Gianluca Nani has told WHUTV of his admiration for the passion in English football and is looking forward to his new role as West Ham United's technical director.
The 45-year-old Italian, who was unveiled at a special news conference alongside Alan Curbishley earlier this week, has spoken at length of his delight at his appointment, which followed a lengthy recruitment process led by the manager. The outgoing Brescia Calcio sporting director said: "I am honoured and proud to be here at West Ham and I will try to do my best to help the club to grow and do a good job.
"I know the tradition of West Ham. I know it is the Academy of Football, I know that West Ham play in the right way. I know the players coming from West Ham. The legends like Bobby Moore, like Trevor Brooking and Geoff Hurst ...." As well as the great names of the past, Nani is equally as comfortable listing the youngsters hoping to follow in such illustrious footsteps. "I know the Academy is really important. We have to grow the Academy all the time because the fans recognise themselves in the players coming through.
"Like now, we have [Mark] Noble, [James] Tomkins, [Jack] Collison and the boy Freddie Sears and this is really important that the young players coming from the Academy get to play at the Boleyn Ground and score like Noble in the last minute against Liverpool. It is fantastic." Nani was present for that 1-0 home win against the Reds on 30 January and it is clear what he saw on that night under the lights left a lasting impression.
"Before a journalist asked me 'which is the best player here at West Ham?' and I answered 'listen, I can't pick one name but for me it is the fans'. The atmosphere of the Boleyn Ground, when I was here the first time, it was massively impressive. I knew before I came here that West Ham supporters are really passionate. This is good because football is passion, is happiness and West Ham has maybe the most passionate fans in England."
Nani is a big fan of the English game in general, claiming it is the "most exciting and enjoyable". He added: "At this moment, English football is really the top. You can see what is happening with the Champions League with the four English clubs [in the quarter-finals]. I think at the moment, I am in the best place to work." Nani has already begun planning for his new role but will start full time in June. His remit includes helping the club's scouting network and Academy, as well as matters like the training ground infrastructure.
"One of our ambitions is to build a structure able to find a player before the other clubs, when they are young, and try to build a system to discover players and bring them here to West Ham. To teach them the way to play here in England and the honour it means to play for West Ham and to form the players that Alan can use for the first team. Then we have to use our network to bring senior players to make West Ham more competitive - to grow the club step by step."
He has performed a similar role with Brescia since 1999 and the roll call of names he has worked with - both youthful and experienced - is impressive. "I think we did a good job because we brought some Italian players to be world champions like [Andrea] Pirlo and [Luca] Toni. Other players that were in the national team like [Aimo] Diana, [Daniele] Bonera, [Stefano] Mauri, or players ... like Matuzalem, [Stephen] Appiah, [Marek] Hamsik, [Fabiano] Santacroce, [Danny] Szetela, [Gilberto] Martinez, [Andrea] Carraciolo."
He will "try to do the same job" in east London, but stressed there was a key difference. "Brescia was a small club and to try to survive, they have to sell players each year. Here at West Ham we have another ambition, the ambition is to try to build a team on and off the field ... We have to build a structure able to find players. Young players and senior players and step by step try to grow each year. We have to work hard, step by step."