Lorenzo Insigne has revealed the hardships he went through as a youngster attempting to make it big in the world of football while being a "shorty", and his love for the one true "God" in Napoli: Diego Maradona.
The 26-year-old came from a "humble" family who were lifelong Neapolitans, however, despite today being regarded as one of the most dangerous attackers in Serie A, that was not always how the Italian's future looked.
While attempting to gain attention from the nation's academies, the Frattamaggiore-born, a commune in Naples, frontman was hampered by a common roadblock; height, and while contributing to The Players' Tribune, he has revealed how it nearly ended his career before it had even began.
Milan, Napoli, Juve & Lazio are the only teams in Serie A this season with at least 3 players who have scored 5 or more goals.— TheMilanBible (@TheMilanBible) February 19, 2018
Suso (6), Cutrone & Jack (5)
Mertens (15), Callejon (7), Insigne & Hamsik (5)
Higuain, Dybala (14) & Khedira (6)
Immobile (20), L.Alberto & Savic (7) pic.twitter.com/cbtPBTCwzp
"My dream, always, was to play in the Napoli shirt at the San Paolo", Insigne said. "For me, there was no other dream. I didn’t play any other sports.
"I didn’t think about anything but football. But as I grew up and got tryouts with different youth teams — Inter, Torino, even Napoli — the scouts always told me the same thing.
"Well, actually they did not tell me. They told my father, and then he broke the news to me. And it was the same verdict every time.
“'We like him, but he’s a shorty.'”
25 games gone in Serie A...— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) February 18, 2018
1️⃣ Napoli on 66 points
2️⃣ Juventus on 65 points
Who wins the 2017/18 Scudetto? 🤔
"In Italy, people are very honest like that. They all discarded me because of my height. After I was told this by Torino at 14, let’s just say that I didn’t want to play anymore.
"I told my family that it was useless. I was too short. Technique, strength, speed — you can just work harder and improve. But your height? What can you do? I’d wake up every morning hoping I’d grown overnight. But nothing. So I told my dad, “It’s impossible, I’m done.”
"But then he said, 'O.K., so what are you going to do if not football?'
"And I thought about it, and I said, 'Shit, what am I gonna do?'
"So I kept playing with the local football school, and finally, Napoli came along and gave me another shot when I was 15 years old."
The 26-year-old, who is currently chasing what could be I Partenopei's first Scudetto in his lifetime, went on to admit, rather surprisingly, while growing up he did not see Maradona as the greatest that had ever lived, despite the now 57-year-old spending seven years at the Stadio San Paolo, but believed then Inter striker Ronaldo, who was the cause of much pain for Napoli, deserved that title.
Insigne's love for the Brazilian even went as far as nagging his farther every day for a pair of the famous R9's, a boot O Fenomeno donned during the 1998 World Cup, until he eventually got his wish.
However, after realising his dream and starring for his hometown club, the Italy international has 'repented' his previous beliefs, now recognising the Argentine as the one true 'king'.
"Every time I go out to play at San Paolo, I get goosebumps", he added. "Because I think about what it means for my family, and I think about everything my father sacrificed over the years to keep me going.
"And now I get to walk out on the pitch in my hometown, and I always get goosebumps because I think, 'This is where the greatest player in the world played. This is where Maradona played.'
"With all due respect to Ronaldo, now that I am older, and I know my history, I have to repent and say that Maradona is the greatest who ever lived.
"Mr. Ronaldo, you had great boots. You were a genius. You were my inspiration. But I am a Neapolitan, and so I have to say that there is only one king, and his name is Diego."