Antonio Adán – the Real… interview
First off, a big thank you to reader Julia for helping with this translation of Antonio Adán’s Real… interview. This is a great chance to get to know one of the more unfamiliar faces to Madrid fans, especially if you haven’t paid much attention to the cantera in recent years. In this interview, Antonio comes across as a fairly serious guy, but I found several things quite amusing, including the fact that he loves shopping (alone), that José Mourinho calls him “el gordito” (the fat little one) and that Esteban Granero apparently has a lot of dirt on him. Reveal more please, Esteban!
“Mira la vida” by Dani Martín is Antonio Adán’s chosen song to start this interview.
I think it’s a song that describes the moment I’m living right now. After going through a difficult time, I’m now in a very happy moment.
How does Antonio Adán see life in this moment, when you’re becoming someone important in football?
I see life with happiness and a desire to enjoy every moment. Now that I’ve achieved my dreams, it’s time to enjoy it by spending time with my family and the people around me, and I hope it will be like this for many years.
To debut with Real Madrid is important, a dream.
It is a dream, like I told you before. I’ve been here for lots of years, many things have happened and now I’ve reached it [my goal]. Now it’s time to enjoy this moment after all the suffering and sacrifice. Now it’s time to relish this moment, being part of this club, wearing that shirt and being in the Bernabéu, and all that being a Real Madrid player means.
What are Adán’s origins? What’s your family like?
Adán comes from a very humble family, from a very small town in Madrid called Mejorada. My father has worked very hard and I have to be grateful to them for making me who I am today and for how they raised me. And for helping me fulfill my dreams, which are also theirs.
Who is the reference in your life?
Possibly my father, since he is a person I always consult with when I have to make an important decision. He’s helped me a lot and I think he’s a person who has sacrificed a lot to raise us. He would get up very early to go to work and return late, but he always had time to talk, when I came home from training, to tell me what I did well, what I did poorly, where I had to improve. My mother was also very important. She spent a lot of time with me, many trips on the bus or metro, when it was raining… she was always there. And then of course my brothers were important too. I have an older brother who is a role model for everything, and it was his lot in life to live on the other side, to have a brother who’s a Real Madrid player. He’s accepted it with much tranquility and humility. I think he’s another example for life.
Iker said that it isn’t easy to be the brother of a footballer, since you’re always in the background. He said nevertheless, his brother Unai has always been there for him.
That’s the way it is, no? It’s clear that all the attention is focused on this dream, but maybe this is because it’s the dream of everyone. My older brother was always put second and I have to be very thankful for how he’s treated me. He’s a madridista to death who defends this shirt and this club like no one else. He’s a really important person for me, and I have to thank him for that.
What is your father like?
He doesn’t have anything to do with football, even though now he dedicates a lot of time to it, because we opened a football school. That has always been his dream, because he’s always loved football. Even though he’s always been a madridista, his life was about working, which he started practically as soon as he left high school until now, while managing to raise three wonderful sons.
One feels proud to be able to give back to one’s family part of the effort that they made for him.
Of course. The first thing I did once I debuted with the first team was to go out and eat with them, to thank them and to tell them that now is the time to enjoy it, because they worked so hard to make this dream come true. I told them that, and they understood it, and now we’re all a bit happier.
Tell me about Mejorada, where you grew up and took your first steps.
I’m very happy in Mejorada. I grew up there, my friends are from there, I went to school there and started playing football there. My life is there. I’m very happy there, and people there have a lot of affection for me from the time I was small for where I played, and I’m very grateful for the treatment I received throughout the years. They’ve watched me grow up, and even when I was small, they would tell me, hopefully we’ll see you one day in the Bernabéu. They made me feel very good and the truth is, it’s somewhere where I spend a lot of time.
I suppose that you keep in touch with all your childhood friends, no?
Of course. This is really important for me, and whenever I can, I get together with my old friends. It’s really important for me. You have to know where you come from and to value where you are now.
What are your friends up to now? Do they study, work…?
Many things. There are some that don’t have work, while others work, they have their girlfriends… The important thing is that they are humble, that I like being with them and that I can have a great time with them. Whenever I have spare time, I go there to see them and to talk about our lives.
What do you say to these friends, since they’re affected by the crisis, but you’re a bit isolated from all that?
I try to help them as much as I can, to lend a hand if I can, and try to understand their situation, because that’s the reality. A footballer is isolated from the reality, and they also help me to value what I have, to know how tough life can be, and we try to help each other move forward.
What was Adán like in his pandilla?
I was always the smallest one, because I had friends in common with my older brother, who is three years older than me. So I was the little one in the group, the most timid one, the most quiet one. They all really helped me to mature. And in the pick-up games, they always put me in goal, of course.
How does a kid know that he wants to be a goalkeeper?
