Welcome Esteban. Congratulations for reaching the Champions League quarterfinals with Real Madrid. It was hard to get there, but the team did it. How are you feeling?
We’re feeling great because we’ve been waiting to reach the quarterfinals for several years, and now that we’re there we have the responsibility to try to reach the final. We know our supporters expect us to reach the final. We will try very hard to reach that far, for sure.
Real Madrid have already made it to one final this season, in the Copa del Rey. How much of a difference has Mourinho made?
A lot of difference, surely. The coach is very important for the team and his results are there. You can see them. He’s won many titles and now he’s with us, which is great. We are happy to have this coach and we’re improving both collectively and individually.
He once said you were the hardest worker of all his players. How does it make you feel to know you have Mourinho’s confidence?
I feel very good about it. I think everybody works and trains very hard. I always try to do so because it has always been my dream to be on this team. Now that I’m here I have to do my best. It makes me very happy to hear the coach said that because I wanted him to notice.
You’ve mentioned you’ve come through the ranks of Real Madrid. Does that give you a sense of identity when it comes to this club, the fact that you are a Madridista?
Sure it does. I have been at the Bernabeu many times. When I was younger I used to train in the afternoon and take the subway to watch Champions League games at the Bernabeu. I watched the players from the top of the stadium and I always wanted to be there, and now I am. I think this gives you something.
You are there. What advice would you give to those who are coming through the ranks now, like Morata, Sarabia…?
I don’t know. I think I would tell them to be patient. It is very important to be patient because football is not always easy. You have to work very hard, and even when you work very hard you don’t have the best results. If you are patient and keep working, you will find something good besides that, for sure.
A lot of people are surprised that you speak English. Many don’t realise that you do. Why do you speak English? How did you learn?
I think it is very important to speak English. In Spain there isn’t much of a culture for speaking English. My brother lives in China and married a Chinese girl. We communicate in English, so that’s the way I improve.
So she encouraged you to speak English?
Sure. She’s always spoken to me in English. She now speaks Spanish, but we continue to speak in English because she thinks it’s good for me.
There’s a lot more to you than just being a footballer. You’re studying psychology. Why? How do you fit studies around being a professional footballer?
It’s not a matter of time because we have the time, but we mostly spend it thinking about football. It’s difficult to think about something else. Football is so important when you play for Real Madrid that it is difficult to focus on something else. But I think it’s important to think about anything. It doesn’t have to psychology. You can read a book, you can watch a movie, you can listen to music… It’s important to do something else.
Is psychology something you would have liked to do had you not been a footballer?
Maybe. I think psychology is very important in everything, also in sport. It is very important in football. You can tell when a player or a team is psychologically okay because they seem to be better than opponents. Maybe they’re not as skilled as them, but psychology also plays a role.
You are a music fan. Which music do you like to listen to?
I like music, I like many styles, but I like rock ‘n’ roll. I think music is very important in life. At least it is to me because I cannot live without music. I have musician friends who tell me they cannot live without playing football some time. Well, I cannot live without music.
Do you get to see any bands play? Do you go to gigs?
Sure. We’re lucky in Madrid because many artists come here. I think live music is excellent entertainment.
Who chooses the music in the dressing room?
Not me (laughs). I hope in some years I have the strength to choose the music… Because now I don’t like it (laughs).
Who picks it now?
Sometimes its Ramos, others Marcelo. They… I don’t really like their music (laughs).
What kind of music do they pick?
Marcelo is more about hip-hop and rap. I respect it, but I don’t really enjoy it (laughs). Sergio Ramos likes flamenco and similar styles. I respect and like it, but not too much.
It’s not your favorite…
Yes, it’s not my favourite…
Maybe one day it will be your choice…
I hope so… I hope so…
What are your hopes for the rest of the season?
We’re alive in the three competitions. We know we have a chance in La Liga because five points is a short gap, so I think we can get it. We’re already in a final, in the Copa del Rey, which is against Barcelona. That gives it an even greater value. And, as I said before, our goal in the Champions League is to reach the final. My hopes are to win all three, but at least we’ll try hard. Our supporters must know we will try very hard to make them happy.
¿Quién es la persona que más admira en la vida?
Mi madre, mi padre y mis hermanos. No tengo que irme más lejos. Para mí han sido un ejemplo, los cuatro. Cada uno por su forma y no tengo que irme más lejos. Te podría decir que soy un admirador de Bob Dylan, pero ellos están por encima de los demás.
¿Le han defraudado mucho en la vida?
No, no soy una persona que ponga demasiada confianza demasiado rápido en otras personas para que me defrauden. Es verdad que siempre espero cosas buenas de la gente, pero si no las dan nunca he puesto tanta confianza como para que me den un mazazo.