Matilla, an example of improvement in which Ferguson saw the new Xavi

It had been 42 years since Aris The Greek Super League did not start with four wins and one draw. The Thessaloniki-based team, led by Apostolos Mantzios, leads the highest category of Hellenic football despite not having played the last day due to a COVID-19 outbreak that infected 10 footballers. And the great moment of form of the black-yellows would not be understood without their quarterback in the center of the field: Javier Matilla (Quero, 1988). “At the beginning, leaving Spain gave me respect, but the experience has been very positive. The decision to come to Aris was very successful”, assesses the Spanish midfielder from Thessaloniki, who recently extended his contract until June 2022: “He was free and offers came, but Aris pushed hard for me. Here I feel valued and that's all a footballer needs. “

It was Paco Herrera who, in the summer of 2018, convinced Javier Matilla to sign for Aris de Thessaloniki. The Barcelona coach only lasted four months in the position of coach, but Matilla, who is nicknamed the 'magician' due to his great kicking the ball, extended his Greek adventure to become one of the most beloved players at Kleanthis Vikelidis. “I fell on my feet in the club and that has allowed me to live a second youth. When, like me, you tear the cruciate ligament in both knees, it takes a lot of games to regain confidence. Changing countries helped me forget all the bad times related to my injuries. At Aris I have everything I need to perform 100% “, details Matilla, author of one of the most beautiful goals that have been scored this season in the Helena Super League.

With a success in the pass close to 90%, Javier Matilla is one of the most reliable midfielders in the Greek Super League, where the manchego also stands out for his fine technique. Back in time are the many months he spent away from the green due to injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament. His right knee cracked when he played for Betis; the left while defending the Elche shirt. Between the end of one ordeal and the beginning of the other, barely five months passed. “The best way to overcome it is to get closer to family and friends, who are the ones who can help you the most,” says Matilla. “At first you live with doubt because you fear that it will happen again. I played with fear, but I overcame it playing for Nàstic and Aris gave me life. Here I have played everything and that has allowed me to regain my naturalness,” he adds .

A naturalness with and without the ball that, during his time in the Villarreal subsidiary, made him one of the most promising midfielders in Spanish football. This is how Alex Ferguson saw it, who, according to 'The Telegraph', was willing to pay more than three million euros for a player in which he saw the new Xavi. “I was in a great moment and being compared to one of the best midfielders in the history of Spain made me blush, but I always had my feet on the ground. I was just a child,” recalls Matilla, who personally never heard from Manchester United : “For me it was an anecdote. I don't know if they came up with an offer, but I didn't care. Everyone knows how well Villarreal treats their youth players. I was delighted to continue my career there and I ended up reaching the first team. “. And there he concurred with Santi Cazorla, “the best soccer player with whom I have coincided”. “He is a super crack. As a person and as a partner. I identify with him, who also had a bad time due to injuries,” concludes the 'magician' from Thessaloniki.