Juan Mata, César Azpilicueta and David de Gea at XL Semanal
And I also have some PF Juan Mata, César “Dave” Azpilicueta and David (not Dave) de Gea for you, from their appearance in today’s XL Semanal. They’re looking good, no?
Most of you have won everything already. You’re only missing the World Club Cup and the Super Cup. Do you ever get tired of winning?
The national team is as hungry as ever. For a player, it’s not the same to have one World Cup than to have two. You never get tired of winning. Winning it four years ago was one of the most special moments of my life and I’m hoping to repeat the experience with my teammates, though we all know it will be extremely difficult. The team wants to continue making history.
The fans are hoping for that as well…
I always say that being able to make people happy, both those around us and those we don’t know, is the best thing about being a footballer. That’s why I’ll never forget the World Cup celebration, when the streets were full of people thanking us.
You were a starter during the Confecup, but you had to fight a lot to make the list for the World Cup.
This year has been a roller coaster. I believe I ended the last season in the best moment of my career. And this year has been a learning experience in everything: situations that I hadn’t experienced before, a change of team in January, another club, another city… but you learn from everything.
Six goals in the last six games with your club…
Yes, that’s why I say that when you arrive like that, you don’t ever want it to end.
How do you assess the role that Del Bosque has played?
He’s fundamental in everything. He’s a coach who doesn’t show off about his titles, but he has enough to astonish anyone. He understood what the best way to play was and that helped him in his success.
What is your prediction for the World Cup?
Brazil is the favorite. But I hope that we can continue making history by winning.
Which rival player would you like to make Spanish?
I think Özil would enjoy himself on this team.
What is the first World Cup game you remember?
Spain-Italy in the 1994 World Cup in the United States.
After two years in Chelsea, you’re now in Manchester United. Will you end up staying in England?
To live for always? Noooo…. in England, football is experienced in a special way and that’s worth living for. I don’t complain about the cold and the rain, since I’m from Asturias. I hope to stay here for many years. But returning to your country is always special.
Your friends say that you’re a great tour guide.
I loved London from the first moment, I fell in love with the city and spent two and a half spectacular years there. Now I’m enjoying life in Manchester. In my profession, you never know when you have to pack your bags.
In your previous team, you had to stand on a chair and sing in front of your teammates. What did you sing?
“La Macarena,” so that they could clap along with me and I wouldn’t have to sing so much, since I frequently sing out of tune.
You’re more famous outside of Spain. Do we not appreciate our players as much?
It depends, I don’t think so. But sometimes we don’t appreciate the players we have who play outside of Spain. The Premier League is very far-reaching, as the teams are very good at marketing.
Is there much difference between Spanish fans and English fans?
In the U.K., there is much more respect for the athlete. My life there is much more tranquil.
You have 10 million followers on social networks.
They send a lot of affection my way. I feel very fortunate.
And you have your own blog.
For the past two years, I’ve been writing every Sunday after the matchday is over. It allows you to think more about what you say. Sometimes, when I see the statements I’ve made transcribed, I realize that I could have used other words.
But you’re pretty restrained.
I usually think about what I say, but there always exists the possibility of being misunderstood. For the moment, in the blog, that hasn’t happened.
Are you ever in a bad mood?
When I’m in a hurry; that happens often.
You’re said to be an atypical footballer because you’re still studying (physical education and marketing).
I’m young and I hope to continue playing football for many years, but I think it’s important to study and at the same time disconnect from football.
Have you ever complained about your life, with trip after trip and no time to spend with your loved ones?
Yes, but then almost immediately I realize that I’m being stupid. I’m privileged. The life of a footballer is not real life, it’s short and very beautiful, but not real.
How much time do you spend in front of the mirror?
However long it takes me to brush my teeth.
Can the Chelsea fans pronounce your last name already, or do they continue calling you Dave?
They didn’t know how to pronounce my last name and so they gave me this nickname, after a TV character. It didn’t bother me, as it was done affectionately. I made a video to explain how to pronounce my last name so that they could learn. What I want is for them to enjoy themselves.
