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AS Interview

Paulino: “There is more talent in Liga MX than in Spain’s second tier”

Paulino de la Fuente makes his debut in the playoffs but found time to chat with AS about his early months at his new club.

Paulino de la Fuente, jugador de Pachuca.

Paulino de la Fuente appears at ease changing scenery. At the age of 15, he was one of the most promising players of his generation and left Cantabria, Santander, to sign for Inter, where he shared a dressing room with Dimarco and Radu, among others. Then he returned to Spain and passed through Atlético, Alavés, Málaga and Logroñés.

Last summer he decided to turn his career around and boldly headed off on a trip that very few Spaniards have dared to do. He went to Mexico and signed for Pachuca, with whom he aspires to win the Liga MX after qualifying for the playoffs of the competition, which starts against Tigres.

How do you deal with playing at over 2,000 meters altitude?

It’s crazy. Now I’m doing fine, but the first three months were hell. I would come on and struggle really quickly. Now I’ve picked up the pace and I’m starting more. I’m almost 100%.

What led you to take such an unusual step for Spanish players?

At first I thought it was too far and I had other offers on the table. But Pachuca insisted a lot, day after day, and I liked that a lot. They were already in their preseason and the president told me that he wanted me to come now. He ended up convincing me and after three months, I don’t regret a thing.

Did anyone who had played in Mexico give you any insight?

The truth is no, it all happened very fast. I was barely able to tell anyone because of the insistence of the club, who wanted me immediately. I told my family and they supported me, which was vital in making the decision.

Besides your family, who else has helped you adapt?

Ustari, the captain, has treated me like a son since I arrived, and Cabral, who also played in Spain, helped me a lot. I also met up with Jenni Hermoso, she came to dinner at my house with my family and mutual friends.

Who do you see as the favorite to win the MX league playoff?

América finished the regular season very strong. They beat us 0-3 in the last match, although I think the result wasn’t reflective. We held on very well at 0-0, very comfortable, but a red card changed things. We are also one of the favorites and we are going to go for the tournament for sure.

Is Liga MX or Spain’s Segunda of a higher level?

Neither better nor worse. I think that individually and technically there are better players in Mexico, who are internationals with Mexico or with other South American teams, although tactically in Spain they are superior. The games are analyzed more, they prepare more how to attack and how to defend, the rhythm, etc.

How is the passion for soccer in Mexico?

What I have seen I’ve liked. I’m looking forward to playing in the Tigres stadium, which they say is like a Bombonera, it’s always full and you can breathe football. There are other very nice pitches that will be used in the World Cup and it is also a joy to play on them.

Reviewing your career, what do you take away from your latest experiences in the Segunda?

On an individual level, things went very well for me at Logroñés, and it’s a shame because it wasn’t enough to save the team. Something similar happened with Málaga, who started very well but the season was affected with the change of coaches and the lack of consistency in the eleven. I think there was little patience with José Alberto. It was a very bad result against Ibiza (0-5) and the coach paid for it, when the players were also largely to blame.

And what do you remember about your time at Inter?

They are all good memories. We were U-19 champions and I have a lot of friends. Of 18 of us in the squad, eight are professionals and four or five play in the elite. That is not easy at all. There was Dimarco, who is a starter with the Italian team, goalkeeper Radu, who is still at Inter although he is now on loan at Cremonese. Bonazzoli is a striker for Salernitana... It was a very good group that at the age of 15 helped me integrate abroad. I have always been lucky in that, I have always felt very loved in all the places I have gone.


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