I always wanted to be a [field] player; in fact I started out as one. One day the coach told me, Antonio, it’s your turn to be the goalkeeper, and even though I didn’t want to, I did pretty well. When I got home, I was a bit angry, and I said to my father, “papá, today the mister put me in goal and I don’t want to play there.” The next day, my father went to talk to him and told him, “we have this problem because my son wants to play on the field, let him play there.” And the coach, who was a famous futsal player, Nilo, told him, “your son is going to be a goalkeeper, let him play that position.” After so many years, and seeing where I am now, it’s great to remember those words and him.
What does your father have to say about this? I suppose he remembers the incident…
We’ve talked about it many times, and we even find it amusing, remembering him saying, “put him in the goal.”
Did you have any nicknames as a kid?
No, not when I was small. When I was bit older and had started playing football, they called me Chino or Chine, but I didn’t have any in my neighborhood.
Mourinho always talks about this famous video that he saw, which RMTV also possesses, in which you were very young, but big.
Yes, the mister always reminds me of that, and he called me “gordito” (the fat little one). He said to me, “that can’t be you!” and I told him, “yes, yes, míster, I swear to you that’s me.” But the truth is that when I was younger, I was bigger, and the mister remembers me as “el gordito.”
[Is it this video? Antonio's face really was a lot fuller when he was small! And they also chose "Mira la vida" to accompany that video too, since I guess they knew that he likes this song!]
Did being a part of the first team of Real Madrid go to your head, once you started appearing in the press and on TV, and people started stopping you on the streets, saying that the future of the Real Madrid goal is in your hands…
Maybe you should ask others to see if I’ve changed. I try to stick with my values – humility, knowing where I came from… I try to do the same things as I did before, as naturally and normally as before. I try not to spend a lot of time thinking about these things, and to be a normal guy.
At any moment, did anyone say to you, eh…
At home. Your family is the only one that always tells you the truth, because they’ve seen you grow up and in the good and bad times. And they know perfectly when to tell you that you’re wrong, you’re going down the wrong path and you have to change.
Were you a good student? Granero told me he was, that he always got good grades. Were you like that?
Not as much. It’s true that I was capable of studying more, but perhaps my problem was that I was lazy and that I loved football too much. I dedicated many hours to that, and a lot less to my studies.
What are you the most proud of?
That’s complicated, but perhaps my family, how they raised me and the values they imparted to me from the time I was small and I think that is the thing I’m most proud of.
What is your best quality? What are you proud of?
My naturalness, my normality, my humility…those are important values for me. I like to see them in other persons and I like others to see them in me.
Granero said the other day that he’s learned from everyone, what would you like to learn, and from whom?
I believe you can learn from everyone, whether it’s something good or bad. I don’t like to push anyone away without knowing them. I think you can learn from everyone, although in the end you may have more in common with some than others. But you have to learn from everyone, because I believe that makes you a better person.
Who has been your role model in life?
In my life, it’s clear that my references are my parents and my brothers. Between all of them, they’ve made me the person I am and they’re my role models. Professionally, there are a few, such as Iker, because he’s the obvious example for all of us canteranos, for the sacrifices he’s made since he was nine to get to where he is now, the best goalkeeper in the world and captain of his country and club. He’s a clear example, and in addition he also exudes humility, and he’s a wonderful person.
Have many people “scored” against you in life, or is it the other way around?
I believe few, because it takes a lot for me to trust in others, so that’s probably why.
What frightens you?
Nothing. But if I had to choose, it would be to see people close to me suffering, such as a family member. But personally, I’m not afraid of anything.
Have you cried recently?
I haven’t cried out of sadness for a long time, which means that I’m living in a great and happy moment right now, with all that I have, and that makes me smile, not cry.
Xabi said the other day that before the World Cup final, he asked himself whether he would cry if Spain won. Do you cry out of happiness? Or are you more stoic?
I cried out of joy when my U-19 team passed into the semifinals. That had been a difficult year for me, since I didn’t make several call-ups and I wasn’t playing much. And so being able to return to the national team and feeling that we were accomplishing something important… and a director from the federation came over to give me a hug, because I was in a corner crying, and he told me, “Antonio, you deserve this.” And we both cried together, because he was someone who had watched me grow up and who loved me very much.
Who was it?
Casildo, who’s a director with the Spanish football federation and with the Madrid football federation. He gave me a hug and told me, “you deserve this. I know it was hard for you, and thank you.”
What are your hobbies?
I like to do normal things, staying at home watching a movie, or going on the computer, and whenever I can, I hang out with my friends to have a chat, to laugh and to drink a Coke. I have another hobby, which is my football school, which I dedicate a lot of time to and enjoy a lot.
What’s your goal, to have all those children one day become like Adán?
Well, we try, but we know it’s extremely complicated. What is possible is to familiarize the children with my experiences when I was in their shoes, the traveling, the competition, a federated league, playing against important teams such as Real Madrid. That’s what I try to teach them and I hope they enjoy the experience.
