Alvaro Fernandez (4-13-1998, Rioja) made a very good start in Spanish. Despite his youth, the goalkeeper shows great maturity on and off the pitch. He has leadership material. After his good performance in San Mames has all the numbers to continue to defend the parrot frame against Seville. And for a long time. He arrives eager to grow hand in hand with Spanish and so he stated in an interesting interview for La Grada. If nothing goes wrong, Spanish You can have a concierge for years.
You could say you arrived and kissed the saint, although there was quite a bit of inconvenience in Bilbao…
More than paper, I would say it was a fantastic opportunity for me. I didn’t know if I would play or not because there are other goalkeepers besides Benjamin. The coach picked me and I was very calm if I had to play. I already said it in a press conference and this is what I continue to think about the next game and the ones to come, that despite the few days in which I have adapted, it is still very good. I came in with a lot of confidence, I had a very good pre-season with my previous team and so I think it was a good result for everyone. I was ready to play.
In mid-summer, we published that you were looking for an apartment in Barcelona. Do you already have it?
(Laughter) You guys are so smart. I don’t have one yet, but I’m close to getting one soon. For now, I’m still at the hotel.
What a summer you’ve had, haven’t you?
The truth is that if It was complicated. I’m a calm person, with a lot of patience, but in the end I came here three days before the transfer market closed and it wasn’t easy. There were a lot of ups and downs, with moments where I thought I would end up with one club or another, then it looked like I would stay at Huesca. The last few days have been tense. The opportunity arose again to come to Espanyol and here I am, where I wanted to play.
All summer there was some uncertainty about the goal and when you arrived you said one of your goals was to convey certainty…
In the first three days, things didn’t work out and goals were conceded, but for me it would have been the same to play if the team had come from three clean sheets. I would have faced him in the same way, with the same professionalism, and it would not have changed my mentality and thinking. It is true that the start, in terms of the defense, was not as good as we would have liked, but the game at San Mames is a point and difference; a game to take a lot of positives from, especially defensively, and a mirror to look at in the next games.
It is not easy to enter a new team and make your debut as a starter, and even less for a goalkeeper. Should a goalkeeper be more mentally prepared than an outfield player?
Certainly yes. Today there is a lot of work on the psychological problem in all positions, but I think the goal is a bit more demanding, especially because there are moments in the game when you hardly intervene, the ball does not reach you and you have to be very concentrated to execute any action required of you. You have to be very well prepared mentally as well as physically. Goalkeeper for me is the most demanding position in football and for me the most underrated. If you play a good game, you might not get all the publicity that other players might get, and if you play a bad game, the blame is usually on you. It is a complex position and therefore goalkeepers are required to have a lot of personality and be leaders in the team. And in that sense, I think I absorb it well and have a great character. Most people focus more on the goals, the last passes than the final save, but we live with that.
Do you think your experience in the Premier League has helped you face your Espanyol debut in a field that is as tense as it is in England?
Yes of course. Last year was academic, I gained a lot of experience, played in crowded stadiums, with football different from that in Spain. This is a course that I carry in my backpack and that has helped me to be a better goalkeeper in all aspects. Playing in San Mames in front of 45,000 spectators didn’t make me nervous because I had just experienced similar situations in the Premier. My experience in the Premier has been very positive and I think it will help me approach the matches with great calmness.
You talked about personality, but you can also see leadership with that feeling that was seen in the defense…
A goalkeeper has to be a leader and I think my character is that of a leader and that’s what I try to convey to my teammates even though I’m new. Lele and I already knew each other personally and it was very easy to connect with him. The atmosphere in the dressing room is perfect and we have leaders, but the more the merrier. The leaders or the people who have the singing voice on the field, in my opinion, should be goalkeepers, defenders… players who see everything in the face and can organize the rest of the team. I love taking on this role and will continue to do so. The coach wants a lot of communication, leadership and personality from us and I’m ready to do it because it’s something that comes naturally to me.
Your arrival is reminiscent of that of Tony Jimenez, who came with the desire to grow with Espanyol, to grow hand in hand together. We don’t want to pressure you, but he was there six years in a row and won two Zamoras. Can you be a good role model?
Hopefully I can win three, or if I’m six years old, all six. (Laughter) I agree that I have come to grow hand in hand with the club. As the coach said, the team is constantly growing. There is a mix of youngsters and veterans. We will get better every day. We have a ceiling beyond our imagination. I am happy because I am in a place where we will grow together.
How do you see your fellow goalkeepers?
