Esteban Granero at Jot Down (II)
Here’s the second part of the Esteban Granero Jot Down interview. In this part, he talks about the cantera, quotes Nietzsche and says he prefers reading books to tweeting. A man after my own heart.
Does Cristiano descend from the mountain when he’s not on the field?
He’s on the mountain because he’s a player who lives at the summit. He demands that of himself. He’s so good and so determinant that he’s there, and that’s his place. He’s affectionate, understanding, a good friend to his friends and a good teammate to his teammates. Regrettably, the image he has off the field does not correspond to reality, because envy tends to discredit a footballer when he’s that high up. But he doesn’t need to come down from the mountain. He’s up there due to his own merits. I hope he continues there. One can be a good person and a humble person from up there. And humility is not only bowing one’s head. He’s good and he knows it, that’s why it’s said that humility is shown when one knows that he’s that good but wants more, and shows it in each training session, each game. He never conforms, and that’s also humility. When I hear people say that Cristiano is not humble, I laugh. He’s one of the most humble guys I know.
I’ve taken a look at the Twitter timelines of the players on the Spanish Olympic football team. One can see what they’re doing each minute, who are their partners, what they do with them, when… it’s also clear that they’re addicted to Play. What’s your opinion on this?
This does not only occur amongst footballers, although perhaps footballers do have more free time and because they’re public persons, there’s more focus on what they do, but this is not exclusive to footballers. Personally, I’m not into that, it doesn’t have much meaning for me.
I understand that the people who spend their free time doing this like it, that young people like to tell each minute of their lives on Twitter, but I prefer to read a book.
Social networks are something new that have arrived with a bang, and it’s normal that young people are spending a lot of time on them.
You started off strongly on Twitter, but then you deflated.
I am now a bit more careful. Several things I wrote were misinterpreted and that made me think a bit more about what I wrote. I’ve also grown and there are things that I enjoy more by keeping them to myself than by sharing. But these are personal tastes. I have mine, everyone has their own. I don’t believe I’m better than anyone else.
Twitter has its uses. For example, doubts were raised about a piece that Diego Torres wrote in El País talking about Mourinho yelling at you in the locker room, about how you were his friend and then you betrayed him, because that day you tweeted that you were at home, missing the game due to card accumulation… (Granero tweeted on April 16, 2011 that he was at home, but hours before the game).
Yes, inside the locker room, and much more the locker room of Real Madrid, we don’t like it when someone speaks as if he had been inside when he wasn’t. First, because nowadays information is power and what a person reads in the newspaper is “the truth.” No matter how much you deny it, it ends up being “the truth.” And many times there is no control over the power that the media have. We’re a bit defenseless against the possibility that someone can write something that is not true and that can hurt a group like ours, one with important goals, and we can’t allow this type of problem to occur. That’s why we also have to protect ourselves in some way at times. In this case, it was true that I had gotten too many cards and was sanctioned, although I don’t believe that was the correct way to defend oneself, through a social network. There was also one time when we went to have dinner, and a newspaper wrote that all of the Spaniards had gone except for me, that I hadn’t been invited because I was the coach’s friend and so I didn’t belong to the group. The next day, a photo came out with everyone in it. Many times the newspapers have to make up stories to fill the space, and sometimes those stories end up hurting you. We are used to it, but we don’t like it.
What was your relationship like with the previous coach, Pellegrini?
He had faith in me. He’s a nice man, a good football coach. I came from Getafe, Real Madrid had six stars who played my position, and I asked him if I was going to be given the same opportunities as everyone or if he had any reservations. He told me no, that we were all equal and that he was going to play the best players. That year, I played more than 30 games and that was my first year, so in that sense he was true to his word and I have good memories of him.
During your career, you’ve had coaches who seem to be complete opposites, such as Laudrup and Mourinho.
They’re not that different. They have different ways of working. It’s true that they have had different career paths and different experiences. But there are similarities. Michael was a very ambitious man. In that sense, he’s very similar to our coach. And although Laudrup doesn’t seem to be very perfectionist, he was as much as Mourinho. But of course, they can’t be compared, one is the best coach in the world and that other has just begun. There are coaches who are more different.
Madrid has signed several flashy players who then didn’t play for the entire season. Does this demoralize the canteranos?
