Every job has its good and bad days and interviewing footballers is no different. I once sat with a world-famous striker who spent our entire interview staring at a TV across the room. I'm no David Frost but all the same …
Still, that was not quite as bad as the time I travelled from Leeds to London to speak to a Premier League player, waited over four hours at his club's training ground and, when he finally emerged, was handed his mobile number on a scrap of paper and told he'd do it over the phone another day.
To avoid tarring all footballers with the same brush, however, I should stress the good days outnumber the bad by some distance – and this month I had the pleasure to sit down with Javi García, Manchester City FC's new Spanish midfielder.
This was an interview for the UEFA Champions League Weekly TV show, Champions magazine and UEFA.com which I was asked to do as I speak Spanish. We met in the small media conference building at City's Carrington training ground – for a nice intimate chat (albeit shared with two cameramen, a producer and Simon from City's press office). A colleague with connections at SL Benfica, his previous club, had described him as an excellent character and he certainly came across that way.
He was relaxed and good-humoured throughout, performing the different tasks asked of him by the producer – including holding up Polaroid snaps of himself in different guises (which looked great in the final film). He joked afterwards that, as the new boy, City's media department were taking advantage of the fact he was so obliging. He also spoke about the English lessons he and his girlfriend were about to embark on and his wish not just to rely on the Spanish-speaking contingent at City.
Another topic was the influence of his father, José, a former goalkeeper who set up a football school in Murcia, which he attended before joining the Real Madrid CF academy at 14. José was due to fly over with his wife for their son's first game in the Premier League at Stoke City FC a few days later.
They would have watched on proudly as García made an impressive debut. I was at the match and he showed the physical attributes that should serve him well in England, heading City's equaliser in the 1-1 draw. He almost won the game with another, late header that the goalkeeper touched on to a post.
It was evidently enough to keep him in the team at his old stomping ground of the Santiago Bernabéu when City took on Madrid on matchday one, and he retained his starting place in Sunday's 1-1 draw with Arsenal FC. Not a bad start for a player whose arrival – compared with some of City's signings in recent years – may have generated little fanfare, but who may emerge as a more than useful recruit.
Having met him and had a small glimpse of the person behind the player we see on the football pitch, I will be intrigued to see if this proves the case.
The opinions expressed here are the writer's own and not those of UEFA.
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