Graziano Pelle has said that Southampton have been "vital" in his success in the Italian national team since arriving at St. Mary’s.
After appearing in the youth teams earlier in his career, Pelle had yet to get a call up to the senior squad when he was reunited with Ronald Koeman at Southampton last summer. However, after impressive performances in his early months with the Saints, the striker was called up to the national squad and the 30-year-old scored the winning goal against Malta on his senior debut.
The Italian has now cemented his position in Antonio Conte’s squad and has been crucial in securing Italy’s place in Euro 2016 after a qualification process that saw them go unbeaten.
"It’s [Pelle’s first senior call up] just one year, but it seems like it was longer," the striker reminisces with Southampton’s YouTube channel.
"I remember we had to play against QPR. I heard that a scout from the Italian national team was coming to watch the game. I scored an amazing goal. It would be strange after that to not be called! It was a cherry on the cake.
"It was a long time waiting. It helped me to realise I had to do something more, to be more hungry. In my opinion, I’ve always been a good player.
"Probably, when I was playing the Eredivisie, that competition wasn’t taken too seriously and probably they said ‘Graziano’s going well but maybe it’s easy there.’
Pelle recognises the important part that the Premier League and Southampton have played in his rise with the national side.
"I knew I was always doing well. I said I needed something, a new step. The chance to play in the Premier League was a great chance because after that, if I do well in the Premier League, I can probably go to the national team.
"It [moving to Southampton] was vital. I did two seasons in Holland. I scored 60 goals, amazing goals but it wasn’t enough! As soon as I came here and started to perform well, I was feeling I would probably get a call up.
"Southampton was really important because it’s a Premier League club giving me the chance to perform. I’m really happy about my decision."
Pelle is excited about the opportunity to play in the European championships with Italy but will not get ahead of himself and his fully focused on Southampton.
"I won’t be happy to go to the national team and I didn’t do a great season with Southampton. For me, it has to go both in the same way. I know I reached the national team because of Southampton and the performances here. I will do my best every game to do always the best I can do."