Tuesday, September 23, 2008



I was born on the 20th of March 1984. According to what I’m told my arrival was just what my parents, Flori and Jose, needed to calm their nerves, as my brother and sister, Israel and Mari Paz, who were seven and eight respectively, were a pair of tearaways whereas I was always pretty well-behaved, in the house at least.

I can’t tell you much about my first year of life because I don’t remember anything, and my family haven’t told me anything interesting about it either but I imagine I crawled about and cried a lot like all kids at that age.

When I was only two I started to kick my brother’s ball around the house, and that was my first contact with football. Around then another of my hobbies was throwing things out of the window. Unluckily, one day I threw a model truck, which was full of money, out into the street. That story is pretty well known, but I think it deserves a mention in my biography, because of the difficult time it caused for my parents. It ended up as just a family anecdote, though.

The First Team (Professional Football and the National Team)
At three years old I was just like my older brother. He’s seven years older than me and has always been, in some ways still is, the mirror that I look in to see myself. On the other hand my sister Mari Paz is the only one who has always let me get away with everything. In her eyes I’m still the little boy I was then, and she still treats me as if I was.

At four years old I started to become really interested in football. I remember my dad played with me whenever he could, especially when we were in Gastrar, a little village in Galicia where we went for our holidays. The games basically consisted of kicking a ball around, but at that point, that was the limit of my footballing aspirations.

I was five when I joined my first team, Parque 84. There was a footballathon organized in my neighbourhood sports centre, in Fuenlabrada, the area I grew up in. The matches consisted of 15 or 20 kids running around after a ball, really crazy! Nonetheless, for a kid like me at that age it was a really big deal. I was in the team for two days, that is to say for as long as the footballathon lasted. Like any other five-year-old kid, besides playing football I played other things, like bottletops, marbles, and rough games like el culete and gol alemán, among others. In nursery school I had my first girlfriend- I can’t remember her name! And they say your first love is the one that leaves a mark.

From when I was six football became really important- thanks to Oliver and Benji on TV! It was a cartoon series, really good. The story was about a group of lads who start by playing football for fun, and end up as professionals. After the show me and my brother would go out and play football. I liked to imagine I was a professional footballer like the kids in the series. I played in goal until one day I got a couple of teeth knocked out by the ball and decided that my career between the sticks was finished. Great save, though.

I’ve got great memories of my childhood, but one in particular is really important: chatting with my Grandad about Atleti. My Grandad was a strange case in terms of football, the truth is football hardly interested him, but nonetheless he was passionate when it came to Atleti. The image is still fresh in my mind of my Grandad in front of me, talking without stopping, trying to get across to me the importance of being an Atletico de Madrid fan, and as witness to those wonderful talks have a plate, with his name and the Atletico badge. That plate is the best trophy I’ve got.

Once I’d got over my goalkeeper phase I started to play as a forward. In that period my neighbourhood café organized a team, called ‘Mario’s Holland’. It was the second team I played in, and I got in even though I was younger than the league limit.

I played indoor football for three years, in a league, with a team strip and everything, and my dream of becoming a footballer really began to develop. Thanks to this experience I got to know what it meant to be in a team, and to have team-mates, both of which have been really important for my development as a person and as a player.

As I said before, every summer I went to Gastrar with my family. It was a big family gathering, my grandparents, uncles and aunties, cousins and of course me and my brothers were all there- I was the youngest of all, the baby. Obviously I always had to tag along, but I didn’t mind because you could keep me amused any old how in those days. For the first seven years of my life, my family, my friends, football and summers in Gastrar were the I only things I needed to be happy.

Just after I turned eight my parents bought a house in Estorde, in Galicia. Although at first this might not seem so important, it turned out to be because it was there that I met the girl who ended up being my girlfriend, Olalla. Apart from that, that time in my life was important because I made friends with a group of people who are still my friends today.

I was just a nine-year-old kid when I first visited the Atletico de Madrid trophy room. I remember my dad didn’t want to tell me where we were going, I don’t know which of us was more excited: him, dying to show me, or me, waiting for the big surprise. When we got there you still couldn’t say, because we both loved it.

I’d seen photos of the trophies, but I’d never seen them close up, I’d never touched them and that day I did both, and luckily since then I’ve had my hands on on or two more…. All my life I’d heard my family talk about them, the World Club Cup, the League trophies, the Cups that Atleti had won, and that day I got to see what I’d always imagined.

Atletico De Madrid (In the clubs youth teams)

When I was ten I played in my first eleven-a-side team, Rayo 13. That was a good year for me. The three best players of the season were given the opportunity to try out with Atletico- I scored 55 goals that year, and thanks to that I was one of the players chosen. On the day of the trial I was really excited, dying to get out on the pitch and taste the real world. And things turned out just the way I’d hoped.

