Last season, our Socios at patreon.com/grahamhunter got an exclusive interview with Eni Aluko. For the first time, here’s the full episode.
I went to Turin to speak with Eni during her glittering spell with Juventus. In part one we chat about how she went to Juve to develop as a player and a person, and about adjusting to life at one of the world’s biggest clubs. She believes you are never too old to grow. Eni is an elite analyst who spent the summer of 2019 covering the World Cup for Fox Sports, and we discover what it was like watching the women’s game crack mainstream football culture.
By the way, Eni’s autobiography, They Don’t Teach This, is a football story like no other. I’d highly recommend it.
Welcome to our Big Interview Icons series, where we shine a light on a legend whose name has lit up some of the conversations I’ve had with my guests over the last five years of The Big Interview. First up is Eric Cantona.
How to describe Eric… a Harley-Davidson-riding, collar-turned-up, French rebel genius. He was a totem for an era of fellow magicians and mavericks in England’s top division.
Simon Stainrod played against King Eric in France and predicted that Leeds boss Howard Wilkinson wouldn’t like him, and that Eric would be better off playing for someone like Alex Ferguson. ‘You can’t coach him… you can only put ideas in his head,’ concludes Simon. Chris Waddle played alongside Eric at Marseille and believes he flourished when he moved across the Channel because English fans love a rule-breaker, someone unpredictable. We then hear from Gary McAllister and Gordon Strachan who speak about Eric’s spell at Leeds. Gary says that he wasn’t integral to the club’s 1992 league title win. Gordon takes a different view, that Eric made the difference as the other players started to tire. Gordon, like Simon Stainrod, saw Manchester United as Eric’s perfect fit.
Any Argentinian will still play second-fiddle to the legend of Diego Armando Maradona in Naples, but Federico Fernandez didn’t mind this and doesn’t feel that it ever held the club back. When he was at Napoli he lifted two Copa Italias, and he describes the route to the second one, defeating Lazio, Roma and then Fiorentina in a final with a nervy ending.
There’s stuff about ex-Napoli stars Pepe Reina – a man so positive that he is the world’s greatest teammate – and Edinson Cavani – the complete forward who will now make life hell for Premier League defenders.
We also discuss Federico’s international career, from the high of scoring with a header in a victory over arch-rivals Brazil, to the low of being dropped for the latter stages of the 2014 World Cup, the final of which, of course, Argentina lost to Germany in an agonisingly close contest.
Federico Fernandez has made an impression on Geordie shores over the last two years, but it was Napoli where the Argentinian centre-half made the grade. His hero Roberto Ayala had done a stint at the Stadio San Paolo in the nineties and Federico sought his advice, but nothing could have prepared him for the football-mad city where five hundred people would wait by a restaurant if a player was breaking bread inside. Federico is still remembered by Napoli fans for his first two goals for the club in one Champions League match in Munich.
Before that, at Estudiantes in Argentina, Federico had been taught by Eduardo Berizzo, who had himself been a masterful centre-half. There was also the influence of a veteran Juan Sebastian Veron, whose work ethic, determination, and winning mentality raised the standards at the club. He encouraged a teenage Federico and gave him confidence.
You will love this Big Interview
Here’s another chance to hear my interview with Jamie Murray from season three.
Jamie is one of the best doubles players in the world, but his sporting obsessions extend beyond tennis. Not only did he regularly defeat his wee brother Andy in homespun wrestling bouts, he is also a decent footballer and in this Big Interview he picks his perfect five-a-side team from the ATP tour. It includes a certain Paulo Maldini after the Italian legend had hung up his boots and picked up his racquet. There’s chat about being attracted to Sir Alex Ferguson’s exciting Manchester United side, and of course the 2016 Scottish Cup final when Jamie’s beloved Hibernian at last broke their Hampden hoodoo.