"It is not easy for me to talk about Rafa; I’ve known him a long time and our relationship changes as time passes. It is difficult for me to be objective about a person who has changed my life. We first met at the old Real Madrid Training Ground. I was to have a trial in the U19s; it was towards the end of November and I was playing with a team from Barcelona, UE Sants, when Real Madrid asked me to come for a trial. The first thing I noticed was that here was a coach who spoke about things I had not heard of; we keep a high line, we press the player with the ball, we cut out the line of pass, pressing zone, we reduce space, we press between lines... There’s nothing I dislike more than when someone is talking about things I don’t understand, so I asked questions and a young coach answered them, teaching me something I have used my whole career –‘to play football you have to think’. Later on I realised that what I learned that day is that the most important ‘muscle’ for a footballer is the brain. And unfortunately this is coached the least (not the psychology but the knowledge of the game) and I believe that in this aspect Rafa is above all a maestro who knows how to explain all the options that his team and his players have.
Later we again shared a dressing room, this time when I was a professional, and after my first individual chat with him I thought ‘This guy really knows how to build your hopes up’ (I can’t repeat the actual words I used). You feel at the end of the season that these all too few moments have made you a better footballer than before you talked to him.
Something negative. It is very hard to work with him. ‘Why?’ Because it is impossible to reach his level of work ethic and he is always seeking perfection. And this ‘negative’ point spurs you on and demands more of you every day to try to be better.
Thanks Rafa for helping me to find my way in life".