Although I’m sure there are an abundance of translations of Don Balón’s interview with Cesc, I am happy to provide yet another one for your reading pleasure.
DB: As a kid of 16, what were your views on Arsenal?
CF: I knew they had a great manager, who put stock in youth players and played football stars like Henry, Bergkamp, Vieira, Pires. I didn’t follow the English league, I saw the highlights on Sundays. That was probably why it was so difficult to come here, since I wasn’t really aware of where I was going…
DB: Now, 8 years later, what has changed?
CF: Pff. Everything. I have also changed a lot, physically, and I’ve matured as a person. If I sit down and analyze it, I’ve learned so much during my time here, I have also made mistakes and now I am definitely a more complete person.
DB: Do you consider yourself a child prodigy?
CF: No. Well, maybe at the beginning, yes. But not anymore. I have already spent a couple of years with injuries that haven’t let me develop in the way that I would’ve liked. At 17, I played 51 games; then a year later, at 18, won the league and played in the Champions final; and I played in the World Cup at 19! I remember my beginnings perfectly, but many don’t. Those first three years, everything happened so quickly, it was amazing. I evolved the most during that time, it was the most drastic change I’ve made. Once I reached 21, starting after the Eurocup, I’ve had more injuries, less continuity, and it’s been harder for me to progress.
DB: Let’s split it up in parts: Your first season in first team, at 17 years, this isn’t just any team…
CF: It was a legendary team! The year of The Invincibles, who won the Premier without losing a single match. I started there and I was among the lineup between 15 and 18 during which we still hadn’t lost. That year, I played 51 games, and a lot of them as part of the starting lineup. The truth is that I feel like I was a part of that; in total, there were 49 league fixtures without losing.
DB: Is it the best team that you’ve played for?
CF: Without a doubt. Really, I don’t even need to think about it. It was a year in which I developed so much. In fact, sometimes I wonder if I was a better player at 17 years than I am now. But when you look at it, you see that that’s not true. What happens is that before, I played for a winning side and it was incredible. You felt like if you made a mistake in a game, nothing happened because your mates would fix it for you. Those legends made you better. I have always said this: there’s nobody like that team.
DB: Things have changed a lot [discussing twitter]. Do you feel pressured to always show a better performance?
CF: Yes, yes, of course! I completely understand that, if I miss even one pass, I know I’m the man that everyone in the world is watching. I don’t like to say that, but it’s the truth. If I play badly, I take responsibility and I shoulder the pressure from the fans. It’s something that had never happened to me, but since I became captain, it’s a reality. Only Van Persie and I are left from that generation and it means a lot of responsibility. It is what it is.
DB: But you won’t deny that you like it…
CF: Of course I like it! What happens is that there are times that Twitter is too much. WHy? Because football is a team sport. Nobody wins by themselves. You can win two or three in a season, but not a title. Sometimes, everything that surrounds me is too much, but that is part of the responsibilities of captaining a very young squad. The most important thing for me is that injuries respect me because otherwise, everything becomes really complicated. Continuity is what has gotten me where I am today.
DB: This Arsenal is a very young team, but from the outside, it gives the same feeling as always. Does that seem right?
CF: Look, I think that the key is having a good combination. That’s why I feel very, very fortunate to be playing at the same club where I started. Because I was alone, Van Persie too, and the two of us grew up with our idols. We learned from the best. Now it’s different because we’re all so young that we don’t have anyone to look up to and say, WOW!
DB: Well, now the young guys on the team look to you and want to learn from you…
CF: I don’t know about that. I’m only 23 and it’s important to remember that. I started so early that it looks like I am 27 or 28. Then you look again and you see that I’ve got a lot to go. That’s why I was really lucky. The kids learned from the adults. Now it’s a bit more complicated. If you put Wilshere in the team that I played with before… it’s different. I’m not saying that it’s better or worse, though. Before, we had references, winning players, who were strong. They were players you could learn from quickly, just by playing with them.
DB: Does it bother you that Wenger’s name is associated with you as someone that guides your steps, or decides for you?
CF: Hey, he’s the boss, I have a contract, and he has every right to decide. But truthfully? No, it doesn’t bother me. You could interpret it that way from the outside, but it’s not like that. I can always speak to him frankly and honestly, and he accepts a lot of what I tell him.
DB: It looks like we have to find a ‘culprit’ for your stay at Arsenal…
CF: I don’t know, but it looks like if I don’t take the next step, I’ll never take it. I’m 23 and if I leave this summer, I’ll be 24; if I leave next year, I’ll be 25; if I leave the year after, 27! Things have to happen with patience in mind, and you have to wait for the opportune moment. The day I leave Arsenal, I’ll do it with my head, not just because. Besides, who guarantees that you’ll play with the new team? Or what if I don’t develop further? Here I have the good fortune that, at a personal level, and despite not winning much [silverware], I’m becoming much stronger. I talk to Puyol a lot and he tells me that he didn’t win anything until he was 26! Puyol! A man who has won everything in the football world! Patience and perseverance are important in life.
DB: How do you explain that a manager like Wenger, who hasn’t won anything for many years, remains so little contested or questioned?
