Xavi’s team is fighting in this last stretch to achieve a minimum goal, qualifying to play the Champions League next year. The season will also leave positive things, such as the consolidation of Ronald Araujo in the center of defense. His excellent performance has been rewarded with a recent contract extension until 2026.
You had very important offers but have decided to continue at Barça.
That has always been my wish. Renewal is huge happiness. I am in the best club in the world, and it is the award for a job well done. The club’s confidence in me means I’m doing things right.
In the official act of signing, you became emotional.
My whole family was there. We have been through a lot, and my parents had to sacrifice a lot for me to achieve my dream of being a footballer. I hope I still have ten or fifteen years left in my career, but now I have fulfilled my first dream, being at the best club in the world.
Is it a triumph of the whole family?
Of course. Without my parents, I wouldn’t have made it. Nor without my grandmother, who is no longer with us. She took me to train when my parents couldn’t. We are a humble family. Now I have a contract with Nike, but when I started, my mother had to pay for some boots in installments so that she could play.
You started playing in the street.
Yes, in the fields, making the goals with whatever it was, but when I was five years old, my mother already took me to Huracán because she saw that it was what I liked the most, playing soccer. The whole family has been a Hurricane all our lives. My mother later worked in the club. They always go to the field and take my brother and cousin to play. On the street, you learn a lot. It makes you strong. You hurt your finger hitting the ground, but you heal up and continue playing. It’s a good school.
And you had a premature debut in the first team.
At thirteen years old. My parents were scared because I was going to play with adults. I remember that my father made me a bandage so that they would not hurt me. Everything went well, and I even scored a free-kick goal. When I came in, we were losing and ended up winning.
You started playing as a striker.
Yes, I played upfront, and I scored goals, although, in that game, they placed me behind the forwards. Since I was little, they made me take free kicks and corners.
In those years, you were able to go to Boca Juniors.
When I was nine years old, I went with Danubio to play some friendlies in Buenos Aires. They noticed me and wanted to sign me. My parents wanted me to have the experience, but they thought I was too young. They wanted me to be close to them and to study.
But at 16, you went to Montevideo.
I was more mature. I could already cook, take care of my brother, and did things at home when my parents went to work. I was more independent, and they saw that I was ready to go and fulfill my dream, which was to be a footballer.
You played for Rentistas and Boston River. It was all very fast.
Much. After five months in the youth team, I was promoted to the first team, and a year later, I went to Boston River, which was playing the First Division.
Sergio Cabrera appeared in Montevideo, a very important coach in your career.
Yes, the father of Leandro Cabrera, the Espanyol player. He told me that if I continued to play up front, I would be one more, but I would be a great footballer who would play in the elite if I played back. And he was right.
And so much. Because soon Barça called you.
That was incredible. I was in a small team, and I thought of leaping a great Uruguayan or another South American team. With that, I was satisfied, but I remember that one Thursday, when I was preparing for a match against Peñarol, my representative called me, who was in Europe. He told me that I had to come quickly without telling me where. On Sunday I came to Madrid. I had some offers from Primera, but he said that Barça also wanted me to play for the B team. And I didn’t doubt it. Barca is Barca. And it was the best decision I made at the time.
Was the figure of Ramon Planes very important at that time?
Yes. When I arrived, and things didn’t quite go well, I didn’t play, and doubts arose, Ramon was always there. He always said that I would make it to the first team and be a great footballer. He always supported me, chatted with me, and always helped me.
And he was right. How can you be so fast when you are 1.90 cm?
It is a decision of God. It’s weird because I’m 1.91 and weigh 94 kilos. I think it must have helped me when I was little. I did athletics, and I ran, did relays, and also did the long jump.
How do you remember your debut in the first team against Sevilla? Was it a bittersweet debut?
Not at all. I was indeed expelled, but that was something tremendous. You don’t make your debut every day at Barça. I was very happy. Some friends reminded me of the red card, but I told them to congratulate me, that what I was experiencing was incredible. The expulsion hurt, but it ended up being an anecdote.
How do you rate these two seasons in the first team?
On a personal level, very good. Learning from high-level players, there is a difference. In B team, you have fewer spaces, but you play against higher-quality footballers in the First Division. You must be very focused, not fail. I’ve played more than 75 games at Barça, and I’ve already shown that they can count on me. In addition, we went through hard times last season and at the beginning of the current one, but all this will serve me well in the future.
How can you rate the current season?
It’s been a bit of a weird season. We started very badly, but with the arrival of Xavi, we changed. We have changed mentally. We have changed the way of working. The team was better, we have grown a lot, and we have shown what we can achieve by winning the game at the Bernabéu and winning in Naples. In recent games, indeed, we have not been able to play great football, but we are in the process of change. We have a high-quality squad with very young people mixed with veterans. I believe a lot in the project, in the squad we have. I am convinced that we will have a great year and win titles next season. It has been hard, but it will serve as a lesson for the next one.
So you see a great future.
I am sure that we will win titles next year. Young people will already have more experience, and we are already working for it.
By the way, did you see Real Madrid-Manchester City?
Yes. Congratulations to Madrid for what they did. Nothing more.