Gerard Deulofeu: "I've made thousands of mistakes"
Gerard Deulofeu has found happiness at Udinese. A serious injury kept him out of the game for eight months but he's back playing and scoring in Italy.
Gerard Deulofeu has found happiness at Udinese. A serious injury kept him out of the game for eight months but he's back playing and scoring in Italy. He sat down to chat to AS about his return and look back on the ups and downs of his early career.
It's great to see you back playing…
Yes, I'm really happy to be back playing again after being out injured for seven and a half months. My priority was making sure I recovered well and feeling healthy again. I want to get back to my best form and Italy is the perfect place for me to do that, I had many happy times here while I was at AC Milan.
How did you cope with facing a long recovery process?
It was tough, but I have come back stronger and there have been many positives - I'm indebted to my family and friends for helping me get through it. An injury is the worst thing that can happen to a footballer. For us, playing every weekend is our livelihood and feeling active is a big part of our career. But thanks to my team, I've realised that I can get myself out of difficult situations like the one I've just been through - I've done it once or twice and I can do it again.
Did you need any external help?
Of course. I had help from a team who managed to get me to recover in record time. Now I need to get my sparkle back to my game and return to my best form. Working on the mental side is also key, although it's also a question of your own outlook. I've always tried to stay positive. I would tell myself: 'Today, I've started walking again, soon I will be able to run, and after that, return to training…'. It's a constant battle.
You joined Udinese, a club with a great tradition in Italy
It's a club with a lot of history. They have spent 26 consecutive seasons in Serie A and only Inter, Lazio and Roma have had longer runs in the top flight. I love the training facilities, the infrastructure and the new stadium, which is owned by the club. They have the same owners as Watford and we decided to come here to get regular playing time after my injury. I'm going to fight to make it happen.
You scored the other day in the Cup meeting with Vicenza...
I'm really happy about that. My son's coming out here in December and I dedicated the goal to him. And now I have a daughter too - they are the important things to me. They always have been, but when you are going through a difficult moment, you really notice how important they are. There is nothing to compare with the happiness and positivity they have.
The Italian league is seeing more goals now than in the past
Calcio is changing, that's for sure. It has always been more tactical and defensive, but more teams are taking risks now. I am an attacking player who loves taking players on and looking for spaces… I think I am going to enjoy it here.
You have played in three of Europe's major leagues…
My favourite is the Premier League, as I have always said. The people are so passionate about the game and really live it there - there's nowhere like it. But I also really enjoyed my time in Italy, I had five brilliant months at Milan. Together with the two years I've had at Watford, they have been the best spells I've had. At Watford I was scoring goals, helping my team mates score, and playing regularly which is something I haven't always had in my career. In my last game, before I got injured, we beat Liverpool, who were unbeaten. Then the Covid-19 crisis came and things turned bad.
You're still only a young player, how would you rate your career so far?
I'm 26. I've played in many different places for different clubs, and I've learned from everywhere I've been. I'm more mature now. Now's the time for me to get to the level I know I am capable of reaching. I think the best has yet to come.
Do you think you were under too much pressure to deliver early on?
I think it was good for me that I stood out a bit when I was young, it's better than not standing out at all. I've built up years of experience and managed to keep my career going. I've grown, learned from my mistakes and changed for the better. I've been able to learn about other cultures, get to know different places and people of all kinds. I'm a more mature person because of all of that.
When you talk about the mistakes you've made, which ones in particular?
Thousand of mistakes. Every player makes mistakes - we all do. We are competing daily and we make mistakes both on and off the field. The main thing is that by working hard every day you can correct them.
Do you think you have suffered because there is less need for a pure winger in today's game?
Mmmm... I can fully understand why coaches don't want an authentic winger. In today's game you need much more than a player who is out wide waiting for the ball. That's not enough anymore. You need to have intensity, be able to arrive at the back post, take part in the game in the middle, combine with your team mates… My best years was when I was drifting inside from the left or playing in a central role. I love taking on players or having just the keeper to beat. That's my speciality and that's why I need to get my spark back.
Which players and coaches have left a mark on you?
A lot of people have left their mark on me. I'm not going to mention any names, but I have had many incredible team mates and coaches. I've been able to play alongside the best and in that, I have been very lucky.