Álvaro Arbeloa at GQ España
Ahead of the Confederations Cup, Álvaro Arbeloa spoke to GQ España, and also looked extremely sexy in the accompanying photo shoot…
On June 16, the national team begins its quest for the Confederations Cup, against Uruguay. This is the only title that La Roja has yet to win. Álvaro Arbeloa will once again be playing at the rightback position. He’s a footballer with many more virtues than people think.
Thanks to the superior being that is Florentino Pérez, they’re called media stars. They are those players who are capable of striking down a rival with just one blow, of making the entire stadium rise to their feet with just one prodigious pass or impossible dribbling. These are the cristianos and the messis. But they don’t fool us. These are not the footballers who win the trophies (although, of course, they’re the ones who polish them). The successes, in reality, do not belong to the pure bloods, but rather to those basic, versatile players who are equally at ease forming a wall in the center of the defense or closing out options for the opposing midfield with their omnipresence. They’re quiet and always in the shadow of the big stars, although at the end of their careers they have trophies that not even Cruyff or Van Basten have won. They’re the praetorian guard watching Caesar’s back, footballers who aren’t understood by the fans, but adored by the coaches. The Desaillys to the Zidanes. Players such as… Álvaro Arbeloa Coca.
The defender from Salamanca speaks with GQ a few weeks before the Confederations Cup begins. He enters the studio with a smile on his face, shaking hands and giving kisses with that friendliness of his. He works with the stylists and the photographer with the same discipline and submissiveness that he has on the field when he’s under the orders of Vicente del Bosque. Not one frown, not one gesture of weariness (even though he had to skip lunch so that the photo session could be completed on time). He gives the impression that both his personality and his work on the field are incompatible with a star temperament. He speaks of the great players he has shared a locker room with as if they belong to another club where those of his species are barred from entering. When he’s reminded that he’s also a star, he laughs: “the truth is that perhaps I’m not as much of a star as other players I’ve played with. People like Zidane, whom I admired as a kid and with whom I was lucky enough to share a locker room. That’s one of the best memories I have from football, to have shared a locker room with players such as Zidane. It’s a dream come true to first see them play on television and then to play next to them on the field. They’re phenomenons, otherworldly players who have talent. It’s been a privilege to play with them.”
We discover the first grand virtue of Arbeloa: humility. The words are coming from someone who is a world champion and European champion twice over. And each week, he puts on the shirt to start for the club that is for many the best one in the world. He corrects us without any false modesty: “‘starter’ is not a word that I like very much. In the end you’re part of a team and you can start one day and be a substitute the next. I’ve never liked the labels of ‘starter’ or ‘substitute.’ I consider myself the number 17 of Real Madrid and of the Spanish national team, as important as the number 1 or the number 25. Everyone counts, everyone contributes. To win titles, you need everyone’s help.”
However, one does not become part of world football’s elite with only humility. There’s something in Arbeloa that the fans can’t make out but which fascinates coaches such as José Mourinho. Mou, who doesn’t often give out compliments, has said of Arbeloa that he is never less than a seven and at times gets to a nine. Rafa Benítez recruited him for his Spanish Liverpool, and with Sergio Ramos installed in the center of the defense, Vicente del Bosque put him on the right flank. Arbeloa says, “Vicente has known me for many years, from the time that I was small. He saw me play when I was 15 or 16, and he was one of the first to write a report for Real Madrid about me. It’s true that he didn’t choose me for his first call-ups with the national team. That was… I don’t know if it was a tough blow, but it was a disappointment, since I had expected him to count on me. But perhaps it was worthwhile because since now I am called up regularly, it means that I was able to convince him and for him to have very much confidence in me. He continues showing me that each day.”
It’s impossible to get Arbeloa to say anything bad about Del Bosque: “obviously, he has his character, and many times he doesn’t need to say anything, since with one look he says everything. He’s a man of few words, but he communicates very well with the players. He has a very good virtue, and that is that he still feels like a footballer. This is why he empathizes very well with us, he knows how the players think. As a person, he’s phenomenal, and as a coach, even more.”
The Confederations Cup is the only international title that the coach lacks in his trophy case. His final list for Brazil will be announced on May 27, and it doesn’t appear that Arbeloa’s spot, despite the criticism, is under debate. Arbeloa says, “I very much hope to be with the national team for its next tournament, I’ve been part of the last several call-ups, so I have the hope that the míster will continue to have confidence in me.” This hope is based on very solid pillars. Vicente del Bosque has said of him, “he always achieves, he never fails,” which is another of Arbeloa’s grand virtues – reliability, consistency, regularity. He might not be the best passer in the world, but no one can accuse him of not doing his job.
He obviously would like to win in Brazil as well: “the national team is accustomed to big challenges and the only trophy we’re missing is the Confederations Cup. It’s obviously not as important as the World Cup or the Eurocopa, but it’s important for us to be able to say that we won everything with the national team, that there’s no way for us to go further. That’s a great challenge and what all the players who are on the national team have in mind.”
Another of Álvaro Arbeloa’s virtues is that he’s a responsible and focused player, one of those who doesn’t go to the fashionable discos or change girlfriends like jackets. In fact, he’s been married since 2009 and has two children [this article was written before Raúl was born, so I just changed that last part]. He says, “emotional stability is very important for me. My family, my wife and my daughter have helped me not only in sporting matters, but also in every single facet of my life; they’re an extremely important support. My parents and my brothers are as well. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today.” He is also a good friend of his friends. For example, Xabi Alonso. He says, “Xabi is the player I’ve played with the longest, we have been teammates for four seasons in Madrid and we played together for two and a half seasons in Liverpool. He has become a great teammate and a wonderful friend, one I’m lucky to have, not only for the great footballer that he is, but also because he’s a great person. It’s a privilege to be his friend.”
Humble, hard-working, constant, reliable, loyal… these may be the virtues you want in a brother-in-law, but not in a footballer. But you’re not the one playing a few meters ahead of him on the right wing. Ask Navas, Pedrito or Cesc. Then we’ll talk.
Watch the video here. These are the things Álvaro says in the video that weren’t mentioned in the article.
– the best thing football gives to you is the friendships, the people you meet, some of whom I still have great relationships with, and whom I appreciate and love a lot.
– Vicente has always treated me very well, and I’m very thankful to him for all the confidence he’s given me, which is important for a player.
– we had the experience of South Africa, where we went in as European champions, and we know that we’re not always going to win and I believe we all know that very well.
– everything changed for me when my daughter was born. I try to spend as much time with her as I can.
– the crisis does affect you, because you live amongst people whom the crisis is affecting, you have family and friends who are affected. Winning the Eurocopa didn’t change their lives, but perhaps we were able to give them something to be happy about, a distraction.