Martial on Sevilla, West Ham, Ronaldo, Benzema... and the sun
The Manchester United loanee forward confirms that he has fully recovered from his injuries and hopes to help Sevilla qualify for the quarter-finals.
Injury halted the development of Anthony Martial (born Massy, France, 1995) just as he was starting to make a difference at LaLiga side Sevilla. Now, though, he is raring to go against West Ham in the Europa League, a team he’s got an impressive scoring record against.
Anthony Martial speaks to AS ahead of West Ham vs Sevilla
We sat down with the star on-loan from Manchester United to get his thoughts on the move, life in Andalusia and his hopes for Sevilla. He also gave us an insight into why he left Manchester United, what it's like sharing a dressing room with Cristiano Ronaldo, and exactly where he thinks Karim Benzema sits in the list of top strikers.
First of all, that injury you picked up. Will we be seeing you in the starting line-up against West Ham?
I've been feeling much better in the last few days. The discomfort has passed and I'm ready to play from the start if [Julen] Lopetegui selects me.
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How has your adaptation to Sevilla, the club and the city, been in the last few weeks?
The city is great and we are a good team. And I'm playing, so I'm happy. During these recent rainy days Seville felt like Manchester (laughs), but when I first arrived every day was sunny. You wake up, you see the sun and you feel happy.
When you came to Seville, we were told that in England you were quite reserved, that you didn't smile much.
I don't think people know me. Maybe they don't see me smile, but in real life I'm always smiling. On the pitch doesn't reflect what I'm like off it, because I'm focused on football. But I'm a fairly happy person.
Your transfer was many weeks in the making and even the arrival of interim United boss Ralf Rangnick didn't stop you leaving Manchester.
I asked United if I could leave as I wanted to play. Ragnick came in but I wanted to leave, so I told him so. He said if I wanted to continue, the way I was training, I was going to play. But I needed to find a new atmosphere, a new club. I still have a contract there, though, so I don't know what will happen when the season is over. I'm only on loan here until the end of this season.
I had many options, but I spoke to Lopetegui and Monchi and for me coming here was for the best. They made me feel important. I wanted to play and enjoy football again. I have lost time in Manchester without doing that and I needed it.
Did you have hopes of winning LaLiga when you signed for Sevilla?
The club's objective is not to win LaLiga. We are in a very good position, but we only look at one game at a time and do the best we can. Right now we are second, but the reality is that what we want in the end is to be in the Champions League.
And the Europa League… you have to win that, right?
I know it's a very important competition to the club, they've won six trophies in 15 years. We have to do what we can to win it again, especially with the final being at the Sánchez-Pizjuán.
And to stay in the competition, West Ham next. Your favourite victim in England, after scoring seven goals against them. A chance to vindicate yourself in front of the United fans, maybe?
I've always been good with them, although I didn't know the exact number of goals. But I don't care what people say about me, really. I just want to score there so that Sevilla win and we go through to the next round.
What do you know about the Hammers?
I know Zouma and Areola from the French national squad. They have a good team and their fans will put a lot of pressure on them. But we have to do our job and come back here having qualified.
You also know Koundé from France, how do you get on with him at Sevilla?
He's a very good guy, young and with a lot of qualities. He's very professional. He is already a great centre-back and he can become one of the best. He speaks my language and he is helping me, because my Spanish is bad and I have little time to learn it.
Tell us some differences between the Premier League and LaLiga. The referees, for example.
The referees are different. In England they allow more contact, whereas in Spain with just a little contact they call a foul. But they are human and they make mistakes in both countries. Regarding the way teams play, in Spain they all want to have possession, to play with the ball. They are more technical. In England it's faster and more physical, but I like both competitions.
What does Lopetegui ask of you?
He wants me to play the way I know how, but he also wants me to adapt to the team and put in a lot of intensity. Sevilla are an intense side when pressing, without the ball. Julen is a good coach. You can see it in the way he seems to play the game from the sidelines. He fills us players lots of energy.
In LaLiga you have come up against, and will likely play against again, one of your idols: Karim Benzema.
For me he is the best striker in the world, maybe along with [Robert] Lewandowski. Karim has been showing his quality for many years, and it's a pleasure to watch him play. He's also a great guy. I'm very happy that he's having another great season.
Why were you nicknamed 'little Benzema' in Lyon?
I was always compared to Karim, and other strikers, because I was an academy boy. I used to watch him play and I wanted to be like him, so good. We played together in France, which was really cool.
You were also able to play with Cristiano in Manchester. Is it true that he’s not the best in the dressing room?
Cristiano is a top professional, one of the best in the history of the game. We all love him. There are things that are said in the media that are not true. I was in that dressing room and I know what happened.
One final question. Do you see yourself playing in Qatar for France?
Playing in the World Cup is one of my objectives. If I do well here I can be at the World Cup.