Faith Valverde (Montevideo, 1998) arrives at the appointment with AS after a good time of attention to the media in the mixed zone of the Open Media Day, the day of open doors to the Press at Ciudad Real Madrid in Valdebebas. Despite the accumulated fatigue after training and several statements, he opens with this newspaper to analyze Saturday’s final in Paris, which he does not want to miss: “I’m young and I want to play. And when I don’t, I have a hard time.”
How is it going?
Good. With much desire.
Yes, of course, a little yes, obviously. It’s part of football, that the players have those nerves, and more so me, who’s going to play in a Champions League final.
But you say that nerves help you to focus, to perform in the game.
Of course, because sometimes, if your head is thinking about other things, at other times that are not happening, in the end you are unfocused. Nerves help me to be focused on the game, to focus on each play, to be alert. Welcome to those nerves, they are part of football. And for me it is beneficial.
What memories do you have of the Real Madrid finals in the European Cup?
Few, really, because in Uruguay it wasn’t easy to watch and in my house little European football was seen, we couldn’t. Only football was seen there. But when I was growing up, I was able to experience the last Champions League and you enjoy it a lot, but you also suffer a lot. When you’re a fan but you can’t be there, helping, contributing what’s yours, when you’re at home at the end is when you have the worst time. But I am very happy for everything my teammates achieved, they deserve it. Hopefully the youngsters in the locker room can give them another Champions League now.
It’s the Champions League of comebacks: PSG, Chelsea, City… It will go down in history no matter what happens in the final. Is it fair that this Champions League is won by Madrid, as Luis Enrique said?
I wish everything was due to merits, if it were for that, it could be that we would take the title. But the important thing is to work with humility and effort once again this Saturday, to continue fighting until the end as we have done in recent games, and I hope that the extra support that the fans can give us will help us a lot. But the fundamental thing is humility, physical work and in the head, everything must be fine for things to work out.
Zidane said of you that you are a modern player, Ancelotti put you among the players who had surprised him the most in the locker room, your coach, Diego Alonso, says that you “spread football”, that you can play everywhere… Why did you Do your coaches like you so much?
(Series). It’s nice to hear that the coaches you’ve had or have speak well of you, it fills you with pride and motivation to continue working well, to continue making an effort and consolidating yourself wherever you are, which in my case is Madrid and the national team. It’s nice to hear those words.
It will be because of that habit that he has of not saving himself a race, a pressure, an effort. You make life easier for your coaches.
That is the job I have and they are also my values on the pitch: not giving up a ball, always being available to the whole team even if I am tired, helping my team-mate… It is my way of playing. And when you win, when things are achieved, it’s nice. It helps to end up being a benchmark in Madrid and with Uruguay, and that is my goal.
“Liverpool is exemplary and admirable for football around the world”
Liverpool is coming, a team that always stands out for its high pace, its ability to speed up games, to turn them into a street runner. A team that plays like you. Does it have to be, then, Valverde’s final?
Hopefully it will be like that! Liverpool is a great team, it is exemplary and admirable for football around the world. It has very good players and is very well worked. Physically they are very good, when they are not winning, which is something that happens very rarely, they always keep trying until they tie, and then they always get ahead… They deserve to be in the final. I have seen their matches lately and they have been fighting for all the titles, it is very admirable. But we also have what is ours to be where we are.
Liverpool fought for the Premier until the end, but they couldn’t win it. Is it good, because they will be caught with their morale touched, or is it bad because they will come wanting to get even?
I think it has nothing to do with it. Obviously, when you don’t win a title, you get angry, you suffer. But I think a Champions League final doesn’t compare to anything. It’s unique. They are going to have strength for the final on Saturday and we have to be well focused, concentrated, available to our team-mate and the team to give our best. And even if we are tired, we have to keep trying, keep fighting.
Who scares you from Liverpool, who do you respect more?
Everyone, I think if I say one, it would be disrespectful to the other Liverpool players. It is a great squad and they are worked on in all parts of the field. Those who are on the bench are also in very good shape, when they come out they always revolutionize the games. It is a great team, from the first to the last.
He said before Manchester City’s home semi-final first leg that he had regained the job after losing it, and that he didn’t want it to happen again. Have you gotten overwhelmed thinking that he didn’t finish settling in eleven, that he didn’t finish the climb?
Yes Yes. Obviously it’s hard, sometimes it’s very hard. When you want to play and you don’t, when you want more minutes and you don’t get them… I’m young and I want to play, and if it doesn’t happen, you have a hard time. But that’s when you have to settle down, work harder, train well, rest well, eat well, set that goal of getting back to eleven. That’s the bottom line.
Now he has settled down, there is no doubt: he started in five of the six knockout games of this Champions League. He has gone from Little Bird to Falcon.
That’s for sure! We have completely changed.
Do you like the nickname better?
Yes, quite. At least it’s a little scarier (laugh).
“I eat better, rest better, work my head better… If I got injured, it’s because I wasn’t doing something right”
He said last year that he had done things that were not typical of a Madrid player and that is why he was not playing as much. That he is playing right now. How has Valverde changed?
I have changed quite a bit. Today I am more mature, not only in football, but also personally, which is always essential for a football player. At home I take better care of my diet, rest, work my head well, I have more peace of mind when facing situations that can be very good, but also others that are bad. You have to be calm, and I have worked hard so that all that comes together, that everything is a chain that goes to the same side, that it goes well. All that benefited me a lot, thanks to that I am where I am.
Did he eat his head a lot with so much accumulated injury?
No not at all. Because things happen for a reason. If she had so many injuries, it was because something was wrong. That helps you improve, they are alerts that life gives you so you can correct things. And the injuries helped me grow, in football and personally.
It is much more encouraged now to try the shot from outside the area. Before he was more shy in that sense, he didn’t let go. Is it an Ancelotti thing?
He has asked me a lot, quite a lot. And for quite some time. I think I’m polishing it up quite a bit now. In the Uruguayan national team I have had a lot of prominence lately in that sense and that has given me the confidence to come to Madrid and show that it is one of my greatest qualities. I have to prove it. Hopefully I can provide a goal in the final. It would be very nice.
“Mbappé is spectacular, but we only think about the final. You don’t play one every day”
Mbappé will not come to Madrid in the end, and the same day his decision was known, you sent a message on social networks with the following message: “Being from Madrid is a privilege that not everyone can have.” And of course, we all interpret it as a sweetie for the Frenchman, who has preferred PSG over a new adventure in Madrid.
Nerd. Each one interprets it as he wants. I manage my social networks so that people get informed and talk about Real Madrid, I talk about myself and my team. Those who want to interpret other things, there they are. We know the kind of player that Mbappé is, we know what he gives, what he gives to his team, he is a spectacular player. But we are only thinking about winning the final on Saturday, adding another title for Real Madrid. Of Mbappé, I prefer not to comment more.
What would I give to win this Champions League?
Lots of things… Everything, I think. It is a unique trophy for any player in the world. I am willing to give many things. Except for my son… Maybe I do give it to my wife (Serie). No, it’s not a joke! But I would give a lot of things, not every day you can get to play a final. Hopefully we can lift the title.
They have won the League, they have already won the Spanish Super Cup and now they can finish it off with the Champions League. That, in a Madrid that, it was said, was between the wars, of transition. Have you felt underestimated?
When sometimes the results do not come, two or three games in which things do not go as you would like, you always begin to hear opinions. And it’s normal, it’s part of football, when a team isn’t doing well, they look for things against it. But those reviews gave us a lot of motivation to keep improving and growing throughout the year. And to reach this final that we are going to play this Saturday.