It's been two months since his arrival, how is he in South Korea?
Very good and very happy. Just upon arrival, not a week had passed, and we were quarantined. My city was not the most affected, I live near Seoul, fifteen kilometers or so. The cities where there was more infection, possible risk of more infections, were closed and closed for entry and exit. I have quarantined about four days, because an infected person appeared in my neighborhood, but they took him to Seoul and in the following days there were no more infections. I have lived a normal life except for those four days. I am adjusting so much that every day is an adventure.
How is your physical work there?
Even in quarantine, the physical trainer came to look for us to the companions who are here in the locked apartments and took us individually to do more physical and individual technique training. I have not stopped at the soccer level. We are doing a pretty tough preseason with double sessions. Right now I am dead, because this is a preseason but I have not rested practically nothing, a week or so.
How did you come up with the option of going to play in Korea and what convinced you to accept?
It was actually a decision I rejected at first. They did it to me at Christmas and then I felt that maybe we could save ourselves, it could be a more participatory season to save Espanyol, as in previous seasons, and if I left I would feel guilty. Seeing how events were happening, that I did not have much weight at the game level and the situation … one day the offer came and on impulse I decided yes.
Did you know anything about Korean football before going?
When they made the first offer, I did look at something, but I immediately said no. And in the second proposal it was an impulse, they made it to me, I had just been without calling and I said yes. Two days later they told me that they were processing the visa, I had to take the plane and pack my four-year-old bags in Barcelona. It was very fast, I didn't have time to think about it.
How did your parents react when you said, 'Mommy, Daddy, I'm going to Korea to play'?
The truth that my parents told me not to doubt it from the beginning. They do not feel attached to a club and do not understand that feeling of why so much Espanyol. They were the first who encouraged me to live the experience and take advantage of the opportunity that the team I am playing is the best in South Korea.
Becoming a winning team …
Right, I don't know if I will be able to get used to winning so many games in a row, I will have to make an adaptation (laughs).
What differences do you see between Korean and Spanish culture?
It is super different. The biggest difference I see is how they are compared to life. With this situation, the coronavirus, how people here act with how people in Spain act has nothing to do. Here they are so civilized and they respect so much the others … One of the things that shocked me the most when I arrived was that in the garage there were parcels of shipments in the common garage of the building, that if you turn around it is two kilometers, it is huge. A friend from the agency came and asked him what they were doing there and he told me that, of course, so that the postal people don't waste time, they leave all the packages there and each one when he goes for the car takes his own. I saw a package like a television for about fifteen days in a row and thought 'this in Spain does not last even fifteen minutes'. Well, there are many more examples. It shows in many details of life. It is a waste of time for them that the delivery man goes all over the building giving the packages. For them they are all a great family and if they trip, they are hindering their country where they work and live. It is very different from Spain.
How are you living the coronavirus alarm from so far away? Are you very concerned about the family?
I am worried because every day is bad news, it is alarming. In the news that there are colleagues who ask me if we are subnormal in Spain because they think we are like in the United Kingdom, they do not understand that we take measures, but very small. For them it's like we don't take any action. They do not understand how Madrid, which is where it happened in the first moment and was the main focus, was no longer closed having the examples of China, South Korea and Italy. From Italy they justify that they were the first in Europe, but from Spain they do not understand how we did not act correctly. Everyone is fine and since we are from the north and in Santander they are fine and calm. My sister Sara (a Racing player) and I have a very close relationship. She is a little desperate over there.
What differences do you see in the way of handling the crisis between Korea and Spain?
The biggest difference I see is that the government takes correct measures, the citizens do not complain because they trust the government, they have earned respect. The government in Spain makes bad decisions for a long time, no matter who governs, and citizens do not feel supported by those decisions and respect what they say. If I were in Spain, I might have done the same … Here they have another culture.
When do you start the league there?
Not known. They have given us an estimated date, because we go a little hand in hand with China and Japan. We were told that Japan would start in mid to late May, but it depends on the coronavirus. They are very respectful with the subject and until there are no weeks with zero cases you cannot start. We are in preseason, but there are teams in cities that are confined that have not started the preseason.
What do you think about the moment that the First Iberdrola is going through? Should it be over?
How unfair it would be for the players that now that everyone talks about health being the most important thing as we see the health of the players after being a month completely stopped, worse than in summer, to play two games so that one competition when we have been told that we do not generate economically. That they do not intend to play two or three games per week because they will all break.
What differences do you notice between Korean and Spanish soccer?
Brutal. I come from playing for Espanyol, a team that has spent four years in the bottom of the table. Same if I'm at Barcelona or Atlético is not that different. This club, the Hyundai Steel Red Angels, is like the Korean Barcelona, it has been winning the league in a row for seven years. They are all great. At a technical level it seems to me a big difference, but it is from my vision. The technical they train exclusively and that's where I see more difference, in tactics I don't see as much difference. Half of the team goes to the absolute team. I compare it with Barcleona, because it is a team with many international players, although the staff is 28 players. There is competition, we are four points for a single position.
How many foreigners are there per team in South Korea?
They have a limit of non-community because they understand it to raise the level of the selection, which for them is the most important thing. So, because otherwise they would not progress so quickly and so much, so there are only two foreigners in the team. Here is a Brazilian and me.
How do you carry your adaptation to the locker room with so many local players?
I get along very well with almost all of them. I have a translator who lives with us and is always there, even on weekends. I really like social life and I sign up for all the plans, I go out with all the players. Sometimes I even go without the translator and speak as I can because they do not understand much English, by signs and as I can, some word of Korean I already know, but it is difficult to learn, it is very difficult.
Do you already know some customs there?
Something. I love Asian food and I have gone to restaurants and the coach who is very social even invites us to eat. I am integrating as fast as I can.
How are you doing with the new coach?
He is the sports director too, he does scouting duties. He was a U-20 coach and internationally he knows many players. I don't know if he signed me, but he integrated us very quickly.
How many years did you sign with the team?
I signed for a year but I have an assists and goals clause, because they count the same assists, so he signed two, but the club decides if it comes. In principle they want us to spend at least two years. It is very easy to be comfortable here.
Do you think you have been right with your decision to go to South Korea?
I have been totally right, I have been happy playing football again, it is coming a lot and also because of the situation in Spain, because everything is between parentheses there. It is as if life had stopped you, but I seem to have been here for a year of everything that has happened to me.