The real-life tales of a football writer
I’m sitting in a viewless room above some studios in Barcelona.
The room is empty, except for a chair and a desk. It has ‘FourFourTwo’ on the door.
There are two other rooms, one labelled ‘FIFA’, the other ‘UEFA’.
This is my place of work for this week as I am to interview around 20 players from 20 different countries who will competing in the World Cup finals.
Yesterday, I interviewed Lionel Messi. He’s got a great story but he’s quiet and shy – an Argentinian Paul Scholes if you like.
Then he came to life… after the tape recorder went off.
So today I’m back in my room, where a footballer in full national team kit pops by every hour or so.
When you spend so much time setting up interviews and flying to meet footballers, it’s a godsend when they are sent to you.
All I have to do is sit on my chair with a list of questions and say ‘come in’ when I hear a knock.
First up was big Nikola Zigic. He’d played for Valencia in Sevilla the night before and was tired, but friendly.
I’m surprised Valencia lost, as they’ve been on form and have the best away record in Spain after Barcelona.
There’s been a buzz about Valencia lately, they’ve got a cracking side and they have finally seen some light with their financial problems.
Work is scheduled to restart on their new 75,000 stadium which will be one of the best in the world when finished – although I was always a fan of the towering old Mestalla.
Next up was Daniele de Rossi, the Roman who plays for Roma and won the World Cup which they celebrated in Rome.
He understands English and was sound – an on-pitch Ultra.
I didn’t realise how big he was. Not Zigic-sized, obviously, but you wouldn’t like to challenge for a 50/50 with him, especially if you were Jesper Olsen or Pat Nevin.
De Rossi was intrigued by the photos on my computer from the several games between Manchester United and AS Roma, plus the Roman derby, though he was disappointed that I only went when Lazio played at home and not Roma.
Roma have a famous fan who dresses as a Roman Centurion. De Rossi recognised him straightaway and I told him that when I spoke to the soldier he said Roma would beat United easily.
That didn’t happen, chiefly because of Cristiano Ronaldo’s brilliance.
“But we beat Manchester the year before,” he added – and he would remember, as he scored – before his voice trailed off as he started to see seven goals and Alan Smith play the game of his life.
Next up was Theofanis Gekas, the Greek who plays for struggling Hertha Berlin.
I’ve just finished Anthony Beevor’s Crete, but I decided not to start a conversation about World War II instead of the World Cup finals.
I’ll be kicking myself if I read somewhere that he’s passionate about Greek military history.
Then there was a car journey across Barcelona with the Slovakian striker Stanislav Sestak, in full kit.
He plays in the Bundesliga with VfL Bochum. And he likes Wayne Rooney, as most of them do.
Next was Diego Forlan – a player I first met when he lived in Manchester. He’s always been friendly and he’s a bright lad.
His club Atletico Madrid are not having the best season and are pinning their hopes on lifting the Spanish Cup: they play Racing Santander in the semi-final first leg this week.
He’d flown to Barcelona with his Atletico team mate Simao, who I’ve always been suspicious of because of his cocky demeanour. You just take to some players and not to others.
I couldn't have been more wrong.
Simao, who was so close to signing for Liverpool a few years ago that flights had been booked, was bright, cogent, witty and understood English perfectly.
Next up are Shunsuke Nakamura, Johan Vonlanthen, Mark Gonzalez, Nelson Valdez and some kid called David Villa, whom I will gently influence to join Manchester United by lavishing him with Eccles cakes and telling him that Manchester is just like his home town of Gijon, with lots of rain, cider drinkers and a thriving Asturian community.
---------------------------------------------FourFourTwo.com: More to read...Confessions of a Correspondent homeFFT.com: Blogs * News * Interviews * Forums * Homepage Follow us: Twitter * FacebookFFT reader offer: get £6 off RRP Andy's latest book Glory Glory! – click here and type 'UWS' at checkout
Not related to this post but seeing as you are the HMIC (head mancunian in charge) ...
I just found out about some manchester club called Central. I never heard of it. You could drop a post about it sometime...
If you get David Villa in the Rojo of United i will send endless supplies to the UWS HQ!
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