Alessandro Riggi is glad to be back with the club.
The 21-year-old winger first joined the Impact at 15, for the inaugural year of the Academy. After a solid progression, he decided to try his luck in Europe at the age of 18, going from Italy’s Sampdoria to Celta Vigo in Spain, and other European clubs, before coming back home.
Even if he has no regrets regarding his time in Europe, he admits that it might not have been the best time in his career for a move, at such a young age, after he worked hard to build something with the Montreal club.
“When I went to Europe, I was expecting to be treated the same way I was with the Impact,” explained Riggi. “But, when you go there, you are alone. You have to figure out how to go to training, cook your meals and accept setbacks without complaining.”
Riggi was at a point in his career where his talent was being recognized by the Canadian club. Many times, he trained with the first team. But when he got back after leaving, it was harder to get a look.
“It’s hard to say if leaving was the right decision,” said Riggi. “When I look at the soccer aspect, I realise that I built something here my whole life. I understood that things don’t happen for nothing and that preparation changes everything. But the experience in Europe gave me the chance to be more independent and get out of my shell. I’m more comfortable in general now.”
It’s an opportune homecoming for the FC Montreal winger.
He returned around the same time the club took new steps in player development, when towards the end of 2014, the Impact announced the creation of a second professional team: FC Montreal.
“When I heard that the Impact was open to having me back and that they would field a USL team, I was extremely happy,” explained Riggi. “I’ve been coming to watch the Impact at the stadium since I was young. It’s like having a second family behind us. I was always supported and pushed here. I realized that in life, it’s always better to go step by step than to take the elevator.”
Riggi rediscovered a number of his former teammates with FC Montreal and will be in the team’s record books, scoring the first ever home goal in a 2-1 loss to the Rochester Rhinos on May 2.
Even if he admires many players, there’s no doubt in his mind that Lionel Messi is alone on top of his list. The diminutive FC Barcelona player has inspired Riggi since his first days on the pitch. But when asked to compare himself to an Impact first teamer, his answer comes without hesitation.
“Dilly Duka - I have many similar characteristics, whether it’s the ability to change directions quickly or to take on an opponent. Physically, we are both small, but broad. When I trained with the group for a few months, Duka impressed me with his humility and because he works hard every day.”
As for his own team in USL, there are a few players that have caught his eye.
“The one that surprises me the most is Victor Omar Ndiaye. When we were younger, he wasn’t starting every game, but you could see his qualities. When I got back, I noticed he was way more confident on and off the field. He has qualities and takes care of himself. He’s an example for us.”
“Zachary Sukunda and Fabio Morelli have also impressed. Zach won the confidence of the coaches in just a few months and he’s now a regular starter. For Fabio, he is really young, but trains regularly with the first team and even spent the preseason with them.”
Alessandro Riggi has had an interesting journey so far in his young career, but his approach for the future remains positive as he tries to benefit from every moment that this second chance in Montreal will bring.