Everton’s Goodison Park hosted an “Evening of Spanish Football” last week that saw three iconic figures in the Spanish game share their opinions with an audience of hundreds.
On stage, Sky Sports’ Spanish soccer expert Guillem Balague, Real Madrid legend Fernando Hierro and editor of Spanish newspaper AS, Alfredo Relaño, offered typically insightful and highly intriguing opinions on a host of matters.
They then opened up the floor to audience members who asked questions on the La Liga title race, Barcelona’s transfer ban, Spain’s World Cup triumph, Fernando Torres, Gerard Deulofeu and even Sam Allardyce!
Guillem started the evening discussing Lionel Messi, a player who he has recently written a fine book on.
He spoke to the audience of how a 12-year-old Messi made a huge decision to leave behind friends and family in Argentina to make it at Barcelona. Then, how his unyielding confidence in his own ability saw him stick it out, despite the majority of his immediate family returning to Argentina after just one year in Catalonia.
In Guillem’s book, he discusses the rise of Messi through the Barcelona academy, his encounters with players like Ronaldinho and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and the peculiar relationship he shares with former boss Pep Guardiola; the two have not spoken since Pep left La Blaugrana according to Guillem.
Hierro, the captain of the legendary Galacticos side shared his insight into his time as a player at both Real Madrid and Bolton, plus the role he has had off the pitch in Spain’s recent renaissance.
Relaño —a man Guillem claimed is his journalistic hero—spoke of the curious relationship between the Spanish media and the “big two” sides. He also delved into the notion that Real Madrid and Barcelona receive preferential treatment from officials, as well as the perceived view that Los Blancos are the “government’s club”.
Guillem went on to discuss Torres and why he “had to leave” Liverpool and how Barcelona’s transfer embargo may effect Deulofeu making a return to Everton next season, wrapping up a fascinating evening of impassioned, insightful football debate.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Guillem earlier last week, as we discussed his latest book, the English and Spanish title races, the city of Liverpool and the Brazil World Cup:
Matt Jones (MJ): First and foremost, congratulations on the success of your fantastic latest book, “Messi.”
Messi is still only 26-years-old and has many, many more years of soccer ahead of him. What was it that made you feel it was the right time to write this book?
Guillem Balague (GB): Thank you!
It’s mainly about the opportunities that arise. The book about Pep went well and the book’s publisher immediately asked “what shall we do next?” And I knew straight away that it had to be Messi.
It was a brilliant chance to discuss the confusion, the lies and myths that surround the player. I said to publishers that it has to be done with the Messi family and they backed it too.
When the publishers and the family come together to support you like that on such an exciting project, it’s an unmissable opportunity.