thoughts from Ángel & Karim
Ángel di María recently granted an interview to Marca, while Karim Benzema did the same with L’Equipe (excerpts here). Both had some interesting things to say, so here are the highlights from the two interviews.
Let’s start with Angelito.
How were the celebrations in Cibeles?
They made me very happy. With the Copa del Rey, there were already many people celebrating, but achieving the Liga was impressive. I’ve never experienced anything like that. All those people celebrating with us at Cibeles. It was a very beautiful moment, one of the best that I’ve had in my career. Hopefully this type of moment can be repeated. The important thing was for us to win the Liga, not only for us because we needed it, but also to make the fans happy.
Do you think that Higuaín will stay at Madrid?
I hope he stays, if not I’ll be the only Argentine left (laughs). That’s what we all hope, for him to continue scoring goals like he has. He’s a very important player, who has always shown that he’s a great forward. I don’t believe that Real Madrid wants him to leave. I think he’s going to stay.
Have you asked him?
No, I think this issue is a very personal one and I don’t want to get involved. But I hope he stays, because Madrid needs him.
Do you enjoy giving a good assist or scoring more?
For me, scoring goals is very nice, but giving a good assist to a teammate makes me just as happy as scoring a goal.
Do you feel loved in Real Madrid?
When I arrived in Madrid, I felt pressure, since I didn’t know if I would play. Cristiano, Pipa, Karim, Kaká were here… after that, other players continued coming and I knew that it would be difficult. In the first game, against Peñarol, I started on the bench. Then I entered the game and scored the first goal. From that point on, Mou began to start me, and that’s how I won everyone’s confidence. It’s what everyone tells me: I don’t feel the pressure, I play as I do everywhere else, it’s the same to me to play in front of 80,000 persons at the Bernabéu as it is to play against my friends in my neighborhood. With effort, I got the fans on my side, and they’ve showed me affection from the first year. Everyone told me that it’s difficult to conquer the Bernabéu in the first year. And I conquered it.
What’s your relationship with Di Stéfano like?
Many people don’t have the opportunity to see him and speak with him. When he’s with us, you note that he’s a good person, he’s always joking around. He always gave me encouragement and told me to play as I always do. He deserves all the affection that Real Madrid has for him.
Do you see yourself playing many years at Madrid?
I feel very loved and I hope to continue like that for many, many years. I would like to stay there for a long time. I remember the first time I entered into the locker room: seeing myself there, feeling that I had arrived made me emotional, I was on cloud nine. Now, sometimes, I’m allowed to play cumbia music. And Sergio Ramos sometimes puts on Argentine music.
Who jokes around the most in the locker room?
Almost everyone. Marcelo is the one that fools around the most. I get along very well with Marcelo and with Pepe, because I can speak with them in Portuguese.
What’s your relationship with Cristiano like?
Cristiano is one more guy. He’s a good person. He comes to eat with us and he’s a very simple person.
Your favorite meal?
Asado, asado. I do it myself at home. If not, then I go to De María. I don’t go out a lot, I prefer to stay at home, but I do go out to get to know Madrid a bit. I’ve been to Toledo several times. I also like to go to the movies with my wife.
And how are the tattoos going?
I have 11. The last one, on my back, is a clown with the escudo of Rosario Central.
And moving on to the Benz…
Three years after you left Lyon, what kind of player have you become?
I’m not the same player. I was timid and absent-minded. Now I’m a mature, serene and tranquil player, and physically I’m more potent. I’ve grown as a player and as a person. I’ve learned how to handle the pressure in big games, such as the clásicos, or big games in the Liga and Champions. When I left Lyon three years ago, I was a very young and shy boy. I came here alone, it was the first time that I wasn’t living at home in Lyon. I had to adapt to a new city and a new team. I arrived with pubalgia and I forced it. In addition, there was a lot of pressure on me because I was considered a star and I had to show that I was.
How did you deal with the criticism you received during your first year?
In Spain, everything is exaggerated. If you fail two times, you’re out. If you score two goals, you’re a star. There was some criticism that bothered me, but what I didn’t like was that it hurt the people around me. My father, my mother, my friends, my people… criticism is like praise, it’s necessary to accept it if you want to be above all of it.
Everything changed when Mourinho arrived…
Mourinho speaks to me in the way that a father speaks to his son. In one of our first training sessions together, he came up to me and he asked me in French, “how are you?” And he added, “I hope you leave the Benzema of last year behind.” I noticed that he held me in esteem. When he arrived in Madrid, I was having problems with my back, I had gained some weight and I was disappointed because I wasn’t chosen to play in the World Cup. He told me that I should put in more effort in the training sessions. He’s never pushed me to the side, not even when I wasn’t playing well, he made me train hard to improve and in press conferences he spurred me to work harder to show what I was made of. And in the end, this worked.
What are the fans like?
Madrid is another dimension, people are passionate about football. The stadium is magnificent, and all the fans show up with their white shirts. That shirt, pfff…. when you’re on the field and you see 90,000 people with that shirt yelling and supporting the team, it’s incredible, you have to experience it to understand.
Has learning the language been key?
It changed everything. I speak it since one year and a half or two years ago. Now I understand everything that is said in the locker room, I can relate better with my teammates. Before, they would talk and laugh, and I didn’t know if they were laughing at me. In the beginning, I was in my [unfurnished] corner, now I speak and laugh with everyone and I have a great time.
And another bit of news: Roberto Carlos has been added to Real Madrid roster for this weekend’s Corazón Classic Match at the Bernabéu!
Here are the rest of the confirmed players. We need Becks, no?
Real Madrid: Buyo, Contreras, Illgner, Chendo, Rojas, Velasco, Hierro, Sabido, Sanchís, Fernando Sanz, Ramis, Karanka, García Cortés, Redondo, Helguera, Zidane, Martín Vázquez, Figo, Butragueño, Amavisca, Alfonso, Iván Pérez, Santillana, Morientes.
Manchester United: Andy Cole, Bryan Robson, Clayton Blackmore, Denis Irwin, Dion Dublin, Dwight Yorke, Edwin Van der Sar, Jaap Stam, Jesper Blomqvist, Lee Martin, Lee Sharpe, Quinton Fortune, Raymond Van der Gouw, Ronny Johnsen, Roy Keane, Teddy Sheringham.