Javi Martínez (♥) and Thiago for El País

Javi (♥) “Morritos” Martínez and Thiago Alcántara sat down with Eduardo Rodrigálvarez for El País where they talk about… Football, of course!

He traducido la entrevista de Javi (♥) Morritos Martínez y Thiago Alcántara con El País al inglés en donde hablan sobre… ¡El fútbol (obviamente)!

They’re so different, yet so complementary. The tall Athletic player, Javi Martínez*, and the shorter Barça player, Thiago, have formed a productive partnership in midfield that has become the backbone of the U-21 team (led by Luis Milla). Martínez’s sobriety mixes with the irreverence of the Brazilian.

They’re only two years apart, but football logic is not ruled by what’s written on an identity card, but instead on experience. That’s why Javi Martínez*, el viejo, is the captain, and Thiago Alcántara, the understudy. The former is already a World Cup champion with the senior team (in South Africa 2010) and the latter aspires to be one. Thiago has said that he not only wants to triumph with Barça, but in the world of football as well.

Javi Martínez*: I’m not one to give advice. I’m the one to encourage others, not just here, but also in Althetic as well. That’s the way I am, wherever I am. Besides, they already have the knowledge. They know what they have to do and the one who gives instructions is the coach.

Thiago: We just came from having lunch.

The joking spirit of the Barça midfielder emerges at every moment. In direct dialogue with Javi Martínez*, Thiago’s Galician and Brazilian essence comes out, mixing in a cocktail that resembles his football: there’s only one place for happiness.

T: It’s a privilege to play alongside this World Cup champion. I pay attention to everything, perhaps too much. I focused on their character, what it took to become a World Cup champion. But you can’t tell that Javi* or Juan [Mata] won a title. They have not let it get to their heads. On the contrary, if we have to work hard, they’re the first ones to do so; if anyone needs encouragement, they’re the first ones to do so. This should be valued accordingly.

JM*: The important thing to remember is that el mister is the one in charge and we need to do what he asks us to do, not what Mata or I think because we won the World Cup. We, along with the rest of the team, need to reflect that on the team.

The interesting point is that the voice of experience, el rojiblanco (Javi*), is the one that has to play differently from what he plays in his club, and Thiago comes with the lessons learned from Barça, one of the references of the style of play of the national team.

T: The position I play here is the position that I like the most, because it allows me to see everything and I know that I have a vital person for the team, Javi*, behind me. He’s very important when it comes to recovering the ball and starting plays. For me, Javi is the most fundamental player on this team.

JM*: It’s true that we play with more control over the ball than what I’m used to at my club, and that could create problems for those that are not used to it, but we’ve played like this for a long time, both on the senior team and on the U-21 team, and you get used to it. And the change that could have been difficult, becomes easy, and vice versa. It’s not just me, we’ve all adapted well to this style of play.

T: You always know that you can pass the ball to Javi*. We’re all lovers of football and we have the same idea, which is to form a style of play to reach our objective, the title.

In the qualifying of the oooh! in Denmark, Thiago wins by a landslide. His technical exhibitions were venerated by the public. However, there are some who believe that there are times where he tries to show off.  

JM*: Especially when he gives you a pass from the outside of his foot… [laughs] But, I suppose they say that because he’s good. When I see he’s going to pass from the outside of his foot, I tremble.

T: The problem is that I have no left leg. When I was born, they prohibited me from passing with my left, so I have to give a pass from the outside of my right foot, and sometimes, things happen.

JM*: Against England you lost the ball after passing it with the outside of your foot…

T: Well, there were a couple, but I already told you that that happens because I’m prohibited from passing it with my left. My style of play, however, is not about showing off. It’s something innate, at no point do I try to look down on the rival or to show off.  It’s something innate, something that comes out on its own.

JM*: My position isn’t anything new either.  I’ve played there for a while with the national team.  Perhaps I play more forward in Athletic, but with both the U-21 team and the senior team, I’ve always played here and it’s been many games and many training sessions, so you know the role you have to play.  I’m used to it, after so much time.

Spain’s midfield is a well-oiled machine and with a little bit of everything, but, aren’t you lacking a bit of goal scoring?

JM: Well, Ander Herrera scored against England.

T: Yes, in that manner. He hit it horribly, really… [laughs]! I already told you: “Come on, Javi*, you score.”

JM*: The problem is that when I’m in the box, the blinds lower, especially during matches. El mister asked me to hold my position and to facilitate the plays. So, I’ll do it from time to time.

Rivals have played a physical game against Spain, with bigger players. The national team has responded by continuing with the style of play, despite being a team with a lot of yellow cards.

T: They say that the tallest towers fall the easiest, no? But, even so, they are very technical teams, with a lot of quality and they are very tough games, you don’t understand how tough they are. We try to exhaust them in the first 20 minutes in order to have an easier time reaching the box.  That’s the key to the Spanish team.

JM*: All the central European teams are like that. They’re all very tall, very big. The best way to play against these types of teams is playing the way we have been: keeping possession of the ball and having them run after it.

T: It’s clear that we shouldn’t change our style of play, even though we have various forms of play. We have good midfielders, we have people with good long passes and we can play in different ways. If it has benefited us to play al toque, we’ll continue to do so.

JM*: The proof is in the number of fouls the Czechs committed against us. One of the things they tried to do from the outset was that, to break our rhythm with fouls, and the referee allowed them and even carded us for protesting.  But you had to say something.

T: It’s just that you are a phenomenon at speaking English…

JM*: I kept telling him that they weren’t letting us play, that they were fouling us continuously. I think that they fouled us 19 times in the first half.

T: An outrage!

JM*: This reflects how important it is to have possession of the ball.

T: I have two fouls that were called by the referees and one yellow card [before the game against the Ukraine]. It was unbelievable how much the referee let the Czechs get away with. What happened that day rarely happens in football. I still don’t’ understand what that referee was thinking.

You’re teammates and friends in the national team, but you haven’t gotten the chance to be rivals in La Liga yet, have you?

JM*: We played against each other in San Mamés. But Thiago came in as a sub and played during the last 10 minutes. We were playing with one less player and I couldn’t even see the ball. I didn’t know where it was. How was I supposed to see him?

T: I’ve been on the bench other times, just watching, without playing.

JM*: The field was muddy, do you remember?

T: Yes, and el Guaje was sent off.

JM*: And Amorebieta, for fouling Iniesta.

Now they see each other daily. They’re different, but Spain’s style of play has brought together two players that didn’t seemed as though they wouldn’t mesh well, and yet, they ended up complementing each other.




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