware.
He won two Argentine league championships and a Copa Argentina with his first club Boca Juniors. This was then followed by three Serie A titles and two Coppa Italias during his four and a half years at Juventus.
Conte has publicly singled out Bentancur as a player capable of bringing a “winning mentality” to Tottenham, who last won a trophy in 2008.
“I learned a lot when I was at Juve and I won a lot,” Bentancur said. “Hopefully my experience there can somehow help cement a higher level of trust in the team and that would be great.
“We have quality players here and we need to instill that confidence in ourselves that we can win trophies.”
Conte was also clear about Bentancur’s role, noting that his best position “is [as one of] two midfielders” – the job given to him on his first Premier League start in Sunday’s 2-0 home defeat to Wolves.
Bentancur’s performance was a silver lining in a poor result, and is even more impressive considering he’s only two weeks out of his life at Tottenham and still adjusting to the pace of the Premier. League.
“I think it’s going to take some time to settle in,” he admits, “because the Italian and English leagues are quite different, especially when you think about the intensity and speed of play in that country compared to Italy.
“This settling-in period will take some work. It’s something I’m currently working very hard on and I hope to get used to English football as quickly as possible.
“My main role [as a midfielder] is to close space, cover my defense if someone comes out to attack, help my teammates win the ball and then start the game.
“I’m more defensive than attacking, but the main thing is that I give 100 per cent and want to help my teammates in any way I can.
“If I can score goals and get assists this season, that will be more than welcome.”
Bentancur is set to play his first away game for Tottenham this weekend at Manchester City on Saturday night footballlive on Sky Sports.
The two sides’ recent results are poles apart: champions City are league leaders, unbeaten since early December and buoyant after Tuesday’s Champions League round of 16, Sporting Lisbon’s first leg in Portugal.
Tottenham, meanwhile, have lost their last three league games and are down seven points from the first four, having failed to keep a clean sheet in their last eight games in all competitions.
So can Tottenham really disrupt the Etihad?
“Every time you play against Man City you know you have to focus 100 per cent against them the whole game,” Bentancur said. “If you give City even half a centimeter where you shouldn’t, they can punish you, so it’s about having a good mentality for this game.
“We have worked so hard in training and we have a tactical plan to follow. We want to make sure that we apply this tactic and what we have worked hard on, to put in a good performance and get the right result.”
Saturday’s clash is Bentancur’s chance to face Kevin De Bruyne for the first time.
“De Bruyne is someone I have followed a lot,” he said. “He’s one of the best midfielders in the world.
“It’s a good test for me at the start of my career, so if I get selected it will be a real chance to put myself to the test.”
It’s also a chance for Bentancur to pick up his first Premier League points, having lost in both appearances against Southampton and Wolves.
But despite his unfortunate start, Bentancur remains positive – after all, he is fulfilling his dream.
Still smiling, he said: “It was not the start of English football I had dreamed of.
“Things can happen like that, it doesn’t always go your way. But what it does, it focuses your mind when you have two defeats and we’re going to do everything at Manchester City to try and win the game.
“In those two losses we created a lot of chances, but you have to take them, and we didn’t convert them the way we wanted.
“But we’re really focused on the next game. We’ve been training really hard this week, and we’ll do our best to put in a positive performance at City.”
Watch Manchester City v Tottenham live on Sky Sports Premier League and Main Event from 5pm Saturday; kick off 5:30 p.m.