There’s a cracking interview with the best little Spaniard we know on the website of RTVE (the Spanish equivalent of the BBC) here:
For those who don’t speak Spanish though, I’ve translated it for you:
Arteta: "I think I’m having the best time of my career”
· The Spanish footballer highlights his good form at the English team
· He admits that he’s hoping Del Bosque calls him up to the national side
MARCOS LÓPEZ MADRID 24.01.2009 - 18:00
Hello, Mikel. Well, I should say... Hi, mate!...That’s how you say hello over there, isn’t it?
[Laughs] Yeah, although we also say "Hi, pal", it’s something like [explains in Spanish], very much a Liverpool thing, very Scouse...
1. Is this the best time of your career right now? Not just because of the possible call-up the national team, but also because of the impression you give off on the field, of self-confidence, of knowing you’re the leader of this Everton team.
Yes, or at least I think so. It’s also very important that I’m playing in my position. Over the last few years I’ve played off on the left first and then on the right but I’ve been in the middle for several months now and that’s where I’m most comfortable, getting on the ball more. But one thing is that it toughens you up, learning how to deal with a position which is not the one you’re used to.
2. Do you think that this is the one, that this time you will make it to the full national squad? Your name has been mentioned before, but you were left out...
Well, I don’t want to become obsessed or think about it too much. If you do that, you end up disappointed and it wouldn’t be fair either on the other players who rightly think they’ve got just as good a chance as me...
2b. Do you think you have a better chance with Del Bosque than with Luis [Aragonés]?... The same chance, less of a chance?
You can never know, but at least Del Bosque has said that he is going to keep an eye on the one playing abroad and he has been watching games in England.
3. What was it like seeing Spain win the European Championship? Were you envious? Is it true that people in England supported us, because of Torres, Cesc, Pepe, etc...?
Well, I was in Majorca, and I really enjoyed it, it was fantastic, I wasn’t envious at all. I was just overjoyed, when you’re not a part of it you just try and enjoy it and it was easy to do that with that team. The English were supporting us, definitely in Liverpool anyway. And it wasn’t just Liverpool fans, our fans did as well. Rivalry is put to one side, as in the end, with Liverpool’s success and the Spaniards in the team, the city wins, it increases the expectation around the derbies, everything...
4. It seems as if you’ve become a more complete player as the years have gone by, that you’re now a product of that central midfielder factory that is la Masía [Barça’s youth academy], a number 4 from the Cruyff era, mixed in with a little British aggressiveness, somewhere in between Xabi Alonso and Xavi... would you agree?
The thing is here you have to be that way; if you’re not aggressive, they’ll walk all over you. In England, you have to jump the highest and run the furthest and then if you have a bit of skill as well, then it’s a bonus for you and the team.
5. What’s a normal day like in Liverpool?
I get up at 9, I go the club’s training ground, I have breakfast there, we’re in the gym for a while, doing whatever – work on the legs, ankle, strength... – and then we train for an hour and a half, two hours. At the end we do some stretches and get a massage. Then I go home to have lunch with my girlfriend and if she isn’t there, I stay at the training ground. And in the evening, the Spanish guys usually get together, at Fernando’s house, Pepe’s or Xabi’s, or we go out to dinner. But you stay in a lot, the weather’s terrible and it goes dark very early.
6. Do you get the impression that, when we talk about Liverpool and the Spanish players, we forget that there’s another little Spaniard in the same city?
It’s to be expected though, Liverpool is the big team from the city, whether we like it or not. For example, I’m sure it’s just the same in Barcelona and there must be several great players at Espanyol who receive less attention from the press, but it’s the same everywhere.
7. Don’t you think it’s fantastic that in a city that has two teams with so much history Spanish football has such a great presence? 5 first team players at Liverpool, Benítez, and you’re quite the celebrity...
The thing is football has changed so much, it’s strange, but that’s how it is now. When I was a kid, the English league seemed like it was from a different planet - we used to watch Shearer, Andy Cole, Yorke, it was all so far away, but look now...
8. In fact you were chosen as the sports personality of the year for the city in 2007, that, more than anything else, really shows you have fitted in...
It’s a big help when you are treated so well, it’s easy to fit in then. The players are treated almost reverentially; if you try your hardest, no-one will ever have a go at you. And the sports personality thing was great, there were several sports figures up for it who are well known here, golfers and boxers from Liverpool.
9. This Sunday you’ve got another battle with your friends... over the last few years against “Spanish Liverpool” we’ve seen all kinds happen. Does any derby stick in your mind in particular?
