Graham's Blog

Emiliano Martinez: The Tale behind the Tears

It was heart-wrenching for a teenage Emiliano Martinez to depart his beloved family for the distant prospect of Arsenal. But the Argentinian goalkeeper did what he did best – he worked hard, and after years of commitment he starred in the recent FA Cup final victory over Chelsea.

He wasn’t fazed by the occasion, even when the Gunners went a goal down, because Emiliano has perfected his game psychology. His tears of joy afterwards were profound because this No1 had it tough as a kid and had given everything for his dream.

Enjoy a true rags to riches Big Interview.

Graham

Domènec Torrent: Robben, Ribéry and Raheem

In part two of my Big Interview with Domènec Torrent, there’s more on those glorious Camp Nou days, including Barca’s famous treble of 2008-09.

Domènec grabbed the chance to assist Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich with both hands, and discovered that it was a myth that club legends interfered with team management there. He also busted the myth that Frank Ribery and Arjen Robben would be difficult charges. In fact, Arjen was a joy to work with and thrived under Pep. As if fated, Bayern were drawn against Barca in the 2015 Champion League semi-final, and held their own in the Camp Nou until a late error let Messi in. Then Bayern made the fatal error of chasing the game and ended up losing 3-0.

The fans’ passion and improving players of quality such as Raheem Sterling made Domènec’s time at Manchester City a thrill, and he maintains that winning the English top flight is harder than claiming the Champions League. Domènec now can’t wait to get a new managerial role, and I wish him good luck with that. Whoever employs him will have made a wise move.

Enjoy.

Graham.

Domènec Torrent: Rising with Pep

When Pep Guardiola took the reins at Barcelona B in 2007, he quickly snapped up the services of respected Catalan coach Domènec Torrent. Domènec was Pep’s go-to guy whenever he wanted the skinny on an opponent, and he helped nurture talents like Busquets and Pedro.

Soon Pep was managing Barcelona’s first team, and Domènec came along for the ride. Thus began a journey to immortality: three La Liga titles and two Champions Leagues with Barca, two Bundesliga crowns with Bayern Munich, and a Premier League win with Manchester City.

It was great having a Big Interview with someone in the flesh again, and Domènec gives us fascinating insights into what it was like behind the scenes during that glorious Barca era: how the coaches perfected the team’s build-up play and high-pressing game, and how it took a genius like Pep to draw out the absolute best from the array of on-field geniuses at his disposal.

Fascinating stuff.

Graham.

Guest #100 Rio Ferdinand: Sir Alex and my Champions League Quest

In 2008, Rio Ferdinand’s Champions League dream came true on a rainy night in Moscow. The final against Chelsea was a game Rio was terrified to lose. He had to take a penalty in the shootout, an experience he says you simply cannot prepare yourself for. But his mum just loved it when he walked up to lift the big trophy.

Rio once raged at Sir Alex Ferguson from the pitch. The manager was so angered that he would have sold him had he not apologised. Fergie was a genius, a man with an incredible personal touch. Pep Guardiola was the only guy who could have filled his shoes. United had beaten Barcelona in the ’08 semi, but Pep’s team were a different beast in the 2009 and 2011 finals. Rio felt embarrassed after those games and said that Barca ripped the soul from that United team.

Thanks Rio.

Graham

Guest #100 Rio Ferdinand: Addicted to Winning

We promised you a special 100th guest … so who better than Rio Ferdinand, a man with a Champions League, six Premier Leagues and 81 England caps under his belt. Rio was a centre-half so elegant that he could have played in midfield. Damn it, he could have played up front if he wanted.

He left Leeds to join Manchester United because he had a burning desire to win. He got his hands on the league title in his first season at Old Trafford but that merely fuelled the addiction. He wanted European glory. He wanted the Champions League.

At Leeds he had come close, scoring a sublime header in a quarter-final against Deportivo. But the Valencia of Juan Sánchez and John Carew taught them a lesson in the semi. At Man United they ripped Juventus to shreds but a year later Real Madrid narrowly put them out in a ding-dong 6-5 aggregate win, when Raúl stretched him like never before.

This is a brilliant 100th Big Interview.

Graham