Rightback, leftback… is there much difference?
A bit. It’s the opposite side, but in reality the same position on the field and the work you do is the same. This makes me a more complete player and I intend to continue improving.
When you were a kid, did you ever dream about getting this far?
Not this far, no! I wanted to be a footballer. That requires a lot of work, although you also have to have a bit of luck.
And what did you speak about with your dad?
His time as a footballer, fishing…
What is the key to keeping your head on straight after achieving so much success?
Keeping your feet on the ground and to have good people around you.
When was the first time you put on a pair of boots?
When I was six, to play fustal at school.
You’re an emigrant. From Pamplona to Marseille…
The first was an important leap, because the goals of Osasuna, with its limitations, were not the same as those of Olympique, which was fighting to win all the titles in France. It was the first time I had lived outside of Pamplona and it wasn’t easy. In the beginning I had a hard time adapting, especially to the environment and the way of life.
And then you suffered a serious injury…
I was in the best moment of my career when I tore my ACL. It was a tough blow, especially because I had never suffered a serious injury. But I worked hard to return as soon as possible and in the best shape to play in the U-21 Euro that we had that summer.
And from Marseille to London…
Chelsea was like Olympique – a great club. But it had just won the Champions League, and so I wasn’t even thinking about that.
Were there a lot of changes playing in England?
In England, you need a lot of intensity in each game. You have to be 100 percent focused in each moment. The ends of the games are mini-games. There are many comebacks in the last minutes.
Many of your national team teammates are playing in England.
It’s true that there’s many of us in England. That speaks well of Spanish football. The adaptation requires a lot out of you physically, as the pace is very intense.
In Chelsea, you had to sing in front of your teammates. What song did you sing?
Estopa’s “La raja de tu falda.” No one knew it.
What do you miss when you’re in England?
The good weather.
Your favorite vacation spot?
Any with sun. I love the beaches of Spain; this year I went to Ibiza and Formentera.
A rival you will never forget…
Roberto Carlos. He was the first tough opponent I had when I played for Osasuna. I entered the game in the 65th minute to play on the right and I had to go up against him. Unforgettable.
No one has managed to defend a World Cup title since Pelé and Brazil.
It will be a complicated tournament. No team is going to have an easy time. Spain is the reigning world champion and other teams are gunning for us. We will try and play our football and stay true to our style to do the best we can. Brazil is another of the favorites and then there are many teams with the potential to win such as Argentina, Germany, France, Italy and Belgium as well.
What is the first World Cup game you remember?
Spain-Nigeria in the 1998 World Cup in France.
What game has given you goosebumps?
My debut with the national team, against Uruguay.
Have you ever slept with a trophy?
No, but as a kid I slept with the ball.
It’s said that footballers hook up a lot…
I’m sure that some do.
And that they’re very superstitious.
I’m becoming less and less superstitious, I was very much so before!
How much time do you spend in front of the mirror each day?
What is the most ridiculous thing you’re read or heard about yourself?
I don’t remember exactly, but when you realize they’re talking without knowing, you find it funny.
DAVID DE GEA.
When was the first time you put on the gloves? Do you remember?
It was a long time ago! I was very young and I don’t remember the exact date. My parents say it was when I was two and they couldn’t find the right size for me. I played as a forward and then as a goalkeeper. And I also played tennis if I had time.
Your father was a goalkeeper, what advice did he give you?
Great ones! He always talked to me about football! How to position myself, how to block, how to come out…
He must have also taught you other things…
At home, I learned how to work hard, to be humble, and to be responsible. These are all important things in life.
As a kid, did you dream about becoming a footballer?
Yes, of course. I didn’t dream about becoming the goalkeeper of Manchester United, but almost (laughs).
I imagine you dreamed of playing for the national team as well.
Playing for the national team is something that fills you with pride, an incredible excitement. The dream of any player.
Which game has given you goosebumps?
This year, in the comeback against Olympiacos at Old Trafford in the Champions League. Also with how our fans were against Real Madrid some months ago.
What are you good at that no one knows about?
