Diaz: 'Zidane told me Lyon was ideal'
Mariano Diaz is looking forward to the challenge of joining Alexandre Lacazette among the Olympique Lyonnais pantheon of great strikers after taking Zinedine Zidane's advice to move to France.
When homegrown hero Lacazette departed for Arsenal in the summer, Lyon responded by signing Mariano from European champions Real Madrid where the Spanish-born striker had seen his first-team opportunities limited.
The 24-year-old might have moved to Espanyol or Valencia, but opted to join the seven-time French champions on the recommendation of his coach at Madrid, France legend Zidane.
WATCH: Mariano finds the net against champions Monaco
"Zidane told me about Lyon. He said that after Lacazette's departure I could play an important role here. He also said that Lyon was a good, well organised club that looks after its players. He said I would be feel at home, and that the team played a good brand of footbal, that I would enjoy," Mariano told The Ligue 1 Show on beIN SPORTS.
'Pressure is positive'
"This is well-respected team in Spain that enjoyed a golden era in which many consecutive titles were won. I know how many great strikers have played here, the likes of Sonny Anderson, Karim Benzema, John Carew, Fred and Lisandro Lopez. But not just strikers, Juninho, Malouda, Govou as well, OL are well known in Spain."
Two goals on his debut have paved the way for eight strikes in his first 11 Ligue 1 Conforama games, a lightning start not seen since OL icon Andre Guy raced out of the blocks in 1969.
It has helped Mariano calm the waves left by Lacazette leaving after 100 top-flight strikes in 203 appearances for his local club.
WATCH: Mariano nets twice on his OL debut
"The only thing I can say about Lacazette is that he scored lots of goals. I only saw a few games he played in, but I know he's technically very gifted, and I wish him all the best in his career. There is always going to be pressure replacing a player of his calibre, but for me, that pressure is positive. It forces me to set my standard high and work hard. It's the only way to deal with such pressure," said Mariano, who is aware that further strikes in Sunday's derby with AS Saint-Etienne will cement his place in OL fans' hearts.
"I've heard a lot about it, this game drives people crazy. Everybody is talking about the derby, about this team that we have a great rivalry with, and of course, about the importance of winning it!"