From Blackpool to Anorthosis, from the north of England to Cyprus. A change I would have never guessed, one that is convincing me more and more day by day, though. It was the right moment. ‘You hook on here and stay for ten years or you will want to leave in two months‘, Roberto Martinez said to me when I landed on Swansea and my British adventure began. It has not been a decade but almost. When I look back I have got no regrets, no matter the good or bad moments… and taking into account that I could write a very interesting book about my last season in Blackpool.
No regrets about my Blackpool period because I learnt a lot and I met terrific and devoted supporters who don’t deserve what is happening there. I didn’t want to tell anything about my leaving before because I have never liked controversy. A clause of my contract stated that I could go free in case of relegation and having completed 2,070 minutes on the pitch. Despite of them not allowing me to play the last two matches, I have already fulfilled that time.
So I had a contract but I could go. Due to the way I am, I chose to leave and to give up my salary in spite of not having a team. I had to leave, I needed it. I could stay and keep on getting my wages while waiting an offer, but I don’t like to cheat anyone, much less a club in a so strange situation. Honestly: I have a bad taste in my mouth for the fans, but I had no strength to stay.
The day after the end of the season I got an offer from a Championship club, and two more during that week. I chose to solve my situation with Blackpool before committing myself with anybody and I lost those options.
I didn’t know how but I ended up running along Vilanova without a sure thing, not knowing where I was going to be, watching how other teams started the preseason and weighed down with a situation I wish nobody. They reached me to play at the Italian Serie B, there was something from France and sort of an offer from the new Indian league. And some inconclusive callings from England.
One day my friend Fede Bessone, who I played in Swansea with, told me he had signed with Prat. We were chatting about it and finally I got a permission to train with them. They are a fourth category club with a Champions League heart. It’s not just because of Pedro Dolera —a magnificent coach— and the quality of the team. Humanely speaking, they should envy nobody. On the contrary, a lot of clubs should learn from Prat. I will be forever in debt with that club, players and coach because they were there when I started to sink. I was there for two weeks and suddenly I had the opportunity to train with Bolton.
I was a whole week in Bolton along with a great quality squad, well managed by Neil Lennon. Maybe I arrived late or something went wrong… I don’t know. The thing is when Anorthosis called I had no doubts. I wanted to feel myself a footballer. I could have waited with no rush because I had no contract and I wasn’t bound to any market closing time, but I decided to go to Cyprus. They called me and sent a completely clear written offer and everything was closed in just one day. From the 14º in Bolton to the 35º in Larnaka…
Deep down I feel pity for leaving England. Two promotions, two playoffs with Brighton and yes, a relegation. But I leave with a clear conscience and the proud of giving everything until the last day. I know that nobody in Swansea, Brighton or Blackpool can argue about my devotion. And apart from my work, I leave a lot of good friends.
It has been an unforgettable experience. One thing is for sure: I will come back to the English football some day, weather as a player (years go by, though, and I don’t know if the opportunity will arise) or a coach.
I am in Cyprus now, where I count 29 Spanish players at First Division. In Anorthosis I met Toni Calvo again (we were together in Barça B). Thomas Christiansen is coaching AEK, Albert Serrán y Urko (another great friend) are in APOEL… Football here is much more serious that you can imagine if you don’t know it…
The Anorthosis aim is to steal the Cypriot league throne from the APOEL. It’s quite a challenge and I love challenges, no matter you can’t always fulfill them. There is a lot of preassure, which I like, and the supporters are awesome. I made my debut last Sunday. After four months I am not at one hundred per cent, but I played well for 67 minutes and we won for 3-0. We are leaders! Not so bad, isn’t it?
I am sure that I will be on fire in two weeks. Moreover, my family arrives next week and I’m thrilled about it. It’s been a month without them! They will enjoy the weather and the people from Cyprus as much as I do… and this adventure we begin.
We will be in touch, my friends, now from Cyprus but without forgetting (how could I?) England.
Translated by Chus Abascal.