I joined Atletico de Madrid at the age of eleven, that’s the lowest age team there. My coach was Manolo Rangel. I have especially fond memories of that time, thanks to Manolo. Training was a game, and the matches were fun, that was the part of my life when I most enjoyed playing football.

Shortly after joining the team we went on a trip to Belgium, it was my first away trip, I was overwhelmed. The hotel, my team-mates, everything about that trip was amazing. I was living my dream, or at least that’s how it seemed to me back then.

When you belong to a club like Atletico de Madrid at that age you live for it, it’s indescribably exciting, although I couldn’t let myself forget that football was still just a hobby for me. For my family it was a nightmare: I say a nightmare because of the effort the four of them put in so as I could become a footballer- although that wasn’t the goal then because no one knew, not one us of even imagined I’d get to where I am today.

My dad had to leave work in the afternoons to take me to training in Orcasitas, and then go back to work in Fuenlabrada by train, other times my mother took me to the training ground on the bus and on the train, whether it was raining or if it was baking hot she’d always take me. She used to say ‘if you ever get tired you don’t have to go anymore, don’t feel obliged to keep on with the football.’ But I never got tired of it. My brother and sister had to take me to training sometimes, too. While I was playing, they’d be in the stands studying, in the different grounds they had to take me to.

Without my family I never would have got into the first team, I never would have even been a footballer.

My first year in the junior team, Junior B to be precise, twelve years old, the games were more difficult, the other teams had players that were older than us, which made a difference. But even so, although we didn’t win the league we finished in a good position in the table. We had the same group of players as the year before, apart from six or seven lads who’d fallen by the wayside. I spent every day playing football or studying, it was a bit hard going to be honest, but it was worth it in the end.

I began the Junior A season at 13. People from outside Madrid joined the team. I remember players like Manu, Molinero and Sergio Torres, who won the European under-16 championship with me. Football was still a past-time for me, but I knew what it meant to be part of an organisation like Atletico de Madrid, and I was 13.

It was my third year of football with Atleti. My arrival coincided with the double year, and that made me even more proud to be part of the club. In just a handful of years I’ve lived through the double, relegation, promotion, happiness and disappointment as a player and a fan…I’ve seen people of all age crying in the stands, I’ve even seen the fans leave the ground happy even though the team have lost!

They’re happy to have seen Atleti, their team. It’s different from with teams like Barcelona or Real Madrid, whose fans are only interested in winning, Atleti fans follow their feelings more than the results, we like to enjoy ourselves, have a good time every Sunday, then if you win, all the better. That’s the way of thinking I got from my Granddad, the Atletico way.

At cadet level I had a change of coach, Pedro Calvo was in charge of the team. I won my first important title with Pedro, and I want to thank him for his help and advice both when I was in his side, and afterwards.

I played for a year at cadet level, that was the year we played two Nike Cup tournaments, at domestic and European level. All the best teams were at those tournaments: Real Madrid, Barcelona, Milan, Manchester United, Juventus…, the standard was much higher than I’d been used to up to that point. And even so we won.

Those two trophies form part of the successful record of Atletico de Madrid junior football, and if that wasn’t enough I was voted Junior Player of the Year. I couldn’t believe what was happening, I’d gone, in such a short time, from playing with a bunch of mates in Rayo 13, to being the best European player in my age-group. I was still only fourteen years old.

At fifteen I signed my first contract with Atletico de Madrid. I would have signed for life. When I was a kid and we played bottletops I was always Atleti, playing football with my mates I always imagined I was an Atleti player, and now I really was one, I was part of the club, I was an Atletico de Madrid player.

At cadet age I played my first season with the youth team and took part in the National League. The group I was in was made up of cadet level players who had stood out the year before and first year youth team players, with the aim of putting together a strong side for the Honour Division. It was then I met the coach who has been most important for my career, Abraham Garcia, who I really hope and believe will go far.

The First Team (Professional Football and the National Team)


At sixteen I began the season playing in the Honour Division and I finished it in the first team. That season was amazing, but from the way it started nobody would have guessed how well it would end. Thanks to a cracked shinbone, and after an operation to put it right, I didn’t start playing until December.

