Xabi Alonso – the Real… interview
Well, these interviews (you can find both the Spanish and English ones below) just affirm everything that we already knew about Xabi – that he’s classy, elegant, wonderful, handsome, the whole package, etc. And also one thing about Nagore – that she’s one of the luckiest women in the world. My favorite parts of the Spanish interview were when Xabi talked about his kids, and when he said all those nice things about Madrid (the city).
By the way, Xabi’s favorite ways to start a sentence are “Bueno…” and “Hombre…”
And my eyes and my back hurt now, and I don’t have time to proofread, so I apologize if you find any mistakes…
“Otherside” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers is one of your favorite songs.
I’ve always liked “los Red Hot.” I purchased “Californication” and that was my favorite song at that time.
Do you go to many concerts?
I do like them. Lately, I haven’t been able to go, but once in a while, if there is something that I really want to go to, I try to find time to do it.
What was an unforgettable concert for you?
There have been several. I went to a great one by Andrés Calamaro in the Victoria Eugenia theater in San Sebastián. Then I saw Coldplay in Liverpool and I liked it a lot, and I saw Joaquín Sabina here.
José Mourinho said he listens to music when he goes from his house to training and vice versa. Do you like to listen to music?
Yes, I usually listen to music, but I also listen to the radio. I like to listen to music because it entertains me.
You chose to live in the center of Madrid, not in the suburbs like many of your teammates. Why?
From the time I was small, I always lived closer to the center, such as with my parents in San Sebastián. San Sebastián is a small city. I’ve always preferred asphalt. That was the case in Liverpool as well. And in Madrid, there are so many things to do that my wife and I wanted to live in the city and we made this decision and we’re very happy with it.
What do you like the most about Madrid?
It’s a very integrated city. There are a lot of people from the outside who find it very comfortable living here. It has a lot to offer, in terms of restaurants, culture… There is a great street culture, people like living out on the streets and that brings a lot of joy and vitality to the city. All this hustle and bustle doesn’t overwhelm me, I like it.
Have you had time to get to know the real Madrid (with lowercase “r”!)?
I already knew it. San Sebastián is very close by, and when we could, we took advantage of it.
You also speak very well of London. It’s a city that has won you over.
I lived in Liverpool, but London is a fantastic city. It’s enormous and that are so many different things to do, so I’ve always loved it.
Los Angeles is a city that also has its charms, according to Casillas, Sergio Ramos…
Well, we had the opportunity to visit it last year, and we liked it.
What does a city have to have for Xabi Alonso to consider it a great city?
It’s not how big it is, but what it has to offer. I’m very happy here in Madrid, but my city is San Sebastián. They’re very different. San Sebastián is smaller, it’s more quiet and you have everything you need on hand. I don’t know how many square kilometers it is in size, but it has so much to offer. Then you have the sea, the mountains and a lot of things to do, and that’s what I like [no wonder he won the Tambor de Oro!].
You miss San Sebastián, and so when you can, you go back. Your roots are there…
Yes, yes, my roots are there and fortunately, I’m very close by now. I return once in a while.
You received the Tambor de Oro this year. We hardly ever see you as emotional and overwhelmed as you were that day.
For those from there, it’s important. As a kid, I believed it was the most important award anyone could receive, more important than the Nobel Prize, the Pulitzer, the Oscars… When I was small, it was the most important thing a person could win. I’m fortunate to have received it this year, it was a big honor and of course a very emotional day for me.
What was Xabi Alonso like as a child?
I’ve been told that I was very restless. I was a good kid, but a bit mischievous. I knew how to have fun, but I was responsible when I had to be. I didn’t do my own thing, I respected authority. And at home, I was pushed along the correct path.
Tell me about an unforgettable prank.