When you sign someone, you’re convinced about them. The true canteranos madridistas want the best players to come to Real Madrid. I would prefer for the team to reinforce itself even if that means more competition for me. When I was a fan, I wanted Madrid to sign the good players and for the best to play. I prefer for them to come and to fight for a spot with them. If their arrival helps me to improve as a footballer or to learn from them, or if outplaying them serves as an incentive for me, good. In addition, the club has very good criteria and they’ve made good signings in the past two years. The more good players come, the better.
Nietzsche said your enemies are the ones who make you better, that you should have affection for them. When a good player in your position arrives, it’s an incentive.
How does the cantera feel, do the players believe the club has confidence in them?
There is confidence in those who deserve it. In this sense, our coach is just. He’s given many opportunities. Last year, he debuted many players. Castilla players take part in the majority of the training sessions and these are opportunities that I would have liked when I was younger. Of course there is confidence, but this is Real Madrid and you can’t give responsibility to someone who is not prepared to handle it. For their own good. You can’t say yes to canteranos just for the purpose of saying yes.
What are your thoughts on this theory that Xavi Hernández enjoyed opportunities in Barça that he wouldn’t have had, had his developmental years not coincided with an economic crisis at the club.
I don’t agree. That’s speculation. If Barça had signed another footballer, Xavi would have played on another team where he could have done well, or not done well for some other reason. You can’t say what could have happened if we had taken another road. That’s something you’ll never know. Xavi could have been the best player on another team. It’s difficult to know. I believe that Xavi had a lot of potential and he found the ideal platform to develop that, and he became a great footballer.
One of your teammates in the cantera, Javi García, found Emerson, Diarra, Van der Vaart, Gago, Lass ahead of him… now things are going well for him in Benfica. Do you speak with him?
We don’t speak a lot (smiles). We were teammates for many years. In the cantera, we were teammates and rivals, because we played the same position and had the same objectives. And although we were teammates, we had a certain rivalry, as we were promoted at the same time. I will always be happy when things go well for him and I believe it’s like that. In addition, he’s very ambitious. In the end, it’s those people whom you have “fought” that you have affection for.
The persons in charge of the cantera said that you, from the time you were young, stood out from your teammates due to your obsession with playing on the first team. When it came time to return to Madrid, did you think about going to a club where you could have had a spot in the starting XI or at least an easier path to the starting XI?
For me, success is Real Madrid. This team signifies success, there’s no other place with more success. Could I have developed more on another team? On what other team, where do I set the limit? How far do I have to go to think that a team is my limit? I don’t know, I don’t know if it’s a second level team, in the second division, in the second B division or the third division. How far can I go? If it’s not Madrid and it’s Valencia, would I fit in more? If it’s a team in the middle of the standings, if it’s a team that is fighting to stay in the first division? I would not know how to set a higher limit for myself. I wouldn’t be fair to myself and it wouldn’t be fair after having spent my entire life since I was small training and dedicating myself to football, which was my biggest passion. If I had the opportunity to play for an even higher team, no matter how difficult that may be, and having to renounce that to have more opportunities, no. Of course I want opportunities, but with Real Madrid, which is the best place. And having this opportunity and choosing another is crazy. And even more so if you’ve spent your entire life training and dreaming of becoming a footballer at the highest level. If you get scared when you have the opportunity and you choose one with more security, in quotation marks, you’ve wasted your time.
Do you believe that there are other canteranos who have benefitted from leaving Madrid?
Each footballer makes his own decisions. You said before that I was more obsessed than any of my teammates on the youth teams with playing on the first team of Real Madrid. It could have been like that. But I’ve always seen that as something so far away that I’ve toiled with all my strength. If I had seen it as something close by, perhaps I would have calibrated my strength more. But for me, it has always been so far away, it has always been so complicated, so much of a dream that I had to do everything I could to go in that direction. I’m not a wise man, but one of the reasons I made it is because I believed it was impossible. When you see something as impossible, you give it your all. If I hadn’t viewed it like that, perhaps I would have lost the opportunity.
Did you go to the Bernabéu when it still had standing areas?
Yes, I went with my teammates from the youth teams.
That was crazy, with all the shouting, the jumping, there were wine bottles and sandwiches flying through the air, it was crazy. Now, everyone is seated and the stadium is full of Japanese tourists. Do you believe the atmosphere is much colder now?