2001 Things started to pick up in February when I won the Algarve Tournament with the National under-16s, in the Algarve. I really wanted to play in the under-16s European Championship which was to be held in England the following May, but it wasn’t going to be easy, me having been injured and not having taken part in the qualifiers. In the end Juan Santiesteban and Armando Ufarte gave me the chance to play.
Right after turning sixteen I played in and won the European under-16 championship. I was top scorer and chosen as Player of the Tournament, the same as had happened at cadet level. One of the most noticeable effects of that tournament was that when I got back to Madrid people would stop me in the street. Nothing like that had ever happened to me before.
After the under-16s championship I played a match with the under-18s, and I also played in the final of the Youth Champions Cup. A few days later Futre called me to tell me I was going to train with the first team, as I was going to be involved in the pre-season preparation and I might as well get integrated into the set-up. That was a Tuesday; the Wednesday I went to training, the Saturday I was in the squad and on Sunday I made my debut in El Calderon against Leganes- the 27th of May 2001. The following week I scored my first goal, against Albacete, and a few weeks later I suffered my first great professional disappointment when we missed out on promotion to the First Division, on goal difference, after the game against Getafe. That year I got to know all about success and failure. For me personally it had been a great season, but as a team we had not accomplished our objective, and the disappointment was intense. I’d been in the first team for a month and I’d already been through things which some footballers might not experience in their whole career. And my career had only just begun. In November I played in the under-17 World Cup, in Trinidad and Tobago. It wasn’t a good experience as far as results on the pitch are concerned, but nonetheless it helped me grow professionally. I began the new season with the first team. 2002That year we achieved promotion a few weeks before the end of the season, and despite not having had a great year personally, I was very happy that we had reached our goal. Two years previous the club had incurred a great debt to the fans, and we’d paid it back by getting back to the place we never should have left in the first place, the First Division.
In July, 18 by now, I played in the under-19s European Championship in Norway. We arrived with great expectations, we had a good team, even though we did make thing a bit complicated for ourselves by drawing with the Czech Republic. We made up for it with victories over the hosts, Norway, and Slovakia, playing excellent football. We beat the Germans in the final, I was sharp enough and lucky enough to score the winning goal in a game in which both teams played exceptionally. We were champions again, and once again I was both top scorer and Player of the Tournament.
After a year in the Second Division which hadn’t gone too well for me the fans were waiting to see what I’d be capable of in the First Division. It was a good season, I scored thirteen goals and played well all year- especially in the home games against Barcelona and against Deportivo La Coruña. Those two games marked my footballing career, in a way, because after those games the fans really started to believe in me, in my ability.


In the First Division there’s more technique, more space, and that works to the advantage of attractive and spectacular football. Different from the Second Division, where tactical play is more important and many teams often make up for lasck of talent with an excess of toughness. That year I also made my debut with the under-21s, won more sep towards fulfilling my dream of playing for the full National side. With professional success comes recognition, and with this recognition comes fame.

I’m an accessible person. I think signing autographs after a training session is almost a duty, a moral obligation. I’m aware of the enthusiasm and excitement that the fans feel towards me, the respect and affection they have for me. In fact, not long ago I was one of them. Being important to the fans is a source of pride and satisfaction for me. What I don’t like so much is the loss of privacy, not being able to have a good time with friends in a public place like any normal person, which at the end of the day is what I am.


My second season in the First Division was even better than the first. At nineteen years old I made my debut with the National Team, and at twenty I was playing in the European Championship. On top of that I scored twenty league goals, a good total.

Nonetheless there were two big disappointments for me: the first with Atletico de Madrid, in that after having been in the European places for much of the season, we missed out on the last day of the season- despite winning at San Mamés (home of Athletic Bilbao); the second big let-down was the European Championship- I still can’t understand how we didn’t beat Portugal- it was a disaster for all of us that got to me a lot, we had a great chance and I still don’t know how we let it slip away from us.


Things did not go as well as we had hoped for Atletico in the 2004-05 season. Although I played in all the League games, scoring 16 goals, it wasn’t enough to get us into Europe. We even lost in the Cup semi-finals against Osasuna. All our hopes of getting a title for Atletico faded away and we were all dreadfully disappointed.

The season’s positive note was the National Team’s classification for the World Cup in Germany. Although we had some difficulties, we had to play the playoffs against Slovakia and we fulfilled our aim of getting classified.


Atleti made a secure bet to the season 05/06. The club signed a very good coach. Carlos Bianchi won everything with Vélez and Boca, but with us he wasn’t very lucky. The truth is, he didn’t adapt himself to the squad neither the squad adapted to him. That’s why; the first months of the season weren’t good enough. The League was getting very hard. The arrival of Pepe Murcia was like a balm and we overcame winning six consecutives matches. The previous dynamic was dangerous and the new coach gave us enough moral to straighten the way. Pitifully, we didn’t keep that regularity acquired before and we couldn’t achieve the European place.

The nicest face of the season I lived it with the National Team at Germany’s World Cup. Representing my country in the greatest championship of the World and playing against the best players of the world has been for me a dream come true. I suffered the elimination in France’98 and Korea on television, but by the first time I was able to try helping to change history. The motivation of the group was extraordinary and all of us were prepared because we knew it could have been the Spain World Cup.

