Guti: "I would have liked a proper send off from Real Madrid"
Almería coach José María Gutiérrez was the subject of this week's 'Universo Valdano' and looked back at his career at Real Madrid from a nine-year-old to his low-key exit.
Beginnings in Torrejón. "For me it was something more than just playing out in the street. I don't remember anything other than school and football. I remember always having a ball at my feet. Football always meant something more to me. I was signed up with two teams - a normal football and a futsal team. I enjoyed it so much that I didn't even realise if I was any good at it. I remember we had a tournament between all of the classes in school and the girls came up to me and said: 'We're winning because of you".
Joining Real Madrid and entering La Fábrica aged 9. "My team, Torrejón, went to play against and that was the start of everything. My memories of it are a bit painful. My mum would drive me from Torrejón to the old Ciudad Deportiva but I remember those journeys being quite difficult. It wasn't a happy time because you want things to be simple for your family - not a hassle. They really wanted me to have that opportunity of turning professional. My parents worked during the mornings and my mother was with me in the afternoon. The image you see at the end if of a fully-formed footballer but nobody realises what was behind it all. I'm thankful for what they did for me. When things turn out well, you feel happy for them and for yourself".
Natural pitches. "It was another era - I don't know whether it was better or worse than now. The pitches were very hard. We would have loved to have had the kind of pitches you see today because having better conditions helps you with your own development. It was a different kind of football back then. When I first arrived at Madrid I was really taken aback. At the beginning, they said I'd only be there for a couple of weeks. I was extremely lucky that not only did I last the whole of that season but stayed there for many, many years.
Coming up through the youth categories. "It's very tough because everyone wants to win. Above playing good football or talent, you have to try to make sure that your team wins. At that age if you are tall and have a little bit of talent, you'll have an edge over players who are smaller. I started growing when I was in my final year with the Under-18s. Madrid gave me my first professional contract. After that, everything just fell into place. I was called for the C team, in the Segunda División B, and played two or three games with them and then almost immediately after that I was called up by Castilla and after a few games, to the first team".
Personality. "I was a rebel, but I wasn't conflictive. I like to try out different things. Football doesn't really give you much time for those kinds of things but I needed to try things out for myself. I wasn't harming anyone else. I worked hard in training and in matches but outside of that, I also wanted a life. There are a few things that I did then that I would change if I could but as you get older you see things in a different way. I really miss just playing football. I'm training every day but I miss that sensation I had when I was 25".
A technically-gifted player. "It's much harder to see players like Guti in today's game. People remember me because I was a bit different. When the crowd really started getting on my back was when I most wanted the ball. When the team was winning, I'd lose interest in the game. But if we were losing, I'd want to show them: 'Here I am'".
Time at the Bernabéu. "For the way I played, I think I got a lot of things wrong. I'm always telling my players now. I prefer a player who can gives 10 passes to create a chance on goal even if 8 of them don't come off - at least two of them will reach someone. Passing sideways doesn't get you anywhere. I only know of one player who has an unbelievable success rate in every game and that's Messi. For everyone else it's hit and miss. Every time Messi gets the ball something happens".
That backheel against Deportivo
Backheel assist to Benzema at Riazor. "For me, that was completely normal. I decided in an instant what I thought was best for me and for the team. I had the ball on my right foot and the keeper had all his angles covered so I didn't really have any options to score. Everything that happened next was in a tenth of a second. Before Kaká gave me the ball, I could already see what might happen. The thing is that if Benzema hadn't made that run, I would have made myself look stupid. On of my virtues if that I can read football really quickly - that's what has helped me to stay for so many years in the first division and with Real Madrid".
You didn't win the World Cup with Spain or play in any of the three Champions League finals. "I think as a player, I could have been a member of the Spain squad at a World Cup finals or in the Euros. None of the coaches had any real faith in me. I was a European champion at Under-21 level. I felt that there was a place for me. I was too young for the '98 Champions League final, I was injured for the next one and in the third, I was about to come on when César got injured".
Leaving Madrid via the back door. "I would have liked to have had some recognition or a testimonial game. I felt empty after spending such a big part of my life at the club. The send-off was normal because I was joining another club. But as time passes, you start to think maybe you deserved more. It's a situation that a lot of Madrid players have been through and they think like me - that they too deserved more. I left Madrid because I'd hit overload".