So Ryan Nolan is something different. His story began in Shannon, progressed to Spain, and now has San Siro as the next chapter.
Nolan is a defender in Inter’s primavera side and his target is to graduate to the famous black-and-blue stripes of the first team, like Liam Brady and Robbie Keane before him. He would also love to represent the green of Ireland one day.
His eclectic experiences make for an unusual mix in a player, whose knowledge of various tongues can give him a slight edge on the field when battling opponents.
‘Sometimes I wouldn’t say something in Italian to them, I say it in Spanish or English,’ Nolan explains. ‘They look back and don’t know what I’ve said. It’s trying to get into their minds a little bit.’
Nolan grew up in Shannon, County Clare, and the accent of that region is still strong as he talks, even though he has lived abroad since the age of eight.
His family holidayed in Murcia every summer and one year decided to relocate for good, moving to the town of Torre Pacheco.
‘I had friends and that so moving was a bit scary,’ he says. ‘To begin with I didn’t really want to go but then you pick up the language, make friends, and it’s been really good.
‘I was in a Spanish school and I took maybe four or five months to speak fluently. It was easy enough because I was younger.
‘It’s great being outside, playing sport whenever you want. The lifestyle is better. It is warmer, so sunny, and it barely ever rains.’
Nolan continued to improve and was chosen to represent Murcia, playing in a major tournament at Under-16 level against other big Spanish regions such as Madrid and Catalonia.
‘There were lots of scouts there and that’s where Inter saw me,’ he says.
Villarreal had looked Nolan’s likeliest destination but falling under the gaze of legendary Inter scout Pierluigi Casiraghi changed the situation.
Casiraghi, who passed away in March aged 76, had recruited the likes of Mario Balotelli and Philippe Coutinho, and believed Nolan’s talent could find fulfillment in Italy.
Nolan said yes immediately, before even asking his parents. He adds:
‘When I signed for Inter, Casiraghi, who was a good friend of Liam Brady, was saying to me I’m the third Irish player to be at Inter including Robbie Keane. If I can have half the career they’ve had I will be happy. It was something I’ve always dreamed as a kid.
‘It was the first time leaving my parents. It was hard. We went off to Austria for pre-season and you run a lot. The intensity and level of football is obviously a lot higher than when I was back in Spain.
‘It was not easy meeting new people as I didn’t know the language at the start. But two or three months in I was fluent.’
Better training has brought Nolan’s game on, with different sessions focussing on conditional, tactical, and technical aspects. Tall and strong, Nolan can play anywhere along the backline.
‘I like to defend more than anything, that is my main attribute,’ he says. ‘When I was a kid I used to support Man United, I would watch Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand. I bought all the jerseys.’
He’s experienced UEFA Youth League matches, and has this year won the Under-19 Supercoppa against Roma and the Vareggio Cup over Fiorentina.
He played well in a recent 1-0 victory over Juventus in Turin. Scouts from the Premier League have kept tabs, with Liverpool among those represented.
‘My dad loves to come over to watch the matches and be with me for the weekend,’ Nolan says. ‘My mum visits every month or so. When I have two or three days off I like to go back home to Spain.
‘Milan is a really nice city. There is a lot of ancient history and shops for fashion. After nearly three years I know all the important places.’
After three years, Nolan has also begun to make an impression on the Inter first-team, being called into sessions by manager Luciano Spalletti and facing the likes of Mauro Icardi and Ivan Perisic in drills.
‘When I am marking Icardi and Perisic it is a big ask but it helps me learn,’ Nolan says. ‘If you can mark them you can mark anyone in the world, I would say. Icardi especially has great movement.
‘I’ve trained with them a few times but that next step is a big step at the moment.’
Playing for Ireland is another dream.
‘I feel 100 per cent Irish,’ he says.
‘If I played with Spain or Italy I don’t think it would be the same feeling. Obviously I am open if Ireland don’t give me a chance. But I definitely want to play with Ireland one day.
‘I went to camps with Under-17s and Under-18s. I maybe have to wait a year for Under-21s. I just want to keep on doing what I’m doing and hopefully they will call me up.’