the club of one hundred
There is a lovely article in El País today speaking about the four players that have reached 100 games with our national team, or rather, presenting them through the eyes of their teammates and others who have worked with them, past and present. Updated with Zubi’s part.
I’m skipping the Zubizarreta part, since most of you probably are not interested in him, and have never seen him play.
Zubi: [the field where he made his debut, in Cork, Ireland] smelled like fish, there was only one side of stands, the rest was mountain… I went to Mexico 86 like a novice, with a desire to learn everything, to observe everything, and in France 98, the fourth one, I went knowing much more about what I would find there. What doesn’t change is the excitement, the emotions from going to play an international game and the uncertainty.
Javier Clemente: Zubi was number one in everything; it was much more than his jersey number. If there is one word that defines him, it’s professionalism.
Miguel Gutiérrez: Zubi always stood up for everyone, he was demanding, but more with himself than anyone else. He was tough, emphatic, loyal and there wasn’t a single day that went by where he wasn’t thinking about the group.
Míchel Salgado: he was a 17-year-old kid. In the Eurocopa in the Netherlands, he was the kid on the team. He already had that speed under the posts. And he also had something very important. A star. When he messed up, something else always occurred that made the mistake be overlooked. He always came through unscathed.
José Antonio Camacho: in his personality, I saw one thing: he didn’t play a lot, since he played for a great team, but when it was his turn, he responded. This is very difficult. In one on one situations, when he was facing a counterattack, he had a great control over himself. He never came out beforehand, he never went for the feints.
Vicente Engonga: he was a pretty quiet boy and everyone teased him a lot. But he took it well. He wasn’t one of those who would get offended. Raúl and Hierro constantly picked on him. When we had a day off, he stayed in the hotel but he would tell the others, “take care when you go out because they’ll find you and you’re going to appear in the gossip magazines!” Except for some details that give experience, he was at the same level as Molina and Cañete (Cañizares)… it doesn’t look like it, but he could jump like a cat.
Miguel Gutiérrez: in difference with other captains, his way of leadership is more associative. Times have changed. He has a group and he manages it through consensus. He shares the leadership.
Xavi: I haven’t forgotten the day I debuted; I have more doubts about the day I reached 100. I debuted the same day as Puyol, against Van Gaal’s Netherlands, in Sevilla, in La Cartuja, and we lost… I was nervous. You spend your entire life playing in the lower categories and then there you are, waiting for the big moment.
José Antonio Camacho: he always sees the pass where others don’t. There are many consistent players, but in addition to that, he came here wanting to show his teammates what he was capable of, as if he wanted to shout, “look, I’m very good” each time he had the ball, but he didn’t have the self assurance and confidence that he has now.
Miguel Gutiérrez: Xavi has always been sweetness, smiles and full of questions. He always wanted to know something, to learn something, for you to tell him something.
Víctor Valdés: Xavi is infectious. He’s a happy person and very professional, an exemplary teammate.
Luis Aragonés: he’s a footballer with a captital “F,” unique, a footballer that loves the game and in addition, understands it.
Míchel Salgado: at the age of 19, he was already an idol in Spain. The entire world was talking about him. So when we were called up for the U-20 World Cup, when I was 17 and he was 19, I thought, “I’m going to get to know Raúl, how great is that!” It was after my first season in the first division. I came from Vigo, which was fighting to stay in the first division, during a time when the clubs didn’t earn money from television rights. Raúl had so much more charisma than the rest. In the training sessions, he was an assassin in front of the goal. No one reads games better.
Rafa Alkorta: he inspired respect. Hierro, Cañizares and I were his friends. We introduced him into the group. He shared a room with Cañete and I with Hierro, and we would get together and talk in our room. And there was an important thing: Javi [Clemente] loved him a lot. He treated him as if he were his son. He identified with the fighting spirit that Raúl had.
Andoni Zubizarreta: he was very introverted, but his character would change on the field. He was competitive, he asked for the ball, he positioned people… those people who come to the national team for the first time normally try not to make mistakes. But not Raúl. He wanted to compete in his way. He put his personality into the game.
Pep Guardiola: he’s one of the three most important Spanish players in history. The most competitive. I feel bad that he wasn’t a part of the most glorious moments of the national team. He deserved to be there. He is one of the greats, although he didn’t win any titles with Spain.
Víctor Valdés: I remember two things about Raúl above all others. One, that you couldn’t leave the ball in the area because he would always convert it into a goal. And two, no matter what the outcome of the game, he always looked for you afterward to shake your hand. That distinguishes him as a great.
Of note: Miguel Gutiérrez is the only man who has worked with all four of these players.