I did a lot with my brother. I remember that when we were in our grandmother’s house, in Orendain. The highway passed by right in front of the house, and my brother and I would stand out in the open and throw rocks at passing cars. One day a driver stopped, got out of his car, picked us up and brought us back to my grandmother and told her these two were throwing rocks at cars. It was just a childish prank.
What do you remember about those afternoons on La Concha beach?
We spent so many summers there. In school, I started playing there in the benjamín, alevin categories. I remember starting games at eight in the morning, going with the team to gather together a crossbar, two posts and a net to make the goal. One team built one goal and the opposing team built the other. It’s a tradition that all schools there have, to play football on the beach from the very beginning. Arteta, my brother, Iraola, De Pedro… many of us started there.
Arteta is from the same neighborhood as you…
We lived very close to each other and we played football, frontón, tennis… we played a lot of things.
And did you play with your father, the great Periko Alonso, as well?
Yes, yes. We played everything, not just football. With my friends and my brother, we skateboarded, we biked, we played tennis, frontón, handball, basketball, football, everything.
Is it difficult being the son of a footballer?
For me, it was never an advantage nor an inconvenience. We accepted it with a lot of naturalness. Our father was a father first and foremost, not a former player or a coach. In that sense, everything was more natural and we never felt pressured in any moment nor did we sense pressure from others. At the end of the day, people can say things, but you’re the one that has to go your own way, and that neither helps you nor takes anything away from you.
Did you father want his sons to become footballers?
I don’t think so. He wanted us to be serious and responsible in whatever we would do. That’s what was emphasized at home, especially by my mother. The first priority was our studies, and to be responsible. I remember the first and only time I failed a course. I wasn’t allowed to play football until I passed it. That was what things were like. I don’t know if that’s the best way or the worst, but it worked well for us.
You seem like you would have been a good student…
Well, I was neither excellent nor… I was a good one. I understood everything.
Your father was a footballer and also the manager of several teams. That weighs heavily, no?
It’s a load, but it also allowed us to learn, to have the experience of growing up in the world of football. I probably adapted well to becoming a professional because I was already used to the situation. I’m very content with all that I was able to experience with my father. He tells me, “Xabi, a new age, a new generation, now it’s your turn.”
As a kid, you listened to the radio every Sunday when your father was the coach of Beasaín.
Of course. At that time, you had to wait until eight in the afternoon and listen to a specific station to hear the results of the games of the Segunda B division. When they played at home, we would go watch, but when they were away, we were there next to the radio, my brothers, my mother and I, waiting.
At the age of 16, you went to Ireland to learn English…
Well, I don’t know if I went or I was sent (laughs). I studied English and with so many young people there, I had a fantastic month. I have a lot of affection for Ireland and for the Irish people. They’re authentic people, with a lot of personality and they’re proud of their identity. It went well for me, I not only learned English – well I improved, but not that much – but also got to know a new country.
Is is true that you played Gaelic football there?
Yes, I did play that. It was very different, and has nothing in common with football.
What do you remember about your beginnings at Antiguoko?
Many things. Antiguoko is not a professional club, but the people who work there have so much passion and are so dedicated that with all the hours they put in, you could say that it is professional. They would look for the times and the fields so that we could play. We had the luck of having a group of boys who were friends, and we played well and that allowed us to compete against La Real, el Athleti, in infantiles, cadetes and juveniles. We were in a very close-knit and normal environment, and we improved as footballers.
Has anyone else from that group made it to the big leagues?
Arteta, Aduriz, Iraola, my brother… a lot of people. It’s amazing how a neighborhood club could produce, in two or three generations, so many great players that right now play in the highest levels.
And then Real Sociedad came calling.
It was the second year on the juvenil level and we had an incredible season. We finished second in the División de Honor after La Real. In the Copa del Rey, we knocked out Celta and Valencia, and Real Madrid eliminated us in the old Ciudad Deportiva. It was an extraordinary year and all the professional clubs came to see us, el Atleti, Valladolid, La Real… I was from there and I supported La Real. I had no doubts and that’s what I chose. I went from the youth teams of Real Sociedad to Real Sociedad B.
