Granero: "If I were Modric, I'd keep playing until I'm 87... He's amazing"
After 15 years as a professional, Esteban Granero surprisingly decided to quit football to dedicate time to becoming a writer...
It's been six months since Esteban Granero decided to hang up his boots for good and reinvent himself. The 34-year-old Madrileño hasn't had time to regret his decision or even ponder the change to his routine. In fact, he is so busy that there aren't enough hours in the day to fit in all of the assignments in his new career. He spoke to AS from the offices of his agency Best of you, - he has also set up a company which specialises in Artificial Intelligence (Olocip) with which he hopes to improve players' performances through compiling data.
Do you keep thinking and talking like a footballer, or has enough time passed for you to move on to pastures new?
I'm far enough away now from being active as a player. I feel it's a part of my life that I've left behind me. I've got no regrets, or feelings of nostalgia. My life's moved on.
Are you still a pirate?
Deep down I never was. I'm too easy-going to be a pirate. I've known enough pirates - in good and bad ways, but I've been quite conservative. It's a nickname which has stuck with me. I was given it by a commentator at Real Madrid TV because I had long,shaggy hair and a beard when I was young.
Granero was never your typical football player. He studied psychology, is an avid reader, speaks several languages including English and a little Chinese, he's an expert in artificial intelligence, a writer and critic, a mountaineer and talented chess player; he also plays the guitar and writes his own songs…
You have a wide and diverse range of activities, which one is printed on your calling card?
All of them and none of them. I'm not a psychologist because I still have another exam to pass before I am licensed. I play the guitar badly, because I learnt to play when I was a kid. It's true I love mountain climbing, but I don't do it that often - the same with chess, I'm club level, average… Nor am I a specialist in artificial intelligence, although I've spent six years with my business - in the end you start picking things up final and learn but the real specialists are the people who work for me. You could say I am someone who is curious about the world and enjoys doing a lot of different things, being out of my comfort zone so that I can learn, every day I try to improve and above all, enjoy whatever I do.
You were a talented player… with a lengthy15-year career as a professional.
I feel very lucky. I must have done some things right to have got where I did, but a lot of other people have done the same, or better than I did. For me it was a mixture of good luck and circumstances. I don't know exactly how you measure success. There are thousands of players who were better than me - not that I ever aspired to be the best in the world. It's a difficult business, it's tough - and nor did I ever feel I was in my comfort zone when I was a player, I had a good career to look back on and to feel relatively proud of.
You decided to call it a day at 34...was it with your head or your heart?
More with my head than my heart. There comes a moment when you have to decide. Putting it off only makes it worse…
What do you think when you see Modric, who's still going strong at 36?
If I were Modric, I'd keep playing until I was 87… He's incredible. I wasn't that good - I'm miles away from being the player he is. Technically and tactically he is superb - he's won the Ballon d'Or. He can no longer do some of the thing he did when he was 23 but he is still other things which he couldn't do when he was younger - he's a luxury for Madrid.
What period of you career was the most satisfying for you personally?
I am quite proud of my first season with Getafe. I was 19. We achieved a lot and I played well. We got to the Copa del Rey final, we did well in Europe. I am also proud of my first season with Real Madrid, even though circumstances were complicated. I was the last in line - the competition ahead of me for a place was unreal - Sneijder, Kaká, Van der Vaart, Guti, Lass, Xabi Alonso… but I played 35-40 games. [Manuel] Pellegrini was very fair in that regard. He told me that, if I was in better conditions that the others, he'd play me. I had offers from other clubs, but I think Madrid needed someone who was more low cost and I fitted the bill.
You had two coaches at Real Madrid - Pellegrini and Mourinho, two coaches who couldn't be more opposite in their approach.
Exactly, radically different. My experience with both of them was wonderful because they were both exceptional with me - as I hope I was with them. As for the other circumstances - we were in a situation where Barça were practically unbeatable. That was very tough for us. We were Real Madrid and yet we were the contenders. During the season under Pellegrini we ended on 96 points and ended second, that was tough to take but Barça never lost.
Then Mourinho came in...
We expected Mourinho to have an instant impact. That was what we needed and he did it. I don't think we could have achieved it with anyone other than him. It meant that a lot of things needed to change - players, tactics. The following year we beat them in the Copa final. We couldn't do that in La Liga but later we won the league and broke the points record. It was a great experience to go through that transition period. Madrid went from being contenders to aspirants. That is the essence of Real Madrid and the coach really understood that. But some of the things that were going on around that were chaotic - sometimes it was fun and other times it was difficult but definitely a learning experience.
Mou has something that really connects with Real Madrid - something in him, his personality, his character, which made sense at the time. It was as though he identified with the club… it wasn't about ambition because everybody is ambitious. Mou had his way of being ambitious, a way of focusing on problems and resolving them, choosing the right path for the club to take. For example, Real Madrid is a club which never looks for excuses and Mourinho was like that too - with himself and with us. It would be great if he went back there but right now Madrid couldn't have a better man in charge.
You spent a season in the Premier League with Queens Park Rangers, just for the thrill of playing in England?
Yes, more or less. It was an amazing experience - one that certainly didn't let me down. It was great fun. It's just like you imagine it to be when you are watching one of the games. It's dramatic, things happen at random, you have less control over what you are doing - at least that's how it was when I was there. The second half of games is total chaos. Teams who are winning don't seem to care and those who are losing pile forward to attack. Tactically it's less restricted. It's really entertaining and fun. The most physical football in the purest sense. It's crazy and out of control.