CF: It’s so much easier to understand now because I have been here [in London] for many years. But it’s clear to me that if you come from Spain, and you tell Emery, Guardiola, and Mourinho who have been here, say, three years without winning anything, it’s understood that they’re not going to continue. But it’s different here. The Boss is an intelligent person, and the club values other things as well: that the team always goes to Champions, that you fight until the end, that you support youth, that the club is economically stable. I suppose that for the directors, that’s important, although I imagine that there are moments when you would have to take that step: Either you win, or you don’t.
DB: That’s where I wanted to end up. The label that follows Arsenal is “They never win anything but… what practical football!”
CF: It’s true. When I started, we won the Cup, and eventually got to the final in Champions League, that, well, we didn’t win it but you think: “hang on… Barcelona has just beat you when you’re a man down, and in the final minute.” You don’t consider it a victory, but you think: “this is the first time that this team gets to a final in the Champions League, where millions of footballers have played and we’re [emphasis added] the ones who’ve achieved it. But starting from 2007, I began to say something like, “we didn’t win, but we played well.” And afterwards, you realize that it doesn’t work. You enjoy it, while you’re playing in a championship, like this year, for example, when we were in four separate competitions. You say: Yeah! Now I’ve got it all! But then you lack that final touch and here is where you have to make a decision: Either I play to win or I play to make players.
DB: Last year, after Adebayor’s departure, you exploded into the media as a goal scorer. What happened?
CF: Well, I changed my position. I’m playing more like an attacking midfielder, and last year was the first time I took it over. I noticed myself in good physical form, and the majority of goals came while I had Van Persie playing up front. We understand each other really well because of the way he interprets the game.
DB: Do you feel comfortable in the position?
CF: I still feel like my position is a little further back because you see football more in front of you, you assist, you move quickly… You definitely participate more. Now all of the teams know my style and they put a guy behind me. I’m not a player accustomed to turn and receive balls from behind. I have gotten more accustomed now, I have as many touches but I get more chances for the assist and a goal. If the team needs me here, well, I’m delighted.
DB: I don’t know if, in this situation, Wilshere’s presence has influenced. The guy is on everyone’s mind.
CF: It’s normal, he’s a great player. I love him, and you can tell he’s going to be amazing. He’s very strong for his age. I wish I had his leg strength. At the rate he’s maturing and improving, he’s destined to be a legend.
DB: There was a big commotion because Guardiola said that in the Barça family, there are many players like Wilshere. I don’t know if they are alike, but what’s become clear is that Thiago Alcántara will be on the first time for culés. What do you know about him?
CB: They say he’s a good player. I’ve only seen him play a couple of minutes on the first time. But with so little, you can already tell that he’s a player of incredible quality. He’s one of those footballers who don’t occupy a fixed position. He can play AM because he’s got a good feint and a good sensibility of the game, but he can also organize a play. We’ll see how he defines himself with time. To me, it looks like he’ll be good for Barcelona and for the national team.
DB: Fernando Torres to Chelsea…Did you see it coming?
CF: No! The truth is that the way it happened, in so few hours, was completely unexpected. I didn’t imagine that Torres would leave the Premiere League, but I also didn’t think he’d leave midseason. I will say this: I’m sure he made a good decision.
DB: And if Chelsea comes with the millions they paid for Torres, but asking for Cesc… what will you do?
CF: Me? I’ll take up painting… no, I wouldn’t do anything.
DB: Imagine that they try to entice you with a very ambitious project…
CF: You won’t see it. If I leave Arsenal one day, it will never be a switch to another English club. That’s certain.
DB: Did you hear about Jon Toral, another Barça youth player that recently joined Arsenal? Were you surprised by criticisms directed at your manager, due to the similarity between his case and yours?
CF: I think the whole world does it. I was the first, yeah, but there have been other cases that haven’t caused the commotion. Manchester United took Piqué. The only thing that’s obvious here, is that at Barcelona, there are great youth players that can reach the elite, maybe around 60%. But not all of them can do it at Barça and some players are aware of that.
DB: Were you?
CF: Look, in the Barcelona first team are the privileged: the Xavis, the Puyols. Then there are the superprivileged, the Busquets or Pedros, who have gotten lucky. They’ve worked hard, yes, but for them, a trainer came and said: “tomorrow, you play.” This doesn’t happen that often. Everybody has to find their own path.
As you can see, Cesc never actually starts to slag off Wenger, and what started this media shit storm was English media interpreting this as a sort of attack on his manager. I think what the English media is doing is absolute trash. They’re making a blatant effort to alienate Cesc even more from Arsenal supporters, because you can bet that if “Jacky boy” Wilshere had said the same things, he would not be criticized the way Cesc is. The way I see it, it’s established racism. The media have been slagging him off when really he’s consistently diplomatic but honest in all of his interviews.
To me, Wenger should never have started commenting on this interview. I’ve listened to the original audio (which has since been taken offline), and Balón quoted correctly, and a lot of the “official” translations you’re seeing are accurate where it counts. I would like to point out that Balón took out about a paragraph of content that added to Cesc’s appreciative tone, but that it wasn’t crucial to get the basic point across.