We overcame the first phase very good. At collective level, the team stood out with good play and goals, while the coach gave me his confidence and I scored three goals. I even leaded the classification of goal scorers after the second round of the championship. At eights to final, we had to compete against one of the strongest teams, France. We did the worst match of the tournament and we had to make the luggage. The experience of a veteran rival affected more than the quality and the courage of our national team. However, I understand that at Germany we built a young team and with quality that I am sure in the future will give a lot of happiness to the supporters.

The performance at the World Cup make people talk about my future. Summer, like always, was spotted of the offers I rejected. Sincerely, several teams were interested formally on me, but we said to all of them I wasn’t moving from Atleti. To demonstrate my faithfulness to my colours of all my life, I decided to accepted the proposal of the team to wide my contract for one more season, until June 2009.

In the season 06/07 we are in European places since the beginning of the League. My wish is to achieve, finally, a European place to play in Europe next campaign. Another of my dreams was gone: not to play the final of the King’s Cup.

Liverpool (My debut in the English football and Champions League)


It was not an easy decision for me to make back in 2007. In fact, the decision actually turned out to be the most important one of my life so far. The offer from Liverpool to challenge the best was enough for me to finally decide to leave behind the club where I had spent the last twelve years, including seven spent in Atletico’s first team. My best memories from childhood are bathed in red and white, but I needed a change. I was very close to becoming part of a great project, a dream possibility. At the time of making the decision I was confident that I made the right choice. Looking back over the last few months, this view has been strengthened. Atletico Madrid needed to live without Torres, and Torres needed to leave Atletico. Things are working out for both of us, and that is great news.

Events on the pitch at Atletico Madrid were no better than last year. On the final day of the season we missed out on a place in Europe, a position we had defended throughout most of the year. Once again I went off on holiday feeling that we had not achieved the objectives. All the hard work we had put in from September disappeared in the blink of an eye.

Summer began as normal with time to rest and look back, but a phone call changed everything. Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez wanted me to form part of his new project. It was late afternoon and he caught me out walking the dogs! When the phone rang, I saw that it was a number from abroad. I didn’t answer. The next day I received another call, this time I picked-up the phone. When I heard Rafa’s voice, I frooze. I was not expecting a call from him. He explained to me his plans and ideas, and I replied that he should speak to the owner of Atletico Madrid, Miguel Angel Gil. There wouldn’t be any problems as long as the clubs could reach an agreement. From that moment on, I felt that this was not just any offer. A great club, the most successful in English football, was asking for me, when they could have gone after any world class striker.

I arrived at Anfield after saying goodbye to the fans, team-mates and employees at Atletico Madrid. I thanked them for how well they had treated me during my time there. Everything was new at Liverpool and it was an exciting prospect; my official presentation at the club, the first few training sessions at Melwood, the preseason at Switzerland and Austria… my first goal for the Reds and my first matches in the Premier League, Champions League and the Carling Cup. I have a very fond memory of my first Premiership goal. It was scored at Anfield against Chelsea. It was without doubt one of my best moments so far in my career. It was my debut in front of our fans, and things could not have turned out any better. In our first good attack, Steve Gerrard played me in with a great ball which I duly collected and put past the Chelsea keeper.

I have always enjoyed English football. I had watched quite a lot of games at home and I always thought that I could fit in quite well with the pace and the intensity of the football played there. The pace of the game was actually a lot quicker than I could ever have imagined.

Everything has gone really smoothly! To play for Liverpool alongside players like Gerrard, Reina, Mascherano or Carragher, is a dream opportunity and I want to give my all for the club. With the help of my team-mates and the support from the Kop, the goals started to arrive. I was always confident in my ability to do well, but I never thought that everything would work-out so quickly. Life in Liverpool is easy going. There is a lot less media pressure than back in Spain, and the fans also treat players with the upmost respect. The weather is not that bad, and it does not rain as often as many would have you believe. The season is moving on and we will try to meet the objectives set out.

The fans have taken to me as one of their own. The welcome I received from the Kop was as good as it gets. During three of the first five months since arriving, I have been voted the best player by supporters. In another vote held at the end of the year, I was voted the second best player for the whole of 2007, behind Gerrard. The support from fans during the matches is also unbelievable. I felt very proud the first time I heard them sing my name. I was later told that the chant was the same they used for both Dalglish and Fowler, two Liverpool legends. I have been fortunate enough to meet them and they both explained to me exactly what Liverpool means to the fans. To follow in their steps is a beautiful and emotional challeng

1 Comentário:

falla said...

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