Yeah!!! The 3-0 win over them two years ago, I think that’s the only time we’ve beaten them since I cam to Goodison. It’s going to be great, we know each other well, but the games are brilliant.
10. There’s going to be a nice match-up in midfield: Arteta vs Xabi...
We’ve been talking about it this week [laughs] ... there’s been a bit of banter and not just with Xabi.
Just think, I used to share a bunk bed at la Masía with Pepe Reina, he used to sleep on the top bunk, so you can imagine how well we know each other. This week we were talking about how I’ve never taken a penalty against him... and so, to take the mickey, he’s been saying, “you’re going to put it low to the right..." And Xabi’s the same, he says I’m not going to get a kick....
10b. Two players from San Sebastián pulling the strings in midfield in the Merseyside derby, it sounds good...
That’s what I was saying before, everything has changed, two lads from San Sebastián in the oldest derby in the world...
11. What players have most impressed you while you’ve been in England? A team-mate and an opponent.
Opponent: Henry when he was at Arsenal, unbelievable. He used to pick up the ball and you’d be watching him, how he ran, how it was so easy for him... and last year it was the same with Cristiano Ronaldo, he’d get hold of the ball and you knew he was unstoppable.
And as a team-mate, the best one, the one who most surprised me, wasn’t in England but in Scotland, when I was at Rangers: Caniggia, an incredible player, quick, great technique, skilful, clever, and a really nice fellah.
12. In England, people don’t forget their club legends... Do you ever see Andy Gray, Southall, Reid... at club events?
Absolutely, the club always is always celebrating the anniversary of this or that victory and you see them then. 24 years since the win over Rapid in the Cup Winners’ Cup, 22 years since the league win with Kendall. I saw Andy Gray recently and he’s on Sky Sports as well. Here, people never forget the ones who have made them happy. What happened to Ronaldinho could never happen in England: that someone who has been so good, the best in the world, captain of Barça and all that, could end up leaving in that way.
13. What truth is there in the perception that English players like a drink? You must have seen one or two who’ve had a few too many...
Of course, and more than one or two, although always on their day off, having one pint after another. It’s not the same as it used to be though, habits have changed, people eat better, but there are some who cling to their old ways, but that happens in Spain as well. People like their lager here, but I’ve seen a few in Spain knock the whiskeys back.
14. Your favourite to win the Premier League this year?
It’ll depend on what happens when the teams play each other and United look very strong right now. There’s a Liverpool-Chelsea match coming up which could leave one of them with a lot to do.
15. You can’t look on the Internet: why are they called the Toffees?
I’ve been told loads of times, but right now I really can’t remember.
16. Player of the year.
It’s strange, last year there were a few players who had already had a great season at this stage: Cristiano, Adebayor, Torres, but right now no-one stands out.
17. 26 years old and you’re a globetrotter: San Sebastián, Barcelona, Paris, Glasgow, San Sebastián... incredible.
Yeah, a few people in the dressing room have a laugh at that. Yakubu, the Nigerian, says that I can’t be 26... having played for so many teams!!!
17b. In what city do you see yourself in ... 3 years for example? Barcelona? Madrid? London?
That would mean that teams competing for major trophies have noticed me, it would mean that I had grown as a player.
18. In Paris, you were a team-mate of Ronaldinho’s, when he was ready to take on the world...
Yeah, I already mentioned how good he came to be. In Paris, he was different, not so confident, not as strong physically. At the time we did talk in the dressing room about the things he could do, but he was also very inconsistent.
19. how many languages do you speak?
Yes, Spanish, Basque, Catalan, French, English and Italian. The first two I’ve always spoken at home; I learnt Catalan when I went to Barcelona, French in Paris with PSG, English in Scotland and Italian because it’s always helped me to speak to the many Italians I’ve met: team-mates like Piatone [sic], a fitness coach, Di Blasi, who’s with Pochettino now at Espanyol.
20. Is there a song which the hardcore fans sing about you?
Of course, the song they sing about me, it’s on the Internet, on Youtube [search for "Arteta Everton Song"] It says ...[explains in Spanish]... Follow, Follow, Everton is the team to follow, cause these nobody better than Mikel Arteta....
21. Is there any part of English culture which has made an impact on you? The hours you keep, food? Music?
You’ve got no choice but to adapt to the times people do things, but nothing else. You should see my fridge: steaks, asparagus, Spanish sausages.... all of it from Spain and with music it’s the same. I love Spanish music, anything will do me.
Thanks and we’ll see you on the 11th at the Pizjuán [Sevilla’s ground, venue for the next Spain match]
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