Last week forward Jozy Altidore broke the all-time transfer fee record for a U.S. player with his $13 million move to the English Premier League's Sunderland from AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands. Altidore, 23, scored 31 goals in all competitions for AZ last year, a record for a U.S. player in Europe, and he caught fire for the U.S. national team last month, scoring in four straight games as the Americans won all three of their World Cup qualifiers.
On Friday, Altidore spoke to SI.com in his first interview with a U.S. media outlet about his move to Sunderland. Here's what he had to say:
SI.com: Congratulations on making the move to Sunderland. Why in the end did you decide this was a move you wanted to make?
Altidore: Just in all shapes and forms, I felt like it was a good opportunity for me. I felt like it was a good time to take this step, and it was a good training environment I was coming into. I could still train every day and develop and have those tactical sessions that I still need to keep getting better.
SI.com: What's the sense that you've gotten of your new manager Paolo Di Canio so far?
Altidore: He's a fantastic coach, a guy who's very big on tactics. He's big on having the right mentality every single day, whether it's a stretching session or anything else. When it's time to be serious, he wants to be serious. He sends the right message to the team. I think it's important for the young players here at the club and the team as a whole. It helps us have a certain identity, which is good.
SI.com: There is some element of risk in your move, but everyone has to weigh that when they have a chance to move to the Premier League like this. How much risk do you see in joining Sunderland?
Altidore: To be honest, I don't really think about that part of things. You're risking every day in anything you do in life. But I just felt like I was ready for this step at a team that's up-and-coming, but at the same time a club with big support and a good stadium. People are buying into what they're trying to do here. They're trying to make it a special place to be. I'm excited. I'm not looking at risks or worrying about anything.
SI.com: How much time have you gotten to spend with the club so far?
Altidore: I joined the club on Tuesday of last week. It's been good. I fit right in with the group. The group's easy. There are no prima donnas or anything like that. Everybody gets along really well off the field, and it's been an easy transition for me.
SI.com: It sounded like you were already looking at real estate today?
Altidore: Yeah (laughs). Me and [Emanuele] Giaccherini and Vito [Mannone] and [Modibo] Diakite, we were all looking for apartments and places to live.
SI.com: How would you compare the Premier League to the Dutch league? How is this going to be similar? How is this going to be different?
Altidore: Obviously, I don't think my team is going to have as much of the ball as we did in Holland. That was how we played there. They're very possession-oriented. So that will be different. But in terms of everything else, the Premier League is the Premier League. There's no league in the world that can really compete with it. You look at it top to bottom, whether it's clubs or stadiums or just the competition in the league. Everybody wants to get a taste of that, so I'm excited for it.
SI.com: Have you gotten any indication of what type of forward they want you to be, and if that's similar or slightly different from AZ?
Altidore: It's the same type of player. From what I've seen so far, the system is going to be pretty similar. Obviously not the same, because in Holland they were really disciplined with how they played. But I think it'll be pretty similar.
SI.com: You guys take off for Hong Kong pretty soon, right?
Altidore: We're going [Saturday] to Hong Kong to play a preseason tournament there. It should be fun. We're playing Spurs [and the U.S.'s Clint Dempsey and Brad Friedel] on Wednesday.