« I also know how to play football »


2:00 p.m., September 26, 2021

Kicking is not Alvaro González’s primary quality. However, the disciplinary committee of the League noted – and condemned – his powerful shot in the direction of the Nice kop, at the heart of the incidents of August 22. Suspended two matches, the Spanish defender joked about his networks: in a photo, alone in front of a hateful crowd, he calls himself « guilty ». During a meeting a few days earlier, he said: « On a field, I do not look down. I am respected for that. I have proved for two years that I never give up. » Accused of racism by Neymar a year ago or hit by a projectile during the sacking of the Commandery in January, Álvaro is facing up. From the events of last winter, « there is nothing left », he assures us. His family did not think of leaving, he « never felt in danger ».

There would be two Álvaro, according to Cédric Bakambu, who rubbed shoulders with him in Villarreal. Attempted introspection: « Coming out of the tunnel, I transform. As if I needed to mark my territory to do my job well. » Rare find of the former sports director Andoni Zubizarreta, the Spaniard has made a place in the eleven of André Villas-Boas. The Portuguese technician picked up his phone to ask him to accompany the young Duje Caleta-Car and Bouba Kamara. « From the first season, rewinds the vice-champion of France 2020, we put forward my character. But we do not stay twelve seasons in the elite by simply opening your mouth. I had other merits to arrive so far.  » And precise, as if it was not obvious: « I also know how to play football. »

Shortlisted by Luis Enrique in 2019 and 2020

A priori, his grinta seems to stick to the volcanic Jorge Sampaoli. But the Argentine coach pulled him out of his new three-way defense at the start of the season; Álvaro returned when Leonardo Balerdi was suspended. « Sampaoli is radically different, believes the only 30-year-old defense. In this position, we are looking for safety first, but this year we are taking risks to keep the ball. Our back line is much higher, so we have need for successful individualities in possession.  » It is included in the number.

In 2013, he won the Under-21 Euro with a generation of skilful fiddlers: Thiago Alcantara, Isco, Koke… But he didn’t break through higher. The golden age of La Roja, who won all the trophies between 2008 and 2012, complicated his task. « When your team has 90% possession, the defense is only used thirty seconds per game, he regrets a little. It was not the best time to shine. » Shortlisted by Luis Enrique in 2019 and 2020, Álvaro was not so far from participating in the Euro in June. He appreciated the « recognition » of his work but also admits that there is « a gap » with Gérard Piqué or Sergio Ramos.

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For months there was no more atmosphere than in training

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The tattooed defender of Real Madrid, precisely, did not seek his opinion before accepting the offer of PSG. Between them, there is respect but now « a deep rivalry ». It is especially at the idea of ​​finding Lionel Messi on October 24 that Alvaro sharpens his crampons. With Villarreal (2016-2020), he has « good memories » of two draws. But it was with his previous club, Espanyol Barcelona (2014-2016), that he looked La Pulga in the eye: each wore the armband of one of the two neighboring clubs. The images of their quarrel in 2016 have become « viral », laughs Álvaro, who had qualified the divine blaugrana of « bajito » (« very small »); the latter replied with « you are very bad ». The temperature has dropped again. The best player in the world in Ligue 1? « Good news », says the Marseillais, who « loves » to rub shoulders with it.

Lover of strong emotions

It feeds on strong emotions. At the same time as it emptied the stadiums, the pandemic exhausted the motivation of this great competitor. “For months, there was no more atmosphere than in training, he laments. Usually, our supporters push and put the opponent under pressure. Without them, it was hard. to stay in the loop.  » For him, the Europa League matches against Galatasaray (Thursday) or Lazio Rome will be a way of thanking them for their loyalty.

For his happiness to be complete, he would like to have a regular season in the league, he who experienced two relegations at the start of the course, with Santander then Zaragoza. Even today, the evenings of poor performance are « painful » for him to live. « I live the matches with intensity, he opens. In these cases, my relatives know that it is better not to talk to me about football. » They come, like him, from the mountains of Cantabria, in the north of Spain. From a region, he adds with a curious eye, where people have « a lot of character ».

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