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The second-highest scorer in this season’s Serie A. Marko can’t wait to get back to it and help his Bologna team as high up the table as possible

With eight goals in 13 matches, and with quality and leadership in abundance, Marko Arnautovic is leading Bologna’s charges in the right direction, after a difficult start to the season. We spoke with the Rossoblù number 10 about the campaign so far, Austria and… Gin!

Marko, how are you? How much are you itching to get back to playing officially?

I’m good, we’re training hard and getting ourselves ready for 4 January!

Have you missed football? Your last official game was on 20 November, between Austria and Italy, winning 2-0…

True! (smiling) We were desperate for the win after losing at the Euros and my disallowed goal… Then, Italy went on to win the tournament and I was happy for you! Everyone considered it as a friendly but in Austria, they don’t exist, thus we put everything into beating a top team and we were really happy with the result.

What have you been up to during the break?

After the game with Italy, I was happy to have a little holiday. I had a couple of weeks of downtime, but I struggle to live without football so after a few days I was already itching to get back to playing. In the end, I was happy to get back to training and meet up with my teammates!

What does it mean for you to play for Austria?

It’s an immense pride. It means the world to me. I’ve always made myself available and given everything I have, even when I wasn’t physically at my best. I’ve always turned up and given my all for the national team.

How disappointing was it to not go to the World Cup?

Very disappointing! Playing in a World Cup for Austria is the only thing I haven’t achieved with them. We must look to the next one, but I’m not sure I’ll get the chance as the years are passing me by, we’ll see. If I’m physically up to it then there’s a chance I’ll get another opportunity, and if it does come around then I’ll do my utmost best like always.

Did you follow what happened in Qatar? Who were you supporting?

I’ve always supported Messi because he’s just phenomenal; he is my favourite player so I’m so happy Argentina won it. Instead, while they were still in the competition, I followed Serbia because it’s my second nation.

You are the penalty-taker in the team. At the World Cup, they decided on many games. What’s the secret of scoring a penalty?

Taking a penalty during a game is never easy. You’re alone with the goalkeeper in front of you, and it seems easy, but it isn’t; the goal seems to go shrink and the keeper becomes this really big figure. Think about facing someone like Milinkovic Savic… there’s all the pressure on you to reward all the hard work done by your teammates. When you walk up to the spot, you need to stay relaxed and choose where you’re going to place it; you can’t change your mind, it’s pointless. You have to put it where you thought of putting it at the beginning; I believe this is the secret, to follow your instinct!

You ended the first half of the season in really good form, and with a win over Sassuolo… are you happy overall with how it’s gone so far?

We suffered a lot when we weren’t winning, everything just seemed to go against us, even when we were ahead in games, which then we drew or lost. Ending this final part of the first half of the season with four wins out of five has given us a real boost, but the campaign isn’t over yet and there are still plenty of games to play. We need to keep our performances up and try to win. When we play against the top sides, we mustn’t get into the habit of thinking we’re only going there to see the stadium and be lambs to the slaughter. We want to go out there and win them all, or at least try to.

What are you expecting in this second part of the season?

It’s going to be strange and a bit difficult, I think. Those who have been playing at the World Cup will come back tired, and many will have some fitness issues. Playing the World Cup between November and December wasn’t a good thing: physically, it’s tough, and nobody considers that we are just people with normal bodies. It can be very damaging to the body if we never stop. I hope everyone is well and they can get back to playing at their very best. The first match back is at the Olimpico against Roma…

It’s going to be a very difficult match. They are fighting at the top end of the table, but we don’t want to go there just to make the numbers up; we want to take our game to them and look to take the three points. If they win it will be because they were better than us, but we need to go there and leave everything out on the pitch.

Then, you’ve got Atalanta and Udinese… With three positive results, you could even start to think about European positions.

I think it’s too early to be talking about that, we just need to take each game as it comes. Now, we’ve got Roma, then we’ll move to the next one. In Serie A TIM, everyone is really strong, there’s never an easy game.

How will you get yourself charged for these games?

As I always do, by listening to music or chatting with my wife, my son and my brother. I hate the build-up to a game, I just want to go straight to the stadium on the day of the game when I wake up. Instead, my routine is very different: hotel, lunch, a stroll… The most positive thing, though, is that the whole group of lads are together, as a squad!

Ahahah! It’s an idea that was created together with a friend, but in reality, it’s my father who runs it all! Naturally, it’s the best in the business, once you’ve tasted it you never want to drink anything else, not even water! (laughing) Joking aside, it’s not for everyone; if you’re less than 18 years old then you can’t drink it, but if you are older then please drink responsibly!

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