And your debut with Real Sociedad against Logroñés?
All debuts are unforgettable. And to do it in Anoeta, with your lifelong team, in front of your friends, your family and the fans were something very special. We lost (laughs), but that’s anecdotal.
Did you keep the shirt?
Yes, I kept that shirt.
How many shirts do you have, your own and that of your rivals?
Of mine, I have one of each team that I played for, and one of each different model. I haven’t counted them, but there are a lot. And of the rivals, I like to choose. When I play against someone I respect and admire, I want to have their shirt. I have a lot, but there are some that I have a lot of affection for, such as those of Zidane, Alan Shearer, Roy Keane, Paul Scholes, Pavel Nevded… I have some “perlitas” that in the future… I remember when I was small, my father also had a giant box full of shirts that amazed my brother and me. We would open it and see the shirts of Maradona, Schuster, Zico… great players. In the future, I suppose my son Jon will do the same.
Do you have a shirt from Eibar?
You were ceded there. Was that hard?
It wasn’t hard, I was thrilled. I was 18, and until then I had always had teammates who were the same age as me. I made this move to a professional locker room, with mature people who were 28 to 30, and it was good for me, because I told myself that I was going to learn. In addition, the players were very hard working, both on and off the field. There were people who worked eight hours a day in the workshop or in an office before coming to play. I learned a lot from this team.
You then returned to Real and had a splendid time there…
I returned to the team when it was facing a very complicated situation and fighting not to be relegated. I did suffer in those games, which were so competitive… That makes you mature quickly. Then we had this incredible year in which we fought with Real Madrid until the last matchday for the title, seven or eight years ago. Not being able to win a final with La Real is a thorn in my side that I will never be able to get rid of.
Then you went to Liverpool. An amazing thing for any footballer…
For people that like football, there are temples and Anfield is one of them. They mix tradition and a respect for values with a brilliant history, but one that also has had tragic moments, such as Heysel or Hillsborough. You respect that a lot and it makes you value the other side of football, and helps you to understand what Liverpool means to many people. It gave me a lot and I learned a lot. It was all very impressive.
Can you express in words what it’s like for a Liverpool player to hear “You’ll never walk alone?”
For me, it served to motivate, to get your head in the game. Apart from all the liturgy or legend that surrounds it, for a Liverpool player it helps you get into the game. Anfield is not the biggest or most beautiful stadium, but it its one of the most charming ones. It motivates you to go out and play. The fans are so involved and passionate, and their support is so unconditional that it makes you want to give everything you’ve got.
You became a champion of Europe there…
My first year and I was already a champion of Europe. I told myself, “it can’t get any better.”
What do you remember about those moments before and after the final?
I don’t remember too much before, but after or during, yes. There are so many emotions during the game that it’s difficult to say… because at the half we were losing 3-0 and we said to ourselves, “it can’t be. We didn’t take this long, difficult road for nothing, to lose this in 45 minutes.” Making a comeback seemed almost impossible, but we came out and in six minutes we scored three goals and tied Milan, which was a great team. Then Jerzy did his thing with the penalties and you couldn’t believe it. It was unexpected. It’s one of the most unforgettable Champions League finals in history.
Then on Aug. 5, 2009, you became a Real Madrid player. Gerrard said that Liverpool was shattered when you left…
In that moment, I felt that I needed new challenges. The possibility of going to Real Madrid came up and what bigger challenge is there than that, with all that it means. They had a passionate project and it attracted me. After a long summer, when everything had ended, I felt an enormous amount of satisfaction. I was very proud of having taken this step, to have started a new stage in my career.
