Newcastle United midfielder Matt Ritchie is currently working under arguably one of the most influential managers in world football, yet when The Chronicle questioned him on the subject his response was more than a little surprising.
Ritchie admits he has learnt a lot in such a short time under Rafa Benitez and spent three-and-a-half seasons with Eddie Howe at Bournemouth, but the Scottish international felt that the manager who has had the biggest influence on his career is Paolo Di Canio.
The 27-year-old winger spent two seasons under the Italian's management at Swindon Town before moving to the Cherries and he believes that he would not be the player that he is today had it not been for the former Sunderland manager.
“Di Canio had a really big influence on my career,” Ritchie told The Chronicle. "It was a stage at my career when I’d come through the ranks at Portsmouth as a kid, it didn’t quite happen for me and I moved to Swindon. When Di Canio arrived, he brought with him the Italian mentality.
“It was completely different to anything I’d ever experienced. I had never come across this sort of approach before but I really bought into it - the strict fitness regime, training every day and diet was massive for him.
“Di Canio was fantastic for me mentality-wise; he gave me the desire to progress further and the belief in myself that I could play at a higher level. That has really stood me in good stead since.”
Since helping Swindon get promoted from League Two in 2012, Ritchie went on to win the Championship with Bournemouth and become a regular Premier League starter under Howe, but has now dropped back down the the second tier with the Magpies.
And the Scottish international admits that he felt he just couldn't turn down the opportunity to work with a 'manager like Rafa Benitez.
He continued: “The pedigree he has got is second to none and, if that doesn’t inspire you, I don’t know what will.
“I’ve already learned so much in two months - I’ve learned different things. It’s more of a European style of playing, with different tactics installed all the time.
“It’s really enjoyable and I’m extremely lucky.”
Ritchie has had a positive start to his United career after being awarded the club's Player of the Month for August and has continued his good run of form into September after grabbing a goal and an assist in the EFL Cup third round win over Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Already a fan favourite amongst the Toon Army, the former Bournemouth and Swindon man his hoping to make a quick return to the top flight with the Magpies.
Newcastle currently sit third in the Championship table with five wins from their opening eight league matches and they will be looking to get back to winning ways this Saturday away to Aston Villa (5.30pm kick-off).