What do you want to transmit to the children?
I want them to know that the football has made me the person that I am, of the many values that this sport has taught me. I want them to enjoy what they have now, and that good things will come in time, that they can become great footballers.
Your friend Granero told me that you like music and that your favorite CD is “Gato negro, dragón rojo” by Amaral. Is that true?
Well… I like that album. I don’t know how he found out about it, but it’s true that I like it. Not many people know this.
Do you spend a lot of time listening to music? For example, the mister said music is very important to him.
Music relaxes and motivates me, and it’s important, especially for people who change moods quickly. I think that there are always songs that you identify with, such as one that motivates you before a game, or after, when you’re thinking about something.
I was also told that you like shopping.
So I suppose all the girls in Spain would want to go out with you.
Well, I like to go shopping, but it only relaxes me when I go alone. It’s a hobby that I like, to go shopping and look at clothes.
Do you prefer being alone, or with someone?
I’m a solitary person, I like having moments alone, at home, watching TV and thinking about things. But it’s also true that there are moments when you need someone, to do other things.
What is your favorite movie? Could it be The Karate Kid, as some of the others have told me, you know, “dar cera, pulir cera…”
I have no idea where you got some of these things from, because…
My source is Granero.
Granero’s wrong. I don’t think I even watched that movie with him. I think you were with me at the movie theater when we saw this “pulir cera, dar cera.” The truth is that it’s a great movie, but it’s not my favorite movie. I like other genres and not this type of movie.
You came to this club when you were 10 years old. What do you remember from your first day as a Real Madrid player?
I was very excited, because you go from playing with your friends to playing with the biggest club in the world. It was a week full of surprises, and once you put on this shirt, you feel privileged, above everything else. When you enter the locker room and see the installations, it makes any kid happy, and that’s what I felt.
How did you become a Real Madrid player? Did you pass a test, or did some player notice you?
No, I had only played football for seven months, and they came to Mejorada to scout me. They called me house and told me that I had to pass a test, and it was all a lie. But they wanted me to go to the Ciudad Deportiva, and so I went to play in the Social Touranment, and I played with them there for three weeks. And the next year, I joined the Alevín B team, where Granero was the captain.
Apart from Casillas, since we know you have a lot of admiration for him, which goalkeeper in the cantera has surprised you with his qualities?
There has been a lot, because there have been many great goalkeepers in the cantera, and many of them played on the international level. It was always complicated, because when it appeared that you had locked up your spot, someone would come from the outside. I remember Andrés and Peña from the Cadete level; they had an incredible rivalry. I thought it was amazing, because they were both internationals and worked like crazy. It impressed me because there are many great goalkepers at Real Madrid.
You passed through the various categories and then came 2008, when you injured your ACL and couldn’t play from November to May. Did you think that the end had come at that moment?
No, I never thought that. It was actually the opposite, because it gives you even more desire. Up to that moment, everything had been quite easy, I had the trust of the coach, I was an international player in all the lower categories, and I had quite an easy time until then. Given the circumstances, you have even more desire to overcome all that and return to the level that you were at before, to show that you’re a great goalkeeper.
How did these months without playing shape you?
It made me mature a lot, watching your teammates play and not being able to. I don’t think you’ll ever forget that suffering. It helped me to mature a lot, I spent a lot of time working. In the beginning, the knee gave me a lot of problems, because it kept getting inflamed, so I had to work very hard. Those were difficult months, and at home my family suffered as well, and I could see they were really hurt as well. But they helped me to overcome the injury, and to return with a lot more motivation than before.
You returned, kept on working and one day debuted with the first team of Real Madrid.
When you debut with the first team, you remember all that has happened to you. It’s like your first question, as the song says, “Mira la vida como vuelve y te sorprende” (look at how life returns and surprises you). I’ve experienced very tough moments, and being able to return to the highest level and debut with Real Madrid taught me that they were only obstacles on the road and that I was able to overcome them.
You train everyday with Casillas, one of your idols. I imagine training everyday with one of my idols… not many people can say they do that.
Only a few. All day long agents knock on the club’s door to offer goalkeepers to occupy my place on the team. I feel privileged to be able to work with Iker, the best goalkeeper in the world, and with Jerzy Dudek, who is a wonderful goalkeeper and above all else a wonderful person. Between the two of them, they’ve helped me to grow as a goalkeeper, I learn a lot from them, and I’m happy to share a locker room with them.
Are you good friends with the two of them?
We’re friends and they are fantastic teammates. We spend a lot of time with each other and they’ve helped me a lot. They’re two very important persons for me inside the locker room.
A lot of people wonder if it’s difficult to be in the shadow of someone such as Iker Casillas.