You had to rush to Madrid when your signing went through… you had to take a train to London, then a plane to get to Madrid…
It all happened so fast. I was in Liverpool, wearing the team sweatsuit, because we were going to travel to Norway to play a friendly. Then they told me, Xabi, you don’t have to go. I had to find the fastest way to get to Madrid, I was talking with people from the club, trying to figure out how to get there, and there was the train to London. I was so happy and satisfied that I would have taken the train or ridden a bicycle all the way there.
Why Madrid? Why this challenge?
Because from the time I was small, I saw Madrid, with this magnitude, with all the great players that have passed through here, with the grand history and what it means to play in the Bernabéu. Every footballer who wants to feel fulfilled needs to play for a team like Real Madrid. In that moment, it was the perfect opportunity for me, it was the perfect moment and I’m very happy I made that choice.
What do you remember about that night? Sergio Ramos told us that for him, he barely slept an hour, talking with his friends, his family, receiving thousands of messages…
I slept a little because I had to get up early. But I felt very satisfied because it had been a crazy summer and now all the weight is taken off and you feel tranquil. I was also very excited to be part of this great club.
What did she say?
I imagine she told me she was happy, because I don’t remember.
And you arrived at the Santiago Bernabéu…
Those are strong words. It’s what the Bernabéu imposes on you when you enter. It’s already impressive when it’s empty, and when the fans begin to make noise and there’s a great atmosphere, and people are enjoying themselves and encouraging you, it’s wonderful to play there. It’s a demanding stadium, but when the team responds and functions well, they know how to appreciate it.
Who has been the best rival you’ve ever faced?
Zidane. When I began, I said to myself, he’s an example of everything football is, and that a lot of us can learn many things, but there’s only one Zidane.
I liked how he behaved both on and off the field, for the respect that he had. He respected the game, the rival, but he was always competitive. And then there was the elegance and the ease with which he did difficult things… For me, what makes a player great is to always do the easy things well and for the benefit of the team, putting the collective first. And then there are the small details, the class he has…
And the teammate who has impacted you the most, for being a spectacular person, for the small things…
Sami Hyypiä [come on Madrid’s web site, learn how to spell foreign names right!]. When I arrived in Liverpool, he was already established there and he was one of the heavyweights, and he helped me a lot. He’s an example of integrity and professionalism every single day. He was a professional when he played, and when he didn’t. And he always had an impeccable attitude. He’s a very good friend of mine.
Which person in the world of football do you respect and admire?
A lot of people, I don’t know, I can’t choose just one… Vicente del Bosque, I have a lot of admiration and affection for him. [And then Madrid’s site decided not to translate the rest]: From the outside, you already had that impression, and then once you get to know him… all the recognition he’s received is well deserved and says a lot about him.
What bothers you about a rival?
When they’re sneaky and cheat, I don’t like that. And when they’re smooth. I don’t like it when people play like that.
What makes you respect a rival?
Honest people with integrity. Although they may tackle you hard, they do it without intention to injure. People who behave, who play for the team to make them better or be the best.
What qualities do you have as a footballer that you are proud of?
I don’t like to talk about myself, I prefer for others to answer… but I’m prouder of my passing skills than I am of my speed, that much is obvious.
What quality do you wish you had?
The other day, when I saw Di María beating three defenders, I thought, “how easy it is for him.” Few are the times that I’ve done that, or actually, never.
What worries you about life?
It might sound like a cliché but my priorities have changed since I became a father. Now I’m worried about educating my children, taking care of them with my wife… Apart from football, this is the most important project that my wife and I are involved in.
What can’t you stand about people?
Well manners aren’t the most important thing, but they are important, behaving civilly and with education. I don’t like it when people trick others. I like to look people in the eyes and to be honest. That’s important for me as a person.
Is there anything you had the opportunity to do, and regret not doing it?
I’m sure there are things. I would have liked to continue studying and I hope to finish my degree when I retire. My family has done it, my brother graduated, as did my friends and I hope to do it too.
What did you study?
Business. I was in the third year, and we’re still there. We’ll see what happens, but it’s nothing along the lines of I can’t live with myself if I don’t do this.
