WOMEN'S FOOTBALL

Back in town, Natalia Pablos: “I've come home, to Rayo”

After 4 years in England - 2 at the Bristol Academy and 2 at Arsenal, Natalia Pablos has come back home to help Rayo Vallecano return to the elite of Spanish football.

Back in town, Natalia Pablos: “I've come home, to Rayo”
JESUS ALVAREZ ORIHUELA DIARIO AS

After four years abroad playing in England - years with Bristol City and two at Arsenal Ladies, Natalia Pablos has come back home to her Madrid hometown to help her first club Rayo Vallecano reach the heights of their glory days in which they won three leagues and one Copa de la Reina. Natalia, 31, was one of the players who founded Rayo's Women's team in 2000 and went on to captain the side during their most successful era, scoring over 300 goals for the Franjirrojas.

Right time to return

How does it feel to be back at Rayo?

After being away for four years I feel very happy to be back home. The last year dragged on a little longer than I would have liked and some of the circumstances on the sporting side at Arsenal didn't help, but the the first three years in England flew by so quickly.

After two years with Arsenal, where you won the FA WSL Continental Cup and the FA Women's Cup, what made you want to come back?

The two years on my contract with Arsenal were up. And after having spent two years before that at Bristol, I felt it was sufficient time for me to have gained enough experience of that competitiveness that the English league gives you and also to reach a decent level of the language. Now, a few factors have come into play all at once - my age, the fact that I have always wanted to finish my sporting career at home in Spain and I have come back when the Women's game in Spain is in its best moment. Iberdrola is really improving the league a lot.

Has Iberdrola's involvement been a decisive factor?

It's a positive factor. There was a time, years ago, when the women's league was practically at a standstill but now, with games being televised and broadcast every weekend, [the rebranding of] Laliga and Iberdrola's support, I fancied coming home. The fundamental changes to women's football, which we demanded for years, are now here; it's a reality.

Natalia Pablos in Vallecas.

Full circle

You always said if you did come back, it would be to Rayo.

Rayo gave me everything. It's also true that I am coming back to a very different Rayo - a lot has changed and we hope this is a transition period in which we can put ourselves back among the top teams. The club has made a lot of important steps to achieving that, and I want to be a part of it.

The team is lying in 13th place in the table; in Vallecas, some say you are back to save Rayo?

I've always been a very competitive player. I've come to help, to lend experience and to get the team back into the top part of the standings. The situation is difficult, but I think we have a team which can do something.

In what ways has Rayo changed?

I have returned to a club. Rayo has always been a very family-oriented club familiar and many of the employees who I knew from my time here are still there. When I met [José Ramón] Sandoval it was like I'd never been away.

Who's going to captain the side?

Alicia (the goalkeeper), of course. I've never needed an armband to motivate my team mates or to give me responsability. Rayo wanted to reserve the No.7 shirt for me, but I think I'll probably take the No.11. I quite like odd numbers and 7 and 11 are my favourites. Nothing will change in that sense.

What were your thoughts on Spain's friendly with England this week?

It wasn't Spain's best performance but we have eight months until the Euros and that's plenty of time to improve. It's vital that Spain plays friendlies like this against sides like England and France - it is the best way to prepare. Whether you win or lose, they always serve you to learn, they highlight any errors in your game and help you to correct them.

Do you miss playing for the national team?

We have the Euros coming up and I'd be a liar if I said I don't want to be a part of the team that goes. It would be my last opportunity of playing a major tournament. I think right now I am not in my best moment to be able to go which is why I want to build up playing time and get back to feeling good out on the pitch. It's eight months away, and I'm going to work as hard as a I can.