At sports in general. As a kid, I was good at everything: cycling, basketball, tennis, football… even as a center forward. And taking free kicks, almost like the ones in Play (laughs).
Why are footballers so distrustful?
Because there are many people who try and get close to you who have ulterior motives. When they end up disappointing you, it’s possible that the next time you’re more apprehensive. The important thing is to keep your childhood friends, since they will never let you down.
What is the key to being an idol and not losing your way?
Humility: you always have to know where you came from. And to never give up.
Do you ever get into a bad mood?
Not often, when I lose, when I’m lied to, perhaps in the mornings if I hadn’t slept well.
What is the most ridiculous thing you’ve read about yourself?
That my diet consisted of tacos. There are many inventive people. I read things that surprise me, that make me think whether they could be true.
You’re more famous outside of Spain. Why?
When you leave, it’s because they want you and they value you more. In our country, it’s the opposite: those who come in are treated better. In the U.K., it’s true that I feel that they appreciate us more.
Do we not value our players enough?
In general, yes. We realize this when we’re outside. Outside of Spain, our athletes are appreciated to a degree that we can’t even imagine in Spain. They have a lot of respect for us.
An unforgettable moment.
If you ask me for just one… the Europa League in Hamburg with Atleti. It was incredible, as was the Super Cup against Inter. And the league with United; I hope there are many more.
It’s said that seven out of every 10 men prefer football to sex…
I’m one of those seven (laughs). Well, half and half. You have to make up for it a bit.
Do you go out often?
No. I like to have dinner with my friends, drink something while talking and hanging out.
Do you have any piercings or tattoos?
A tattoo on my hip of a date that is very special for me. It hurt a bit.
What was your last splurge?
I don’t usually splurge, really. I don’t go crazy for any material thing. If I had to say something, it would be related to videogames.
Do you have friends who are unemployed?
Yes, friends and family who are trying to make ends meet. It’s tough.
Your favorite managers?
Quique Sánchez Flores and Alex Ferguson.
Tell us an amusing story about a coach, you don’t have to tell us who.
After making the three substitutions, one coach sent a teammate to go warm up, and of course he couldn’t believe it. And he went to do it. We laughed our asses off. Perhaps he though he was cold on the bench.
Who is going to win the World Cup?
Spain, of course, although there are great rivals. My porros in these tournaments have usually gone well. Let’s see if I’m right?
Here are the boys’ answers to the mini-questionnaires in the photos above.
JM: my grandparents.
CA: Luis Figo.
DDG: Rafa Nadal.
A vacation spot.
JM: any place without Wi-Fi and 3G.
DDG: Sierra Mar in Alicante.
JM: good health.
CA: good health.
JM: looking at my phone every once in a while.
Favorite actor and actress.
JM: I have many. I like Woody Allen movies.
CA: Omar Sy and Inma Cuesta.
DDG: Jim Carrey.
Your favorite foods.
JM: fabada and veal fillet with Cabrales cheese.
What you’re good at that nobody knows about.
JM: ping pong.
The Christmas gift you were most excited about.
JM: my first bicycle.
CA: all of them were exciting to me. Now, all of it is for my daughter.
DDG: a Harley Davidson motorcycle, when I was four. Also the PlayStation 1.
Favorite singer or group.
JM: lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Mando Diao.
CA: El Canto del Loco.
DDG: Avenged Sevenfold.
JM: the one that has left the deepest mark on me has been Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood.
CA: Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s La sombra del viento.
DDG: John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.
In what other era you would have liked to live in.
JM: during the time of the Knights Templar.
CA: in the one I’m in.
DDG: during the Middle Ages. It should be very different…
A plan for a night out.
CA: good dinner in good company.
CA: The Untouchables.
How much time do you spend in front of the mirror.
DDG: little, my style is very informal; at times, a lot.
What bores you.
DDG: waiting, for people and for things. I get bored in airports, although I know it’s almost inevitable.
Here’s more Azpi in the June issue of Icon. The interview is fairly bland and run-of-the-mill, but I love, love, love the photo. What a handsome boy.