A little over six months after arriving at Sevilla CF from Real Racing Club, Spanish Under-21 international Jairo Samperio is continuing to enhance his reputation as one of the most promising talents in Spain and the UEFA Europa League.
On the same day as his first appearance at the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup, Samperio completed his move to Sevilla. The winger made a bold move in deciding to leave his lifelong team at Racing for a new challenge with Unai Emery's side – who are currently ten games unbeaten in the UEFA Europa League – last June. With 14 top-flight games now under his belt for the 2006 and 2007 UEFA Cup winners, the Cantabrian recently chatted with UEFA.com about his progress to date.
UEFA.com: Were you ever fearful about moving to Sevilla – a team with a big European pedigree – from relegated Racing?
Jairo Samperio: I had always lived with my parents until that point and so it was probably the biggest news of my life. It meant moving away from home and starting to live alone. Added to that, I wasn't moving to a team playing in the same division; I was going to a side that almost always competes on a European level and one that has won many titles in recent seasons. When I heard that I was going there it made me immensely happy, even though I was already thinking about what the change might mean.
UEFA.com: What's Unai Emery like as a coach?
Jairo: I'd say what stands out about him is how demanding he is in every facet of the game and in every training session. He is always attentive to the tiniest of details. That is important because, as a player, if you drop off even a little, he will immediately demand you get back to your best. As a professional, you can't reproach him as he is always working and watching football.
UEFA.com: What objectives have the club laid down this season and how do you explain the difficult opening to the Liga in which your side failed to win any of their opening five matches?
Jairo: This was practically a new team and as such needed time to adapt. We came up against difficult opponents in those opening matches and it was hard to know how things would turn out for us. We just focused on continuing to work and when the results started to come, so too did our confidence, which you can see in us now as we pass through this upturn in form. Our objective has always been to go game by game in order to get as far as possible in each competition.
UEFA.com: Having brilliantly acclimatised to life in Seville following his 2011 move from FC Schalke 04, Croatian international Ivan Rakitić has become the captain and main reference point of the team. What is it like to share the pitch with him?
Jairo: There aren't enough words to describe his on-field persona; you just have to take pleasure in watching him play. He organises from the centre of the park and his spectacular start to the season is helping all of us. He also performs his duties as a captain off the pitch: pointing out to the younger players what to do and what not to do while giving us advice and lifting our spirits. He really knows how to carry the group.
UEFA.com: You will face NK Maribor in the UEFA Europa League round of 32. How do you assess your opponents?
Jairo: Being at the stage of the tournament we are now, we knew that whoever we faced would represent a difficult challenge. That said, we can feel in some way [fortunate] not to have drawn one of the teams that came from the UEFA Champions League. We can't complain. We must respect [Maribor] as we know they will make things difficult for us. We have a lot of hope and expectation invested in the UEFA Europa League and so we want to get through.
UEFA.com: Should you do that, there exists the possibility of facing city rivals Real Betis Balompié in the last 16. Have you contemplated such a prospect?
Jairo: Although I've only played in one derby match [against Betis], I've already seen how spectacular it is for the people of this city and fans of both sides. As a Sevilla player, I experienced the support we had in the hotel beforehand and at the game itself. We even managed to win which adds to your confidence. If you are asking me would I like this tie to happen, I would say yes because of what it would mean to the people here. Our first thoughts are focused on Maribor, however.
UEFA.com: You've managed to forge a place in Julen Lopetegui's Spain Under-21 side. What is the competition for places like within that group?
Jairo: It's ferocious because the players coming through the international ranks continue to be incredible and the majority of them are still reaching the elite level. Your progress with Spain obviously depends on how well you are doing at your club. I hope to remain along the path I am taking in order that the coach continues to count on me.
UEFA.com: What are your new year's wishes?
Jairo: I'm not really used to this life yet or to the aspect of playing two games a week which we have practically been doing all season; you notice the tiredness. With that in mind, I'm looking forward to recharging my batteries by going back to see my family and friends.
In 2014 I want to continue growing on a personal level while getting better as a player. I hope to celebrate a lot with my team-mates in the coming year.
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