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National 2 03 September 2020, 14:00

Tiago Ribeiro : "I dream of signing as a professional with AS Monaco"

Tiago Ribeiro : "I dream of signing as a professional with AS Monaco"
Again among the top 5 academies in France last season, the Academy of AS Monaco will be in the spotlight in the new series "Rookie." Throughout the season, we will introduce you to the young players at the club. In this first episode, we meet Tiago Ribeiro, a midfielder with the N2 side.

Tiago Miguel Hora Ribeiro, to give his full name, was born in Vila Nova de Gaia in Portugal on March 14, 2002. Coming from a family of sportsmen, he is the son of Sergio Ribeiro who played for Neuchâtel Xamax and FC La Chaux de Fond in Switzerland in the 1990s. A defensive midfielder, purely left-footed, with very good delivery on set pieces, Tiago arrived at AS Monaco in the summer of 2018 at the age of 16, from the academy of FC Porto.

Starter in the first three matches in N2

A major component in the exceptional run by the U19s of Frédéric Barilaro last season in the league and in the Coupe Gambardella (unbeaten in 23 matches in both competitions), before its abrupt end due to the health crisis, the Portuguese U18 international (3 caps) has since been promoted to the N2 team.

A starter in the season’s first three matches under David Bechkoura, he scored an equalizer against RC Grasse this Wednesday from the penalty spot (70′, 1-1), to allow his teammates to grab a point. Find out more about him in the first episode of the series Rookie.

Tell us a bit about your  background Tiago…

I started with a small club near my home in Vila Nova de Gaia. I played there for five years and then I went to Porto where I spent nine and a half years of training, and then arrived here in Monaco, where I joined two years ago, in 2018.

So you spent a lot of time in Porto. Did this club make an impression on you?

Yes, Porto is very important to me because that’s where I spent a lot of my training. I learned a lot in this club, and I also made a lot of friends there with whom I still keep in touch.

You come from a family of footballers, is that right?

Yes, it’s true. My father played football and my brother still plays in Portugal. My whole family plays sports, and that is important. Football isn’t just for my family, it’s also for me. When I started playing when I was 2 or 3, it was just to be with my friends. But around 10-12 years old I started having dreams, especially that of becoming a professional footballer. And today I’m chasing that dream at AS Monaco.

The players, the coaches and all the people who are here have helped me adjust. They understand that one is not in one's own country, that you do not speak the language, that you are not with your family. It’s not easy to change everything at 16. That's why I'm grateful, they have changed my life, I will remember them all my life.
Tiago Ribeiro

How has your arrival and your integration in Monaco been?

The first 2-3 months were very difficult, because I was in a different country, a different culture with a different language too. The players, the coaches and all the people who are here have helped me adjust. They understand that one is not in one’s own country, that you do not speak the language, that you are not with your family. It’s not easy to change everything at 16. That’s why I’m grateful, they have changed my life, I will remember them all my life. So it was important for me to learn the language very quickly, I understand everything now even if I speak a little less. I have improved my football too, I have learned a lot and I will continue to learn. I’m happy to be here because it’s a great club. I am happy, life is very good here.

What can you say about your progress here?

I have been through all the stages in the age groups. You need to be calm, patient, because if you want to get into professional football quickly, that’s not the way it works. I still need to learn and improve my football. It’s true that I want to play now in N2 all the time and in the future with the first team — it feels good, but I really need to take it step by step for now.

I can improve a lot of things, my aggressiveness for example, and my right foot too. I will continue to work on all of that this season.
Tiago Ribeiro

Tell us about how last season went

Last season was definitely my best season with Monaco. I played almost every match (17 games, 1435 minutes played), improved a lot of things in my game, and scored seven goals and provided five assists. These are good statistics for me, for my position as a defensive midfielder, and I want to continue like this.

Tell us a bit about your qualities as a player?

I think I have a good left foot. I’m very strong in my passing, my tacking and at set pieces. I also think I have a good mental game — that’s my strength. In my position it’s important to be smart to know how to play even without having a lot of the ball. I can improve a lot of things, my aggressiveness for example, and my right foot too. I will continue to work on all of that this season.

Where did you get this ability on set pieces, have you worked on it in training?

