Alexander Darius Papuan Gómez, (Buenos Aires, 33 years old) has just come home after a recovery session in the sports city. The Sevilla midfielder scored his first goal of the season against Valencia this past Wednesday (3-1). Pick up the phone and answer EL PAÍS slowly to talk about Sevilla, his career, his style of play and the Argentine team.
Question. After a somewhat hesitant start, does the victory against Valencia mark a sign of improvement at Sevilla?
Answer. You have to analyze this Seville well. Just before the first day we found five cases of covid. Later, many players, as in my case, we did not do the preseason when we played the Copa América. This led us to not have enough filming and to have to overcome different difficulties. In the first days all the teams are very even, they play to death. Everything is filming. What I see is that Sevilla has a spectacular squad this year, where the bench of substitutes is wide and anyone can start. Against Valencia, the best Sevilla was seen, imposing his game and being the protagonist. We are on the good way.
P. You have been in the Spanish League for a year and a half after 315 games in Serie A. How would you define the game played here?
R. I think it’s a faster football, not so much in the tactical part. There is a difference with Italy in terms of the playing fields. Here the ball runs much faster. In Italy all the teams are waiting for you more and are more tactically ordered. In Spain the game is more back and forth, and the pace is much higher.
P. What is Sevilla’s goal in La Liga?
R. Without a doubt, compete with the best and qualify to play the Champions League. Our idea is the first four places because that gives a very important economic profit to the club. This way you can maintain a competitive squad. Later, if in the final days you have a rest to fight the League, it would be incredible. We were there last year, but our goal is not to win the championship. Yes be in the top four.
P. What do you think of the situation that Barcelona is experiencing?
R. It is difficult to speak without being inside. From what one sees from the outside, the blow of Messi’s departure is very hard for the entire institution, also for the squad, which has lost the winning card that is Messi. We have it in the Argentine national team. Barcelona have a great squad, but they have lost the winning card. They have lost a lot without Leo. It gives me the impression that they want to re-establish themselves as a staff in the midst of economic problems that require a total restructuring.
P. Does the presence of Leo Messi at PSG make the French team the first favorite to win the Champions League?
R. Paris has a great team and will undoubtedly be fighting for the Champions League. It is the most important competition and also the most difficult in the world. You can’t go wrong for a day. We have seen throughout the history of this competition that great teams with great players have not achieved it. Not having many stars makes it easier for you. Paris will fight for her, but the Champions League is very complicated.
P. What should be the role of Sevilla in the Champions League?
R. They say our group is affordable, but it depends. He was seen the other day with Salzburg. The German and Austrian teams have enormous physical potential. If you don’t have your day they beat you, they complicate you a lot. We must take this into account when visiting Wolfsburg. I believe that the group gives us options and the objective is to qualify. Then, I think we have to go game by game because the Champions League is a competition where luck in the draw has a lot to do with it.
P. Will they be able to reach the quarterfinals as they did with Atalanta?
R. It would be very nice, but in that edition we had that luck of which I speak because we played Valencia in the second round. He was a rival that we could beat. For Sevilla to progress it is necessary that we have that quota of luck so that in the eighths and quarters we have a rival of your same level. In a Champions quarter, teams like City, Liverpool, Bayern or Madrid make you feel their quality and the weight of history. They make a difference.
P. What is the best place in the country for the Papu?
R. It all depends on the team. I don’t play alone. On the left, on the wing, I can do it well, although it is a position in which you depend on the team to get the ball to you. One can go unnoticed if the team is not fine, because the ball does not reach you. If I play on the inside I look for the ball, I create the spaces and that changes everything. I like to play on the inside, manage the times of a game, reach the goal, like against Valencia, but in many years of my career I also did well on the wing, especially on the left. On the right I don’t like to play because I prefer to go inside and have the option of the auction. In the last three or four years I played hook, loose, in the position of 10, and that’s where I feel most comfortable.
P. Does it have merit to play 10 with 1.67 tall?
R. Soccer has changed in the last 15 years, which is when I started. Today, if you don’t have a physique, they pass you over. I try to make a difference with other things, with speed, thinking before the rival, with dribbling, trying not to crash … If I collide with a 1.90 person I will always lose. So I use other weapons because I can’t crash. Now sprinters like Mbappé or Haaland reign. There are few left that on a tile take off a guy from above. Leo Messi is one of those and after him in the live Neymar impressed me. I like that kind of football. Now they want big, fast players who can do 100 meters in 11 seconds.
P. Which partner do you associate best with?
R. In the last time with Coco [Lamela], also with Lucas [Ocampos] and in the center of the field, without a doubt, with Jordán.
P.Has the large number of Argentines (five) in Sevilla helped you in your integration?
R. Argentines [Montiel, Acuña, Lamela, Ocampos y Papu] We are like brothers, but in general the Sevilla group is great, with enormous internal competition that helps us a lot to grow.
P. Are you still looking for the referee to get on the field?
R. Definitely! Sometimes I try to see the referee to position myself well because he is the person who is best positioned to control 22 players. I put myself where it is so that I can play more freely.
P. What dream does he have to fulfill?
R. I would love to play a World Cup. The one in Qatar is my last chance and I’m going to give everything to be able to be there. It would be to crown my career with something beautiful, living a World Cup from within. Then, if I could win a title with Sevilla it would be tremendous, because I didn’t win any in Europe.
P. He did win the Copa América with Argentina.
R. A pride to be in that group. There were very good Argentine teams that could not win a title. Four finals were lost but this group is very strong. This Copa América that we won took a weight off our shoulders. We have a selection for a while.
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