What are you the most proud of?
Of my two children, of Jonny and Ane. To see how they progress with each day, what things they do, what new things they learn, the stupid things they do… all that makes me smile. Those are special, unforgettable moments for me.
Would you like your son to become a footballer to continue with the Alonso dynasty?
The next generation? I would like him to be a good person, to be nice and fun and responsible. He can do whatever he wants, I won’t push him towards anything.
What advice would you give to your son if he were to play football?
If he wants to play football, I would tell him to try and do everything well. He should know how to differentiate between the moments when he can relax and the others when he needs to be responsible. If he chooses professional football, he has to maintain a middle point, neither maximum nor minimum, he needs to have tranquility and have this philosophy.
Have you cried more in football or in life?
I don’t cry much. In fact, I asked myself before playing in the final of the World Cup whether I would cry if we won, and I didn’t. I don’t cry a lot, but I have cried for personal matters.
You appear to be a cool and collected person. What gets to your heart?
I don’t know, small things involving my loved ones. My daughter Ane is taking her first steps [watch Xabi’s face at this moment, so precious!] and that makes you emotional. It’s the small things that touch me now.
What’s a day in your life like, when you’re not with the team?
I spend a lot of time with the kids. I drop off Jon in the day care center, then we train, I go home, and with my wife we take a walk or go out to eat. In the afternoon, we go to the park or to the pool with the kids. I like to spend time with my wife by going to the movies or to a restaurant or to do different things. But today, with so many games, we have a routine, so on vacation, I try to disconnect and take advantage of the free time.
Your teammates say they don’t have time to enjoy everything that’s happened to them. Is it the same for you?
Of course. Right now, there’s no time to stop, with Liga games, Champions League, the national team. You don’t have time to distance yourself and evaluate things. It doesn’t really bother me because there will be time to assess it all when we leave football, time to disconnect and step back from the whirlpool of football, of this bubble we live in. We’ll retire from football and begin a new life.
Have you thought, or have you discussed with Nagore, what you will do after you retire from football?
I have thought about it, but I’m not sure. Some days I want to continue being related to football, and other days I say no, no, no, forget about football and start a new life. There will be a moment to make this decision, to disconnect and dedicate yourself to yourself and to your family.
How do you see the team in this final stage of the season?
It’s good. I believe the team has a great dynamic and is on the right path, with the hunger, the desire to compete, above all in the Champions. For me, that’s key, since the big disappoint from last season was when we were once again eliminated in the round of 16 against Lyon. I don’t even want to think about if this could happen again. It’s very important for us. And then of course we have the final of the Copa and you want to win all finals because that’s why they’re there.
What can Mourinho contribute to the team in these moments?
He knows how to prepare well for those games, to analyze them, those that are key, such as elimination games or finals. He knows what to do on the psychological and emotional side, how to motivate us. He knows how to connect with us and I hope it serves to help us achieve important things.
How has Mourinho helped you to grow?
I’m learning a lot and he makes you a better footballer, to know how to read the games better and how to face them. He’s very good with tactics and preparation and also in psychological and emotional things.
No player has ever spoken badly of Mourinho [Makélélé just did…].
In England, I saw him and I said, “there’s something different about this one,” no? And he’s like that. In the day to day, he interacts with us and he knows how to connect with us and that’s why he’s won the affection of his players.
Do you see yourself winning titles this season with Real Madrid?
Time will tell, I’m not psychic. But the hopes, the desire, the dedication and the commitment are there. Football is football, it’s a game and anything can happen. But that’s my biggest wish.
What is the key to not failing this year?
The attention, the concentration, the competitivity in each game are fundamental because they’re life and death situations. The next Champions League game in the Bernabéu is life and death, the final of the Copa is life and death, in terms of football. You have to know which games are the important ones and how to prepare well for them and how to concentrate during those games. And the small details.
