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Dec 12, 2007

Q&A with Real Madrid's Gabriel Heinze

ESPNsoccernet talks exclusively to Gabriel Heinze, one of the best central defenders in European football and who, after a twist of fate, is back in the Spanish league. Nicknamed the 'Gringo', Heinze tells us about the objectives at Real Madrid and his days in the Premier League.

About this and more he spoke exclusively to ESPNsoccernet.es

How are things going for you at Real Madrid? The team is doing well as league leaders and going strong...

To tell the truth, I'm doing very well. The first few months are for adaptation and the truth is that I'm very happy because I have been well accepted at the club and the stadium so I'm very happy.

The team got into form at the end of last term and the motivation is still strong this campaign. Can you sense a hunger for titles?

Yes. At a great club the ambition is to win titles, any player knows that. Last season they had a great campaign so I think this season we can repeat that. At a great club the objectives are all competitions. There's the same motivation is all competitions and the objective is to get as far as we can in each one of them so from that point it depends on each match and see how things go.

Which player has impressed you the most at Madrid?

I think we all knew one another before because we can watch one another on television. I had played against lots of them but we have a great squad so we can hope to do well in all competitions.

This week you said that if Raúl was Argentine he would be the best...

Yes, I said that what he lacked was being Argentinea to be well-regarded and a bit more respected because the press sometimes, as in all countries, doesn't treat great players that well. I think he deserves to be in the national team so I said that to be complete he only needed to be an Argentinian.

Do you think Argentinians know how to sell player's talent better in that respect?

I think that what we have sold and what we sell, thank God, is that when we come to Europe we play well. It's not that we sell the product, but when we sell it we prove it too. In fact, out of the three Ballon d'Or candidates there was an Argentinian so it's not us selling but people buying a good product. An Argentinian footballer will always be well regarded. We don't sell, they come to buy.

In fact there are Argentinians in almost all the leagues of the world...

Modesty apart and following what you said about us knowing how to sell ourselves and I don't think it's like that, I can see there are Argentinians in almost all the most important leagues and that means something, doesn't it. It's not that we sell ourselves but people come to buy and get a good product.

Madrid took all front-pages this summer with the signing of Bernd Schuster. What's he like as a coach? He is in some ways, similar to Mourinho in the sense that he would rather direct all criticism towards himself to protect the squad...

I couldn't say because I don't know Mourinho. But I know Schuster and he seems like a very nice person. From my point of view, I keep the press side of things under control since I try not to read nor listen and concentrate on my work. When there is criticism I try to turn the page because criticism can sometimes be to offend you rather than be constructive.

I'm in love with the Premier League although in the future I hope to carry on here and I don't really think of experiencing another league.
Gabriel Heinze
And then Madrid surprised everyone with their summer spending on building a strong team...

They made an effort to sign people and what we have to do in exchange is in return play as well as we can and that's what we're doing.

Did you expect to return to the Spanish league and play for Madrid?

To tell the truth I didn't expect it. I was set to stay over there or go to Liverpool but due to things you can't control it didn't happen and as I had said I wasn't going to continue at Manchester then all I can say is that I'm very thankful for everyone who has trusted me.

The truth is that your time in the Premier League, especially the last year, went very well...

Yes, it went very well. I'm very happy for everything I did there and I topped it by winning the Premier League in my last year and that's very important at such a big club like Manchester United is, where people love me, follow me and I could leave with the title.

And Manchester has managed to return to the winning path after a blip...

Exactly. It was all very good because we had a great season, we reached the Champions League semi-final until Milan knocked us out and then we got our own back winning by the Premier League. I'm very thankful to the people who helped me, to the fans and I dedicate that league to them.

Having been in England, what do you think of the controversy over the loss of identity as clubs are bought by foreign investors?

The truth is that it's a very delicate subject and I can't give a short answer. I always try to concentrate on my work but I have to say that I experienced that at Manchester and it was all very normal and went well so I can't say differently. Maybe in other cases it might be worse but in my case it all went well and was very normal.

Spanish league, French league, English league as well as Portuguese and Argentinian. Which one did you prefer and which one would you like to try in the future?

I always said I was in love with the English league. Now I'm in the Spanish league which I knew from the time I was at Valladolid and I have to say it's a good league. But I'm in love with the Premier League although in the future I hope to carry on here and I don't really think of experiencing another league. Football has given me enough as it is and we will see what happens in the future.

A lot has happened since you signed for Valladolid when you were 19 and you said this summer that there's nothing left of that player you were back then. Where have you learnt more or which coach has taught you the most?

I think all coaches have taught me something, the good ones and the bad ones. From the good ones you get 100 per cent and from the bad you also get some percentage because they help you grow.

All of the coaches I have had have helped me. There are some that have left a larger impression like Gregorio Manzano who gave me my debut at Valladolid, or Luis Fernández who took me to Paris Saint-Germain, or Sir Alex Ferguson who gave me the chance of playing for a great club like Manchester United, people like Marcelo Bielsa at the Argentinian national team.

Lots of coaches have been important for me.

It was Manzano who moved you from the left to central defender...

Yes, yes. It was with Manzano when I spent all that season as a central defender. I have played in both positions and I don't have a problem with either.

Which are your objectives for the season?

My objective is to play again, be back in the team and hope to lend a hand to help the team. I set myself short-term objectives rather that long term ones so I just look forward to the next match.


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