"Mbappé or Neymar leaving? PSG buys stars, it doesn’t sell them"
Spanish international Ander Herrera, now with PSG, spoke to AS about his career, his plans for the future and his life in Paris.
Ander Herrera (14-8-89) moved from to PSG last summer for five seasons. Before that he lit up the pitch at Zaragoza, Athletic and Manchester United, as well as for the Spanish national side. He spoke to AS about his past, present and future.
The Bundesliga is back in action and Spain, Italy and England have organised the dates to start playing again after the suspension for the coronavirus. Did France make a mistake cancelling Ligue 1 for 19/20?
We were very surprised. I remember in the team chat a lot of us were in shock, in fact we didn’t believe it. I think the decision was taken too soon because things are showing that the Bundesliga was right and hopefully it’ll be the same in the Spanish league and the rest. We won the league, yes, but winning it like that is “decaffeinated”. We also don’t know if the two French cups will be played in August (the French Cup and the League Cup) and the Champions League still doesn’t have a date to come back… There’s a lot still up in the air…
It seems obvious though that cancelling the league in France will affect the performances of PSG and Lyon if the Champions League restarts…
We hope not, but I think it will, because everyone else is playing and we aren’t. At the end of the day, it’s competitive football that gives you rhythm and where you’re most focused on competing is your domestic league. I don’t know what they’re going to do, but they’ll have to find a solution.
Since Qatar invested in the club, the main objective has been to win the Champions League…
It’s true that from outside the club people look at what we do in the Champions League, despite the club doing well in the Ligue 1 and the French Cups. We’ve got a team who can compete for the title, but I’m very cautious and superstitious so I don’t want to talk about it. Game by game.
You signed for PSG last summer through to 2024, what’s it been like?
Of course, it’s been an amazing experience, although it’s true that two hamstring injuries, each a month and a half long, have stopped me playing as much as I would have liked. But playing alongside the best players in the world is amazing. After five years at Manchester, with a pretty good record overall, I decided not to renew because of differences with the club. An offer came in from PSG, one of the best projects in European football, and I’m really pleased with the decision I took.
PSG has finalised the acquisition of Icardi. What do you think?
It’s great news for the club, getting a top-3 striker for the next six or seven years, because he’s still really young. He’s scored goals, he’s adapted really quickly and inside and outside the box he’s a beast - really practical and intelligent, because he knows he’s virtues and his limitations.
With the news about Icardi, it looks like Cavani will be leaving PSG, with his contract finishing. Can you see him moving to Atlético?
I know that Cavani wants to play in Spain, because he loves the league and the country. In fact he asks me a lot about it. but since we left Paris, I haven’t had the chance to take to him and I don’t know the situation.
The coronavirus pandemic is going to change the economic outlook for clubs. If PSG needs to sell, would it be harder to hold onto Neymar or Mbappé?
I don’t know, because I don’t know what they earn or what the club brings in - it is a company after all - but I know both are key to the project and from what I can see they are happy and really involved at PSG.
In the dressing room at PSG, do you talk about the news that comes out saying that Madrid wants to sign Mbappé and Neymar could go back to Barcelona?
It’s true that there’s lots of news about them in the media and on social media, but we don’t hype it up much. You need to think about a really key thing, and I’ve talked about this with Kylian, PSG isn’t a club that sells its stars, quite the opposite, it buys them. The club is strong enough economically to keep both of them.
Can you see Mbappé at Madrid and Neymar at Barça?
What I see as being normal is that people talk about them, just like people talked about Verratti and Marquinhos. They’re the best in the world - and I’ve got four more years on my contract and I want to enjoy them with those two along side me at PSG.
You were at Manchester United for five years, with two and a half of them being under Mourinho. Is he such a beast with the players as people say?
I’ve only got words of thanks for him. The first season was fantastic, winning three titles and the fans chose me as the best player of the season. He’s got personality, yes, but if you’re up front with him, work hard, don’t hide and don’t try and mess him about, you won’t have any problem. He’s a beast with people who aren’t honest.
As well as Mourinho, you’ve worked alongside Bielsa, Van Gaal, Ibrahimovic, Neymar... Which personality stands out the most?
Ibrahimovic and Bielsa. Marcelo, because of his extreme love for football. As a coach, his methods were different to every other coach I’ve had. And Zlatan is a character. The stuff he says to the media, often he’ll say it in the dressing room too. Sometimes you’re pissing yourself with laughter and other times you want to kill him. But you have to love him, because he’s always up front.
You know Pogba well, should Madrid sign him?
As a footballer, Paul has everything: he cuts through the opposition, he wins the ball back, he’s good in the air, he’s aggressive, he defends, he attacks, he scores goals… but he’s had his ups and downs at Manchester: he’s played games where he completely made the difference and others where he just didn’t, and for a player at that price you have to always be awesome. If he’s able to be consistent then of course Madrid or any big European club would want him. It’s the same as with Mbappé and Neymar, he’s at one of the biggest clubs in the world and for him to leave it’s difficult…
What did Van Gaal’s United need to have more success?
I don’t know, maybe more time. It’s true that Mourinho’s Chelsea were impeccable, but that first year we had an amazing squad, with Di María, Falcao, Van Persie, Rooney, Antonio Valencia…
What was the best dressing room you’ve been in?
At Athletic. It was like playing with a bunch of mates, but at the top level. I’m a Zaragoza man, but I admire Athletic for that feeling of belonging, for the respect the young guys have for the older players, for the affection you get out and about. It’s a very special club.
Do you still dream of playing in the European Championships with Spain in your hometown of Bilbao next summer?
Yes, but I need to win my place on the pitch. Of course, if they’d held it this year I wouldn’t have gone, because I didn’t play enough for PSG.
Will you go back to Zaragoza when you finish at PSG?
I’m a Zaragoza man, I’ve always said it and my dream is to go back there. I’m looking after myself… but right now I’m focused on finishing my contract in one of the best teams in the world and playing alongside some of the best players on the planet.
Here's the video of the inteview (in Spanish)
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