I think the goal theme will be nice for everyone. There is Benjamin, who is a bit older, but not much, and then Angel, Joan and I, who are very young goalkeepers who want to grow up. There’s a mix where I’m in the middle, being younger than Benjamin but older than the other two. Behind me, I will be pressed by the young people who want to be professional goalkeepers, and in front Benjamin, who has his experience with many matches. That competitiveness will come in handy. The coach will choose the one who is the best, and I have come to make myself better and make them better. Competitiveness is what gives you maximum performance and is what I’m looking for.
What is Alvaro like off the pitch?
A very outgoing person, as you can see when I retire from football I would like to work on what you are doing because I like the subject. I am a simple guy, I consider myself very humble, team player, family member and above all simple. Sometimes people see us from the side as gods who can’t look us in the eye, but I’m a normal person who likes to talk to everyone. I am a 24-year-old boy who came with great enthusiasm and who is open to everything. I may look like a crazy kid, but not quite. Those who watch me can give both criticism and praise, as I am a child who accepts everything and I bond a lot with people.
Espanyol are a career club and last Sunday Simo and Omar, aged 18 and 17, made their First Division debuts. How do you see them reacting perfectly to a stage like San Mamés?
Even from the outside, you can see that Espanyol is a club that does quite well with careers. Now that I’m in the club, I’ve been able to ratify what’s visible from the outside. Lots of young guys with a great future ahead of them; There are players who, if they continue to concentrate and mature and focus only on football, can be very important players for Espanyol. The coach says they are very young but could be important. Simo and Omar helped us win. They made their debut in a great ground like San Mames and, as the coach says, they need to be prepared because the season will be very demanding. The team has a level and they must participate as well. They are guys that I see fully integrated and the veterans welcome them very well. They are part of the team.
Speaking of Simo and Omar, what do you think of a 17-year-old boy asking for the captaincy after Braithwaite scored?
It shows the maturity he has and knows how to be. The logical thing to do at his age is to hit a sprint and go celebrate like crazy. If he did not, it is because he already has that calmness which is not characteristic of his age, but which he carries within himself. In that sense, when he knows how to assimilate everything, as he does and steps forward, he will reach the first team. He is a central defender who, in the conditions I have seen him in, can undoubtedly become one of the best in Spain. And I think he’s about to do it, because from what I’ve seen, he’s a very humble, hardworking and listening boy; and this is very important for young people. I always did and still do. Sometimes it’s hard for young people to listen, but Simo always listens to advice.
And what are you listening to? Of the music
French music, English, after I was in England, reggaeton… In the dressing room we listen to everything. Sometimes Vinicius plays Brazilian music that has already blown our heads, pop, French music… We have a mix.
Which goalkeeper has Alvaro Fernandez noticed?
Iker Casillas. There are other goalkeepers that I love, but if I had to keep one, without a doubt Iker. Also somewhat because of his characteristics which can be somewhat similar to mine. He is maybe a bit older in football. For me, he was the best goalkeeper in the world, but he was never characterized by the fact that his best qualities were playing with his feet or with aerial balls, which in modern football is much more demanded of goalkeepers. I think my style could be something similar to that of Casillas, adapted to modern football, that is, with more demands on the game with the feet and in the air. From a goal point of view, I think that by saving the distances, I am somewhat like him, and therefore he has always been my benchmark.
Are you more than this modern football?
The truth is, yes, because I like being involved with the team, being in the game. That day in San Mames maybe it wasn’t the right time to try to play the ball because it was too risky because of the way they pressed, but I’m ready to take the responsibility to play with the team and be one of them.
Why don’t goalies block as much anymore?
It is true that there used to be more emphasis. I can’t tell you why, because in training all the goalkeepers have an effect on it. It could be that the balls of recent years have weirder effects, because as a goalkeeper I can assure you that there are shots that seem to come in one place and go to another, or shooters who take their shots better and better and maybe it can come from that. It is important not to leave seconds, and I work a lot.
Since you talked about Iker, he was not distinguished by his height. Is there too much obsession with the height of goalkeepers in today’s football?
I think so. Sometimes it makes me sad that young people who are a bit shorter than me are held back by the perception that they are short goalkeepers. Ultimately it depends on the legs, I’m not a big goalkeeper but I think I have powerful legs which make me push hard. And I keep working hard. I think it depends more on the footwork and the momentum and power that a goalie has than his height. I’ve seen a lot of tall goalies who don’t drive. I personally prefer 1.85m goalkeepers to 1.95m goalkeepers.
To finish, we will talk about Sevilla, who come with anger. Is this good or bad?
You can take it from both sides. Coming in with doubts about whether we can go further up the scoreboard, we can generalize even more, but it could also be bad because they can see it as a final and come out with huge intensity, which we think they will.