Keeper Andrés Palop, who turns 37 the day after Sevilla FC's trip to FC Karpaty Lviv, tells UEFA.com about the secret of his football longevity and a magical night in Ukraine.
As Sevilla FC visit FC Karpaty Lviv for Thursday's UEFA Europa League Group J game, goalkeeper Andrés Palop has good reason to recall his previous trip to Ukraine.
His last-minute header at FC Shakhtar Donetsk in March 2007 forced extra time in the round of 16 encounter, a prelude to the Spanish club winning first the tie and, two months later, a second successive UEFA Cup. Magical stuff, so while the soon-to-be 37-year-old bemoans Sevilla's elimination in this season's UEFA Champions League play-offs, he is nonetheless glad to be back contesting "the trophy that made us giants".
UEFA.com: Were there any benefits to being knocked out of the UEFA Champions League?
Palop: You cannot draw positives because this team was built for Champions League football. The only positive is that we are back competing for the trophy that made us giants and made our name in Europe. We want to go as far as possible in the Europa League, which can be as tough as the Champions League especially when you look at our group.
UEFA.com: The last time you were in Ukraine you scored a memorable goal against Shakhtar. What do you remember about it?
Palop: It's a while back and I would rather remember great saves I made but it was obviously unforgettable. It was a step into the unknown as I was used to celebrating goals scored by team-mates and had never had the opportunity to actually score myself. Now I know what it means for a player to score such a crucial goal, because we were practically out of the UEFA Cup as there was no time left.
UEFA.com: How has the team changed since Gregorio Manzano was appointed coach last month?
Palop: Our first results under him were very important as they gave us confidence and belief in his methods. Now we have to give ourselves over completely to him; to help him and make things easier. It looks like the winds of change are blowing in our favour.
UEFA.com: What are your memories of winning the UEFA Cup with Sevilla?
Palop: The first title we won in Eindhoven [against Middlesbrough FC in 2006]. That UEFA Cup changed the lives of everybody associated with the club. It changed the aura of a team which, until then, were thought to be bottlers on the big stage. Also, we won it in the club's centenary year. To see the thousands of fans that came to support us in the Netherlands and to lift the trophy out on the pitch was unforgettable. I will keep that victory with me forever.
UEFA.com: You turn 37 on Friday. After being a reserve at Valencia CF for so long, are you grateful to Sevilla for making you a No1?
Palop: I always had hope and was eager to turn my situation around. Now at 36, having watched so much football as a frustrated spectator, I'm enjoying it and feel like I'm in my mid-20s. I adore football. It's what I am best at and I want to continue playing at the highest level.
UEFA.com: Goalkeepers seem to improve with age. Why is that?
Palop: We don't tend to get injured. That means we play a lot of matches and gain a lot of experience. You learn to deal with situations, without being nervous or rushing headlong into something. On top of that there is hard work, taking care of yourself and having a mentality that is totally dedicated to the game. The goalkeepers who reach our age normally follow those rules; any other way would make things very difficult.