DAVIDE Santon has pledged that the best is yet to come from him at Newcastle United.
The defender’s form for the club this season earned him a recall to the Italy squad for Wednesday night’s friendly against France.
Santon didn’t get off the bench in Parma, where Cesare Prandelli’s side lost 2-1.
But the recall, after a two-year absence from the international fold, has heartened the 21-year-old ahead of tomorrow’s home game against Swansea City, which has taken on an added significance after last weekend’s disappointing 1-0 defeat to West Ham United.
And Santon – who manager Alan Pardew identified as one of Newcastle’s top performers this term – is confident he’ll get better as the season goes on.
“I think I play well at this moment, but I can play better,” Santon told the Gazette.
“I feel confidence on the pitch, and I’m happy. I’m relaxed, which is important.
“But I think I can play better. I’m not 100 per cent yet.”
Santon – who succeeded Jose Enrique at left-back – is now settled on and off the pitch in the North East after his move from Inter Milan last year.
And Santon has paid tribute to Pardew for his successful assimilation into the team.
“I have a really good feeling with the manager,” added Santon. “He’s a really good coach.
“It’s important for us to have him. He can give us confidence, and he knows the moment to say that we’re not playing well.
“In the second half (against West Ham), we were better, and that was thanks to the manager.
“He’s a really good coach, and important for the future of Newcastle.”
Santon admits leaving Italy for England at such a young age was a decision he – and his close-knit family – didn’t take lightly.
But he believes the move has been the making of him as a footballer.
“It was a big decision,” he said. “I had it with my dad and my family.
“I think it was the best decision. Newcastle, for me, is a big team, and the players are young.
“We have time to get better and play better.”
Santon – a close friend of Manchester City’s Mario Balotelli, the only other player based in England in Prandelli’s squad – is confident he can fulfil his ambition of playing in the World Cup in 2014 with Italy, beaten in this summer’s Euro 2012 final by Spain, as a Newcastle player.
“When I was young, it was my dream (to play for Italy),” said Santon.
“I had my first experience with Italy when I was 18 years and three months with Marcello Lippi.
“I had a period injured, and now I’m happy because I started well with Newcastle this season.
“Prandelli called me, and I’m happy and proud.
“Italy have really good years in Europe. They were in the final against Spain.
“I think we have a good international team, and we can go for the Mundial (the World Cup) in Brazil. It’s my dream.
“I had a chance with Marcello Lippi. I have to keep going, play every game and concentrate. Afterwards, we’ll see.”
Santon grew up worshipping the likes of Paolo Maldini and Franco Baresi.
And emulating ex-Ac Milan left-back Maldini, right-footed like Santon, is his aim over the coming years.
“My favourites were Maldini and Baresi,” he said. “Every (Italy) player was a hero for me.”