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‘I needed to get my smile back’ – Rennes striker Niang reflects on ‘complicated’ spell in Italy

1:55 AM GMT+4 27/09/2018
Mbaye Niang
The Senegalese attacker summed up his six-year experience in the Italian top-flight and backed his decision to return to France in the summer

Rennes striker Mbaye Niang has revealed that he had a ‘complicated' campaign with Torino in the 2017-18 season.

The Senegal international who is currently on loan from the Serie A side returned to France in August, six years after he left Caen for AC Milan as a highly rated prospect in 2012.

During his stay with the San Siro outfit, Niang was loaned to Montpellier, Genoa, Watford and Torino in order to get regular playing time.

After impressing at Il Toro, the 23-year-old joined permanently this summer in a deal worth around €12 million but was immediately shipped out to Rennes in a season-long loan.

“Things had become more complicated in Italy,” Niang told L'Equipe.

“I left because I needed to get my smile and the joy of playing football back. When I was 16, I used to play for fun.

“I was carefree, but then people got to know me and it wasn’t like that anymore. When you have players like Mexes, Ambrosini, Robinho, Boateng and Abbiati in your team, it’s certainly easier to win when the going gets tough.

“I’m still happy to have made my mistakes in the past because they‘ve allowed me to grow up and become a father with the right head one day.

“I don’t agree with those who say Rennes are a step-down. I’ve joined a club who have so much ambition.

“I had an idea to re-launch myself and I wanted to follow it through. I had some ups and downs at Torino, the season went well from November to March but then everything became more complicated.

“I played in Italy for so many years, I did what I had to do for big clubs like Milan. I made myself ready whenever I was called upon.”

On his choice of destination, the Teranga Lions star who attracted interests from several European sides this summer disclosed that he chose a familiar ground to continue his development.

“There were Leganés and other proposals, including Galatasaray, who also insisted until the last day,” he added.

“I had an idea in mind to be able to raise me, and I wanted to follow this logic to return in a Championship that I know and in a well-honed team that worked well last season. I arrive on tiptoe to talk about me in the field and register in the long term."

Niang has played five games for Rennes this season including the Uefa Europa League opener against Jablonec but he is yet to find the back of the net for Sabri Lamouchi's side.