Okaka: ‘The best is yet to come’

Udinese forward Stefano Okaka hopes to get another chance to play for Italy, admits he ‘plays for the fans’ and predicts ‘the best is yet to come’.

Udinese sit 14th in the suspended Serie A campaign and had drawn four consecutive games ahead of the forced break, but Okaka has been one of the protagonists at the Dacia Arena this season.

Okaka scored on his Italy debut in a friendly against Albania on November 18, 2014 and has been capped four times by the Azzurri, but his last appearance came against Germany in another friendly on March 29, 2016.

“Since I arrived at Udinese last January, I have scored 11 goals and made three assists, I have done better than many players who are often mentioned fighting for a place in the national side,” Okaka told Tuttomercatoweb. “Of course, I think about it [a return to the national team].

The forward has revealed that he wants to resume the current campaign and whilst admitting that it would not be the same behind closed doors, he insisted ‘it’s better than nothing’.

“The hope is to resume, but it’s a hope. It’s clear that we can only return to play when it’s safe,” the 30-year-old said. “But of course, it isn’t [the same to play behind closed doors]. We play for the fans, you enter the Olimpico and you see the yellow and red scarves, the fans chanting and the atmosphere gives you that adrenaline that makes the difference, especially for a very competitive player like myself.

“Not to mention San Siro, but also the other stadiums. However, if you can only play behind closed doors, it’s better than nothing.”

Okaka has turned 30 and has experience from clubs like Roma, Parma, Sampdoria, Fulham and Anderlecht, before returning to Italy from England and a spell at Watford in the Premier League last January.

He initially came on loan and signed a permanent deal last summer, but he doesn’t feel that he has peaked in Udine already, claiming ‘the best is yet to come’.

“I sincerely don’t believe so. In my opinion, I did well at Sampdoria, and it wasn’t a coincidence that I played for the national team at the time,” he said. “But I also did good things with Anderlecht and at Roma, I don’t think we have seen the best Okaka here.

“I came to Udinese to relaunch and the best is yet to come.”

After scoring 11 goals in 38 matches with the Friuli, the former Italy international has claimed he does his talking on the pitch.

“I think every player puts a lot of himself on the field. I am happy to see it, because I’m like this. I’m a footballer who doesn’t speak a lot, who doesn’t like social media and who does the talking on the pitch.

“The way I play, is my way of life. I have no regrets. I have been in football for 15 years; I made my Serie A debut at 16 and I gave my family a better life. How could I have any regrets? Now, I can only look forward and try to finish how I want.”

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