Sergio Ramos said he expects a bursting Bernabéu…
It’s fundamental for us that our people are with us and play the game with us. It’s important for them to not only watch the game, but to be active. They have to interact with us. We can’t stop and watch what they’re doing, but when you sense the support of the team and they encourage you, it makes you want to respond, to give more, to not stop, to make more of an effort on the field.
You’re a Real Madrid veteran, even though you’ve only been here for a year and a half (Xabi laughs). Tell me about the young players. Mesut Özil.
Mesut is one of those special players that only come around once in a while. He has a deft touch in small spaces that makes him unique. He knows how to play between lines, he handles the ball well, and his vision of the game. There aren’t many players like that today, so that’s why he’s so special.
“El Fideo” takes the ball from you and he runs 50 meters and it looks like he’s flying. He has the ability to shoot, to get by defenders. Those players who know how to destabilize the game make the difference in the games.
Karim has progressed a lot in the year and a half he’s been here and now he’s much more integrated and participative, and you can see that on the fie.d Then there are his qualities, his intelligence inside the area, all of which make him one of the best forwards in the world.
El Pirata is a phenomenon. I appreciate him a lot because we get along very well. He interprets football very well. He’s one of those footballers that does everything well. He knows how to read the game, he handles the ball well, he associates well, he does things to make the team function better, and I think he’ll be an important player.
How would you like to be remembered when you leave football?I don’t know, I never asked myself this, I don’t know. As a complete footballer, well not complete, but one who had a good attitude on the field and who was respectful. Some people like how I play and others don’t, each one has their own tastes.
Do you want me to tell you how they’ll remember you? As an elegant player both on and off the field, as an example for everyone, as a source of pride for el madridismo.
If that’s true, I’d be proud and happy with that.
Xabi also did an interview, though much shorter, in English.
You’ve helped Spain win the World Cup,ou’ve won a Champions League title, and you’re now here playing for Real Madrid. You’ve had a pretty good career to date…
Yeah, I would say that. At the moment I’m happy, but still in… I don’t know if it’s the middle, but I’m still playing for big things in Madrid. My goal at the moment is to win and lift trophies with Real Madrid.
You moved to Madrid 18 months or so ago. How’s that transition to living in Spain again been for you?
It’s been good so far. At that moment I felt I needed a challenge and, of course, coming to Madrid is one of the biggest challenges you can have in football. Of course, I’m not completely happy because we didn’t win a trophy last season, but we’re hopefully on the way to winning one of the trophies we want this year. That would make me much happier than I am at the moment with my time in Madrid.
Personally, has living close to your family again been good? You can just drive up to San Sebastián whenever you want…
It’s good, but I was in Liverpool for five years and I really enjoyed it because it gave me the chance to learn another culture, to be in a very passionate football city as Liverpool, and playing in Anfield was really special. But now Madrid is a really nice city. I am now close to friends and family, which is very important now that my children [not child, as Madrid’s web site wrote] are growing up. It’s been really good so far.
You learned another culture in Liverpool, but I believe you learned English in Ireland. As an Irishman I am very interested in knowing what your experience was like in my homeland…
Yes! I had my basic level of English when I was still in San Sebastián and I spent one month during one summer in Kells when I was 15 or 16 years old. I stayed close to Dublin and really enjoyed the month I spent there, getting to know Irish traditions and playing a little bit of Gaelic football. I really enjoyed it.
There is a very big Irish connection in Liverpool…
Yes. There are many Irish Liverpool fans. At each home game, you could see many Irish flags in the stands. The Irish connection is very strong and flights between Liverpool and Dublin are so frequent every day…
What does playing at La Concha mean to you?
It means a lot because it is where I started to play my first games in school. We had to wake up very early in the morning because we played on the beach. We actually had to take the posts and the corner bar and build the goals to play there. That’s where I started to play with my classmates and I have great memories.