I try to work a lot on set pieces, sometimes even after training, when the coach allows it. Because sometimes when you have worked a lot you risk injuring yourself through over-exertion. I watch a lot of videos too. The most important thing for me when I strike the ball is to be focused on what I’m trying to do. It is very important to be calm and focused, and after that it is the left foot that says it all (smiles).

How is it going for you in school?

When I arrived here, I still had two years of schooling, I continued my studies by Skype. It was very difficult by Skype because sometimes there was a bad internet connection … But this year I finished school, earning my Baccalaureate in Portugal.Us foreign players take our exams in our home countries. Now I am focused on football. I would have liked to continue school because it is very important to me, but it’s impossible with football. Despite everything, if I am doing well in school, I am doing well in football and in life too. We don’t know if we’re going to have great careers, if we’re going to play well in the future. School allows one to have a future outside of football as well.

What are your personal goals this season with the N2?

My goals this season are to play as much as possible with the N2. But my other goal, and it’s everyone’s goal here, is to sign my first professional contract for Monaco. It’s very important to me, I dream about it, it’s my main goal. If I work hard, it will happen, I’m sure.

Do you dream of playing for the Portuguese national team?

It’s very important for me to be with the national team, to represent my country. Every time I am very happy to go. It feels good because when we go to the selection we find other teammates we have known previoulsy, we play against our club teammates — Italians, French, Spaniards, Belgians … Every player who wants to play football wants to represent his country, that’s a reason for satisfaction.

Rui Barros, Ricardo Carvalho, Joao Moutinho, Bernardo Silva… Great Portuguese players have been here, do you know about their history?

Yes, of course, I know these great players. I came here to be a part of that. But above all, I came to Monaco because it is a club that gives young people a chance and that’s what motivates me. That’s what I like here, I like that there is that mentality here towards developing young people.

If we work hard, if we do things well, if we sleep well, if we put in good training, dreams can come true.
Tiago Ribeiro

Who is your role model in your position, which player have you been impressed by?

In my position the player who has impressed me the most recently is Ruben Neves (Wolverhampton). He played in Porto. He scored his first goal with the first team at 17. He spent three years there and then he moved to England at age 20. And for me today he is in the top 10 in the world at his position. That’s why I like him, he works hard and I try to be inspired by him. Then in other positions there is Bernardo Silva, Thiago Silva, who was with Porto without playing it but who is a very good player. And then obviously Cristiano Ronaldo, who works every day to be the best player in the world. This also motivates me, I want to play with them one day. This is a dream.

It comes through a lot of hard work …

If we work hard, if we do things well, if we sleep well, if we put in good training, dreams can come true. It is very important to work hard in football and even outside it.

Tell us about your exceptional goal against Sochaux, it was at the Stade Louis-II …

(Gives a big smile) This goal was important to me because it is the best goal I’ve scored for Monaco. Even more so, it was at the Stade Louis-II, it’s wonderful to play here. In addition, the goal was important because the Coupe Gambardella is a real goal for the club. Then I don’t know, it’s instinct, I have the ball, I nudge it a bit and I hit. I’m lucky that it found the net, but I think it was my favorite goal last season. Even now when I’m in my room I watch it back on video, it was beautiful.

Playing in the N2 is very difficult. All the teams want to win against Monaco, this is the match of the season for them. But that's good because that's why we're a great club, that's the difference.
Tiago Ribeiro

Aren’t you frustrated that you didn’t finish this season with the U19s?

If I am very frustrated it’s because we hadn’t lost a match and I know that if we had continued, we could have done great things with coach Frédéric Barilaro and become champion. We had a great energy as a team.

What are the differences between U19 football and professional football?

It’s very physical. There is also experience that plays a role. We are smart, but the senior players have more experience, maturity and are more physical. I didn’t think so at first but now I realize it. They make more dangerous tackles, they are stronger. We need to stay calm, otherwise we will see red every game. Playing in the N2 is very difficult. All the teams want to win against Monaco, this is the match of the season for them. But that’s good because that’s why we’re a great club, that’s the difference.

What are your goals for this season?

I hope that we will continue to win and write our page in the history of the club. And I want to score more than last season. I scored six goals from set pieces — four free kicks and two penalties, and the goal in the game is against Sochaux in Gambardella. I want to do even better.

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