It’s complicated, but I’m a realistic person and I know what the situation is like. I know I’m here to work every day and improve, and if anything comes up like it has this season, where I could enjoy some minutes even though they’re only occasional, great. I know that I have the best goalkeeper in the world ahead of me, and it’s impossible to fight against him. I’m realistic and I know the situation is like this, but I do have hopes of one day occupying that goal, and that’s why I try to surpass myself and improve each day.
What is the best advice that Casillas has given you in the time that you’ve worked together?
The best advice he has given me is that hard work always pays off in the end. I’ve seen how he made it based on hard work and humility. I remember that each time that I’ve played, he was always one of the first to come up to me to congratulate me, and he’s transmitted to me his confidence and tranquility.
What do you imagine your future in Real Madrid to be like?
I hope that I’ll be here for many years, I’m very happy at this club and hopefully one day I’ll be in the goal. Even though I know Iker is here, hopefully one day it will be me.
Iker is going to leave some big shoes to fill, you’ll have to work very hard.
It’s very clear to me that there’s only one Iker, that many years will go by before someone like him appears. There will be many important and great goalkeepers in Spain, but many years will pass before someone can top Iker.
Casillas, who is someone who is not generous with praise, said that the goal of Real Madrid is safe in your hands. I suppose hearing that makes you feel proud, no?
Very much so, since the words of the captain and this confidence in me are there even though I’ve only played four games with Real Madrid. I feel very proud that someone who has played so many games here said this about me. I’ll tell you that he’s an example and I’m very happy to share a locker room with him. I’m very grateful to him for everything he’s done for me over the years.
And Dudek? What did you learn from him? He’s another phenomenon.
He is another phenomenon, and I’ve learned a lot from him as a person. He’s a great professional, as he’s spent his whole life taking care of himself and working hard, to make sure that he’s in the perfect condition at any age. And then there’s how he’s assumed the complicated role of being the second goalkeeper of Real Madrid, with humility, with respect towards the starting goalkeeper. There have never been any problems and there’s a great atmosphere in the locker room. He’s a 10 as a person, and that’s what he taught me.
Let’s talk about the current situation of the team. In the Liga, you’re five points behind. Granero said the other day that there are people who think that is a lot, while he believes it’s only a few.
Five points in a league like this are practically nothing and we still have to face Barcelona in a game at home in which we’re confident that we can make up the difference. The team is completely confident that this league is still possible and that we can win it. I believe the team wants it very much.
There’s a date engraved in the head of every madridista and that is April 20. On this day you’ll play the Copa de Rey final. A great game.
It will be a great game and it’s something we’ve all desired since the beginning of the season, when we spoke with the mister. I think we remember what he said, which was that with hard work everything will turn out well, and that’s what is happening now. Step by step, we’ve returned Madrid to the place where it belongs, which is playing in the Copa del Rey final, being in a very good position in the Liga and passing the round of 16 in the Champions League.
Why does everyone have such good things to say about Mourinho?
He’s a person that has made us all grow. We all respect him very much and he’s worked very hard and won many titles everywhere he’s been; that makes you respect him. He’s made all of us grow as footballers. He transmits confidence to us and makes us believe that we’ll be there on any given Sunday. For him, there are no forgotten players and all 24 of us are important. This is very important for a squad like Madrid’s.
Mourinho has placed almost as much importance on the Copa del Rey as he has on the Liga and the Chamipons League.
It’s important for him as well as for us. When we talked about it at the beginning of the season, the three competitions had the same importance for all of us. Each one is valued in its own way, and the Copa del Rey has sentimental value for the fans and the club, and that’s what makes it as important as the Liga or the Champions.
In the Champions League, you’re in the quarterfinals and at this stage you can’t fail and have to move on to the final. Granero told us that after the game against Lyon, you all looked at each other and said: “We’re not going to stop here, we have to make it to the final.”
We’ve faced this barrier of the round of 16 in the last few years and perhaps this caused us to lose some of our confidence in ourselves, but we overcame it and now we have to reach the final. And if we make it, of course we have to win it.
The Bernabéu was spectacular against Lyon. The mister asked for another push in the quarterfinals. In this kind of game, the fans have to be decisive.
For us it’s very important that from the first minute on, there are 90,000 people cheering us on, apart from our own motivation and concentration. I think that this makes it easier for everyone. Once more, we need them and I’m sure they won’t fail us. They’ll be there and giving us their support.
Can you imagine yourself climbing Cíbeles this year?
Of course I imagine myself doing that, and it’s a very real possibility this year, and something that everyone is desiring, to return to Cibeles and celebrate with all the fans out on the streets.
After the game against Espanyol, the mister said you appeared to be a veteran under the goalposts, and Casillas said that you were completely prepared for everything. I think those two persons never say anything they don’t believe, and so that means that Real Madrid has a fantastic goalkeeper for many years.