You come from a family of footballers and you have a little kid [two, Madrid, two!!!] yourself. What does it mean to you to come from a family like that?
It’s important because I’ve always been related to football. My dad was a football player and he later became a manager. Our connection with the sport has been really strong. I’ve been playing football since I was a kid, when I played with my brothers and friends. I’ve always watched football. We were never really pushed to become football players, but we’ve always been really, really influenced by the sport.
Are there any signs that your young lad may continue this tradition?
Well, at least he likes the ball, he gets it. I don’t know what he will do, but whatever he ends up doing, I want him to be a good child, a good boy and, if he decides to become a football player, I will support him of course.
[Why can’t Ane play?]
You made your way up the ranks in San Sebastián and played for several teams. John Toshack came into your life and gave you several opportunities. What does he mean to you?
He’s meant a lot in my football career and is one of the key figures in it. He gave me the chance to play those first minutes as a professional, in which you need to build your confidence, to learn how it goes, to get used to the pace of the first team and the first division in La Liga… He gave me a lot of confidence in that sense and a lot of responsibility as well. The opportunity he gave me was very important to me.
Everybody knows you are very good at passing the ball. Did he help you develop those skills?
Yes, but not just those “es-skills.” He also taught me how to understand the game, he encouraged me to learn how to give the team what it needs at any given moment… I believe that is one of the great qualities of a midfielder: learning and reading the game to know what the team needs.
That obviously helped you take the next step, which was moving to Anfield, where you had some great success. You won the Champions League with Liverpool. How important was that final in Istanbul for you?
I think it will be an unforgettable night both for my career and for Liverpool. It is called the “miracle of Istanbul,” “the greatest comeback in football history” and many other things in Liverpool. The feelings we experienced during the game were unbelievable and the celebrations in Liverpool that followed were fantastic.
What was it like playing in England? Did you see the difference of playing there?
It was really… well, not difficult, but really different because the game is more physical and has more pace, the atmosphere on the stands is fantastic… I really enjoyed every single one of my five years in Liverpool. It was a fantastic experience and I will forever be a Liverpool fan.
I’m sure people in Liverpool are delighted to hear that. You’ve played at great stadiums like Anfield. What was it like to come here and play as a Real Madrid player at the Santiago Bernabéu?
The Bernabéu is one of the most impressive football scenarios in the world. When you get there, you know you are in one of those football cathedrals. The atmosphere is great whenever you play well because fans appreciate good football, they like that. They are very passionate whenever we play.
It’s been said that the team isn’t the same when you don’t play. Do you feel a certain level of responsibility?
No. So many things are said whenever someone doesn’t play… I don’t take it seriously at all. You have to cope with injuries and suspensions. I really don’t take what’s said literally.
Real Madrid are obviously a very young team and you’ve had a lot of experience compared to some of your teammates. What has actually impressed you most about them?
Well, as you say, we are quite a young team. I’m 29 and I’m one of the oldest in the dressing room, but it’s good because it means we are building a very strong base. It will be important for the future. We have many young players that are adding more experience on their shoulders, which means they will hopefully become better players. It’s great news for Real Madrid as a club to have all that potential for the future.
You’ve worked with some great managers in your time and José Mourinho is obviously quite special. What makes him different from the rest?
He is very complete because as a coach he’s great in how he prepares for games, he makes good decisions during the game – which is very important to me – and the training sessions are also really good. But, what makes the difference is that, from an emotional point of view, he is really strong. He really connects, has those skills to motivate the team. Those qualities are really special and really important in key games.
You’ve achieved a lot in your career already. What do you want to achieve still?
I now want to win with Madrid. I am very committed and focused on this season, and I want to be successful here in Madrid. I want to go to Cibeles, to win championships, to hold trophies… That will make me much happier than I am now with the way things are going at the moment.
If you could describe yourself in one phrase, how would you describe yourself?
No, I’m not a big fan of describing myself, so I don’t want to do that again.