By Ralph Hannah in Asuncion
The day after scoring what he described as “the biggest goal in my career, in my biggest game”, Paraguay’s teenage sensation Enzo Prono took time out of his busy schedule as a professional footballer and first-year law student to talk to Goal.com about his career to date and plans for the future.
The 19-year-old Sol de America striker, in his first professional season in Paraguayan football, scored his second goal in as many games last Sunday to equalise against league leaders Olimpia before seeing his side reduced to nine men and losing 3-1. Prono admits it was “frustrating” but on a personal note he was delighted with his second professional goal, and second header – surprising for somebody just 5ft 8in tall.
“At training today they told me I am the Saltarín Azul [Blue Leaper]” he smiled, a reference to legendary Paraguayan Arsenio Erico, the Saltarín Rojo player who was famed for his heading ability. “It is because I have a great jump, when we do tests to measure jumping I always come out on top” he revealed.
It started at U16s level when, as part of the Libertad youth system, Prono sought advice from his coach on his heading. “He told me to take a ball, throw it to the wall and head it, every day. So now I’m very sure about heading, so much so that if a cross comes into the box and I have the choice of shooting or heading, I head!”
|SNAPSHOT | Enzo Prono (Sol de America & Paraguay)
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Prono started his football career at Libertad, coached by Roberto Paredes and other members of Paraguay’s 1979 Copa America winning squad. He was one of just six schoolboys chosen from 5,000 during trials and spent most of his youth career as “a famous No. 9” before playing in a 4-4-2 system at Sol de America.
“I liked playing that way [a lone striker] because you know all the moves”, he reflected, comparing himself to Colombian forward Radamel Falcao. “I think I am similar to him because of the way he plays, he is very good with his head”.
Prior to his move to Sol de America, Prono had a taste of European football. In 2010 he went to trials in Belgium and Italy. “It was different” he remarks. “But it was a good experience, I learned things”. The biggest difference between Paraguay and Europe was the passing. “They work on that [passing of the ball], they work on that all day so that makes for a faster brand of soccer.”
European football is, of course, a career goal for Prono who lamented the lack of restrictions on foreign players in the Paraguayan league because he feels getting a move to a big Paraguayan club “is harder than getting a transfer to Europe”. Prono admits “I would love to play at Arsenal” and emulate his idol; “Thierry Henry was the best, for me he was the best striker ever”.
The youngster clearly follows European football closely, notable by some shrewd observations on the EPL. “I also liked ‘El Nino’ Torres when he was at Liverpool but not at Chelsea”, was his take on the Spanish star's current toils at Stamford Bridge." Possible destinations other than England are Spain and of course Italy because, as his name indicates, Enzo Prono has Italian heritage and even holds an Italian passport.
|"I would love to play at Arsenal... Thierry Henry was the best, for me the best striker ever"
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Yet he is unequivocal as to who he would like to play for, should he surpass his personal target of eight goals this season and catch the eye of Chiqui Arce. “I feel Paraguay in my blood, I want to play for the Paraguayan national team, it is my dream”.
The closest he has got so far was in 2009, as a part of a ‘sparring’ side who trained with the national side in the week leading up to the key qualifier against Argentina which Paraguay won. There was one player who stood out: “[Salvador] Cabanas was, I think, one of the most intelligent players in Paraguay’s history” states Prono adding, “when he had the ball he saw everything!”
One of the more remarkable things about Enzo Prono other than his deceptively good aerial ability is his academic career. Prono took a law exam hours before the interview and his first season of professional football coincides with his first year of university.
“I think when you don’t study you don’t develop your intelligence”, said the youngster. He wants to be involved in football after his playing days are over either as a coach, a player’s agent or even as the president of the Paraguayan FA and believes “law will help me in all this.”
There is no doubt that for this young, intelligent, talented footballer that plenty of doors will be opened for Enzo Prono as he continues to use his head both on and off the field.