The world has changed, not the Bernabéu. Before, the people of Madrid, the madridistas, would go to watch Real Madrid. Now Madrid, thanks to our president, who has really made an effort in this area, is the most universal club in the world. It’s well-known all over the world. Communications and mediums have changed and Madrid has expanded across the entire globe. The Bernabéu back then is not the one you see now, but Real Madrid is also not the same team that it was in the 1970s and 1980s, those teams have nothing to do with that of the 21st century, which has adapted to globalization. For us, it’s not the same that the stadium is filled with the people who are here now compared to those who were there before. We understand it. But we also know that their reaction depends on us. And we also know that during important games, the Bernabéu has always helped us. Last year, there were very important afternoons for us and the stands were just like the best days I can remember. We can’t expect Real Madrid to grow, at the speed it is growing and the dimension it’s taking on, and for there not to be these types of changes, which are natural. I prefer for there to be Japanese fans and for people in Japan to support Madrid. I was in Japan this past summer and it’s full of madridistas and people walking around with the shirt of Madrid. Therefore it’s normal that there are Japanese people in the stadium…
Well, this Japanese thing is not an ethnic or xenophobic issue, it’s just that there are those who complain that the public does not encourage the team like it did before. These fans have been called “piperos” (as in those who just go to the stadium, sit there and eat sunflower seeds).
It’s normal for people to get tired of celebrating goals. We scored more than 100 this year. We had an incredible season and I believe people have had a fantastic time. I would love to be a fan of Madrid and go to all the games to enjoy the team. We have players who are from another planet and we’ve put up brutal numbers. We’ve played great games. We haven’t given them much time to eat sunflower seeds (laughs).
The press said Mourinho has managed to convince all of you to fight to the death with him, and even you constantly protested decisions with the linesmen in the final of the Copa del Rey last year.
I’m not a big protestor. I don’t like to get into the linesman’s face. The poor man has his back to you, and it’s a bit cowardly to lay into him, he’s just doing his job. But Mou, for his part, has managed to make us stand by him to the death. That’s one of his virtues and he achieved that with his honesty. And that’s the difference. He’s a coach that has won everything, who wants to continue winning, he has an infectious ambition. He makes you be at 100 percent every day of the year. And the ambitious footballer is grateful for that.
You can’t say much more about the Barcelona of the last few years, it has been an incredible team and it has won everything. Has el madridismo found that hard to swallow?
I don’t think there’s a need to swallow that. I don’t believe el madridismo and the madridista culture have to restrict themselves to seeing Barcelona’s successes and later accept them. We’re used to being number one, which is the place that we are in, and both the fans and the players don’t want to accept anything. We leave it at that and we fight to return to our place, which we managed to once again conquer last year. Their level in the past three years has been very high, that’s the truth, but that gives more merit to what we’ve achieved. Now we have the important challenge of trying to stay there and recovery the hegemony. Everyone speaks about the best team in history and says wonderful things and another team beat them by nine points. We had a big lead on top in this Liga! And we won at their stadium! You have to understand that Madrid is not a team that conforms, that limits itself to accepting what it sees, it rebels and wants to return to the place where I believe it belongs.
Do you believe that the style of Barça fits you better due to your characteristics?
No! No! No! I don’t care how they play! As a madridista, I could never play in Barcelona, not in the best conditions possible nor for all the money in the world. I couldn’t, due to my principles. I would be incapable of doing that.
After this Liga was won, there was a photo of you kissing Ramos that appeared on Twitter and in several media outlets, in addition to one where you were shirtless in the locker room. How are you with being seen as a celebrity?
I refuse to take on that role. I refuse. I’m a footballer, okay? Footballers dedicate themselves to playing football and my job is to play football and to play it well. You can’t expect footballers to play well and to behave in an exemplary way while thinking about… children. I don’t believe that’s something that has to be inherent in your profession.
The only clear difference that I do see is that when you play in Madrid, once you play on this team, if you have this escudo on your chest, you have to be an example, as if you were wearing that shirt all the time. Because people don’t see you, they see a Real Madrid footballer and you cannot stain the image of Real Madrid.
I grew up here, I was taught things that I believe I have to spread, they taught me to play football, but also taught me many more things. I should respect this institution. It’s an issue of dignity. But I don’t like it when celebrities, whether a singer or an athlete, are required to be an example for children. Parents should educate their children.
One more amazing part to come…