He had waited thirteen years for the moment and, when he was about to reach the top, an injury placed a final obstacle in his path before he could plant his flag. The day Carles Alena broke against Zaragoza conditioned his entry into the first team at Camp Nou, but the biggest challenge begins now.
Do you have the full feeling that you have arrived now?
Well, yes, I feel that this year is the first official year with the first team. With the B team a bit, but yes.
Have you already seen that the hard part is keeping yourself there?
It's the reality. We could make an endless list of players who have debuted with the first team and then, for some reason or another, do not stay here. The difficult thing is to stay for ten years, like Andrés, Xavi, Leo, Geri. That is the really difficult thing and we are here to follow their examples.
Do you think a lot about those who stayed on the path?
Yes, for sure. Moreover, I know people who have experienced this situation. You are at the best club in the world, with a pressure higher than the rest, and it is difficult to keep it up. It is one of the most complicated things, that is why there are not many who have been here for so many years.
Because you have to have everything: patience, be there at the right time ... Having a career at Barça is one of the most difficult things and of course I think about it. But we are here to fight for it.
Does it depend only on you?
Well, external factors ... a bit of everything. But it is clear that the most important factor is you, it is you. And it is clear that if the coach trusts you … These are things that you can not control, but I always say that you have to give your best in everything that’s in your power. And it ends up coming back around.
Did the injury make you afraid?
It was a very hard time. I remember that at Gijón they told me that the following season I would be a player for the first team and I remember that in the last game at home, against Zaragoza, we did not play with anything at stake, and what happened happened.
Did you fear your promotion chance would go?
No, because nothing changed from the club’s side. I received the same confidence, they did not change their mind and that was extra motivation to recover with more desire and be ready as soon as possible.
Football is like that.
Yes. And you have to always be mentally prepared because if not, it is where the failures come from, you disappear. And I knew I could not lower my arms.
And when you were asked to return to Barça B?
Yes, at first you think that maybe it is a step back because I was already passed that stage, but I also tell you that it was totally accepted by me because, if I wanted the first team number and not play with the B team, they (would have) also accepted it. But thinking a little about myself, I saw that it would be very difficult to enter the team at that moment and, in the end, I faced it with total naturalness. I think that's what went well for me and now I'm at a good level because of those games played with Barça B.
Any difference between training with them regularly and actually being part of the first team?
Yes, it's true that I've been training with them almost every day for two years and now that you're there, you gain more confidence. But it is a 10 out of 10 group, they have received me as always, with a lot of love, especially the people from here. And the truth is that it is appreciated. You go to a professional squad, elite, top players worldwide, and yes it is true that I was surprised by the humility, normality and, above all, what winners they are.
The desire to keep winning.
Yes, Yes. Totally. Competitiveness is what keeps us winning because they are players who have won everything and could come here and say... But they train every day at their best. Leo, Geri ... Well, all those who have won everything with Barça ... And it is admirable. And it is what makes you think that you have to follow their footsteps because if they have been winning for ten or twelve years ... They are the example to look at.
Who do you focus on?
The truth is that I look at all of them, but I did last year with Andrés, who was the one who suits me most, by position, by his way of playing, he helped me a lot in concepts, positioning.
He’s ... (wow). For me ... he’s outrageous, people can not imagine what he is. He does what it wants with us. He does what he wants. You do not know where you can go, you do not know if you can go out there ... I have not seen anything like it. It’s true I haven’t been here many years, but for me it is almost impossible that there is another player like him because the things he does are unique. But not even in the games, it's in training he does things that you keep there saying “(I can’t believe) what he just did!”. It happens. But it's the next day he does it again. With Messi the best thing is to surrender and enjoy, enjoy it.
Does growing up at Barça have any advantages when you arrive to the first team?
Yes, you get there with an idea you have had for ten years, but the level increases a lot, the ball flies. Before receiving the ball, you already have to know where the others are. It's all much faster, more dynamic, and you have to be prepared. You are talking about the best team in the world and it is not easy, but at the same time, playing with them is much easier. I do not know if I’m explaining it well.
That you enjoy it like a child.
Yes. Yes. Yes. I finish training and I am already thinking about the next day, in the positional games, about the rondos. It's a luxury, it's a pleasure to be here.
Was the Copa del Rey a turning point this season?
Well, I do not know, maybe a little. From that match on I was included in all the squads, the other day I was able to play. For that I am here, but that is already past, we must always be prepared.
What do you expect from the season?
I do not know, the truth is that I do not like to set long-term goals because everything changes in a moment in football. I keep training at maximum level every day and it is clear that when the opportunities arrive, you have to face them with desire, without fear, without pressure. I have the confidence of the coach, of everyone, and I do not like to set goals. Let the season pass and whatever happens, I’m sure it will be good.
Is playing at the Camp Nou as you had imagined?
It's ... impressive, it's quite impressive. I played with Luis Enrique two years ago, last year as well, but it does impress you a lot. So many years going to the Camp Nou and you have that lifelong dream of playing there and, when you enter, it's amazing. From inside you see how people cheer, how they push. The other day against Betis I noticed which kind of games that people press you, those last final minutes. It was amazing.
An adrenaline rush that needs to be felt every week.
Yes! You do not want the game to end! The other day I did not want it to end. It's amazing and that's why I have that dream of playing for many years here.
Not only to succeed in football, but do it at Barça.
It's clear, I've always said it. We know and I know it's very complicated, but in my head is only to triumph here, I can not imagine right now a life outside of Barça, I do not want to imagine being outside of this club because it's the club of my life. And therefore I will fight as hard as I can. Maybe the day arrives that you realise you can’t do more and you have to say "look, you have to leave". In the end we will not be foolish in that aspect, if some day you have to leave. But it is clear that I’ll fight to play at Barça. I'm not interested and I do not want to know anything other than playing here.
You do not like to make long-term plans, but are you looking at ten years from now?
I imagine how I would like to be, of course. And I would like to have a career like the one that Xavi has had, like the one Andrés has had. I imagine that because I think there's nothing better than to be at the club of your life, spending all your life playing there.
You’ve been captain since Benjamin level until the Juvenil A. Do you dream of being the first team skipper?
That would be … the best thing ever! The biggest dream a child could have when he was seven years old.