Stephy Mavididi: Juventus' English striker on winning Serie A and selfies with Ronaldo

Stephy Mavididi
Mavididi made his Juventus debut in a 2-1 defeat by SPAL in April

Let go by Arsenal, scouted by Giorgio Chiellini's brother - and now celebrating Juventus' Serie A title with a Cristiano Ronaldo selfie. A lot has changed in a year for Stephy Mavididi.

When Aaron Ramsey joins the Italian giants this summer, he will not be the only former Gunner in their ranks.

The Welshman will join 20-year-old striker Mavididi, who last month became the first Englishman since David Platt in 1992 to play for the Old Lady.

It's an incredible rise for the Derby-born player, who never made a senior Arsenal appearance and was playing on loan at League One Charlton last season.

Mavididi tells BBC Sport about his decision to play abroad, training with Juventus' star-studded squad, and also how he dealt with the death of his father just days after Juventus sealed a record eighth consecutive league title.

'How could I turn down Juventus?'

Stephy Mavididi
Mavididi training with former Arsenal team-mate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

"It was a week filled of mixed emotions," says Mavididi, when discussing a monumental seven days last August.

The England Under-20 international turned professional with Arsenal in 2015, but failed to progress beyond the Gunners' youth and reserve teams and had two loan spells at Charlton and one at Preston North End.

"Last summer I came back to Arsenal for pre-season and was told it would be difficult for me to play in the first team," he says.

"My time at Arsenal was done. I had been there for eight years, but then Juventus came calling and I was on cloud nine again - it was an amazing feeling.

"I was speaking to the scout who told me he had been watching me for a while, telling me games I played in three years ago - I couldn't even remember them, but he liked what he saw."

By going abroad, Mavididi was following a now well trodden path for young English talent, with former Arsenal team-mates Reiss Nelson (on loan at Hoffenheim) and Chuba Akpom (PAOK), and Jadon Sancho, who left Manchester City for Dortmund, all making a name for themselves on the continent.

Mavididi added: "When Juventus came calling, how could I turn it down? I didn't think twice about it. I liked the project. I thought I can only improve, it is now down to me to kick on, train with these players and learn as much as I can. It was a massive opportunity and I am happy I have taken it."

It had been Juventus captain Chiellini's brother Claudio, the club's under-23 team co-ordinator, who bought Mavididi to the club, initially as a reserve player.

But he was soon training with the first team.

"I remember that first training session like it was yesterday," says Mavididi. "The first time I saw Ronaldo."

'Be quick or Chiellini and Bonucci will smash straight through you'

Stephy Mavididi
Mavididi training with Bonucci

Mavididi says he has learned the biggest lessons from playing against legendary Italy and Juventus defenders Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci.

"You have a split second to execute what you want to do, if not then Chiellini and Bonucci will come smashing straight through you," he says.

"You have not got any time. I have learned to think quickly and do things quicker."

Beyond the formidable defence, there are the Juventus playmakers and attackers like Paulo Dybala and Miralem Pjanic.

"With their quality, if you make a run you are bound to get the ball," he adds.

And then there is five-time Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldo, who joined the club from Real Madrid a month before Mavididi for £99.2m.

"The way he goes about his business was incredible for me to watch," Mavididi says. "How he applies himself every day in the gym and on the pitch. How he looks after his body, his diet - mainly off-the-pitch stuff. Everyone knows what he can do on the pitch, but off the pitch is what keeps him going."

And Ronaldo is one of the players with whom Mavididi has struck up a friendship.

"It is a really close-knit group, everyone is cool and there is good vibes, good banter," he says.

"I get on with most of them, Uncle Blaise [Matuidi] and obviously Ronaldo. He tries to give English banter but it is not that good - he is a good guy, very down to earth.

"Moise Kean is a good friend of mine and I get on with [Emre] Can and [former Arsenal team-mate] Wojciech Szczesny.

"The club make you feel really involved - it is a credit to everyone in the dressing room."

'From highest of highs to lowest of lows'

Stephy Mavididi
Mavididi with Ronaldo after Juventus' Serie A triumph

Mavididi scored six goals in 32 games for the Juve U23 team in Serie C, Italy's third tier.

He was called up by then manager Massimiliano Allegri to the first team bench twice before finally making his debut in a 2-1 defeat by SPAL on 13 April, when he appeared as a second-half substitute.

"I remember before the match, I was the last one out of the changing room and Allegri said 'are you ready?' and I said 'of course I am ready'," he continues.

"I was itching to come on. Then in the 69th minute I entered the pitch and made by debut. It was a day I will never forget.

"For Allegri to put me on gave me a big confidence boost and showed that he had faith in me."

Juventus' loss that day meant they had to wait to confirm another title, but that came the following week when they beat Fiorentina. Mavididi was an unused substitute that day - but he took full part in the changing room celebrations.

"It was a weekend I will never forget and something I will treasure," he says. "Everyone was happy, celebrating. I even pranked Ronaldo.

"But that weekend was a one of mixed emotions. Afterwards I found out my dad had passed away. I went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows.

"I think my father watched my debut. It is important. That was one of his nice last memories of me.

"The club were great with me, they said to take as long as I needed. I went to London for two weeks with my family and missed two games, but we gave dad a good send off and that is the most important thing."

Mavididi did not receive a title winner's medal because he had not played enough games, but in his first season in Italy he was able to achieve his first target.

He added: "When I joined I wanted to make my debut this year and I have reached that target. So now I want more."

Stephy Mavididi
Mavididi and the Juventus squad celebrating the title in the changing room

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