Gary Lineker (Leicester, 57 years old) appointment to EL PAÍS in the neighborhood of Barnes, in south-east London. "At the Olympic Studios at 17.00", he proposes. The place chosen by the exfutbolista and today commentator of the BBC is a flirtatious and small movie theater attached to a hippster cafeteria. He apologizes and warns by email that he will be late. And, when it is presented, it suggests: "We're going upstairs." A new cafeteria, now more exclusive, in which Lineker fills in its data in a spreadsheet. Talk briefly with two ladies who are having tea with pasta and again apologize for their delay. There is no doubt: Lineker is English and we are in an affluent neighborhood of London.
Question. What do you prefer: a field or a set?
Answer. I have a better time on television. In football, 90% of the time you are in the field is very hard. A striker of my time, every time he scored? One goal every two games or three? So, if you score one goal every 180 minutes, the rest of the time what are you doing? You're waiting or running, or worse, fighting with a defender. It was quite frustrating. Of course, the moment of the goal or victory is great, irreplaceable. But on television it's just about talking to colleagues. It's more fun, definitely more relaxed.
P. Was it more difficult to be a forward in the 80s?
R. The rules have changed a lot. Nowadays, the scorers are favored more. He used to hit a lot more and to get a yellow card the defender had to give you at least five kicks. Now, the first one is yellow. That clearly favors the strikers, the more skilled players. On the other hand, the teams were more defensive, they used to play with four defenders. Today the laterals seem extreme. There are more spaces. Today's great strikers score practically one goal per game, in my time, if you scored a goal every two games you were doing really well.
P. Where does English football come from and where did it go?
Pep is influenced by Johan, but they have different personalities "
R. When I played, English football was going through a very difficult time. The situation with the hooligans It was terrible. Many people did not watch soccer. The selection, on the other hand, was going through a good time [en México 86 llegó a los cuartos de final y en Italia 90, a semifinales].
P. Why do you think that neither your generation nor of the Fergie BoysNor did Lampard, Gerrard and Rooney get results?
R. First of all because it is very difficult. The European Championship and the World Cup are competitions knock out and in this kind of tournament you always need a little luck. Lampard missed Euro 2012 due to injury, Beckham was expelled in the World Cup in France and Rooney in Germany. But, on the other hand, I think we never had enough good players. Except, perhaps, in the Golden Generation. Larger, more complete templates are needed. Now, however, something is changing.
P. What do you mean?
The Spanish contribute a lot to the Premier; they are academic and intelligent "
R. Six or seven years ago we started playing a different football. Before we were below everyone and now we are taking it. In the academies the boys are taught in the proper way. We are producing good players. We won Europeans and World Cups in lower categories, something we never achieved because the player's development was poor.
P. Likes this England?
R. It is a team in formation. In the World Cup they did well, with players with very little experience.
P. How much does the Premier influence this resurgence?
R. Today the Premier is a worldwide phenomenon. When I played I was not even popular in England. I remember playing a game at Wembley, for the English team, which had 17,000 people in the stadium. Today, all stadiums are full in any match, in any competition.
In the academies the boys are taught; we produce good players "
P. A matter of money?
R. No, it was a mixture of things. The stadiums were chaotic and something had to be done. The relative success of the 90 World Championship was also important. At a time when many people hated football, fourth place in Italy returned to hook the fans. And then, of course, the creation of the Premier, with obviously all the money that began to be entered on television. From these facts, the popularity of football in our society changed. Not that it was not popular before – for the working class it always was – but that popularity was hurt.
P. Is football a working class?
R. Yes of course. But that was what changed from the 90s. It became more universal. I think that it is no longer a sport of the working classes, but of everyone. But at the same time, very rich people go to private schools and there they play Rugby. But it has become something much stronger, more solidified in most of society.
P. With the money also came new influences.
People think that the football player is stupid. No, no, no, impossible to be stupid
R. The foreign coaches have enriched the Premier; look what Pep Guardiola has achieved. People said that I would not be able to play with that style in England. If you have the right players, you can play any style. Klopp is also with all his energy, and we must not forget Wenger, who was the first to change the perception of football.
P. Guardiola reminds Cruyff a lot [Lineker jugó en el Barcelona entre el 1986 y 1989]?
R. Pep has been influenced by Cruyff, but I think he has a better way to reach his players.
R. Cruyff was a guy … who, being nice to me, was too sure of himself. Not only on issues related to football, with everything. He could get behind the bus driver and tell him how he had to drive. Pep and Johan have a similar way of understanding the game, but their personalities are different.
Diego is Diego and I'm fond of him. Many times I think: "Diego, what are you doing?" But he is like that, it's like Gazza
P. Do you enjoy that style?
R. I love. It is something beautiful. I would have loved to play with that style.
P. But he did.
R. No, Johan put me on the edge. I never played in my position. At that time only two foreigners could play and it was obvious that Cruyff preferred his two foreigners. I played for him, but I never enjoyed it. And that the system was perfect for me. He never gave me the opportunity.
P. Did he ask?
R. A lot of times, but he told me it was better because of my speed.
P. Has Spain changed the way we understand football?
R. Spanish football was so successful, produced so many great players, that they have contributed a lot to the Premier. Also, they are very nice types. Mata, is a gentleman; Xabi, Cesc … They are very academic and very intelligent players.
P. Is it impossible to stand out without being intelligent?
R. If you want to master the game you have to be smart. People think that the football player is stupid. No, no, no, impossible for them to be stupid. They are not university professors nor are they going to read many books, but they are intelligent. Who can say that Messi is not a brilliant guy?
P. He admires Messi a lot [su avatar de WhatsApp es un foto con el argentino].
R. He is the best player I saw in my life. I love everything he does, how the ball passes, how he defines, how he plays as a team, his dribbling, his direct fouls … And never, but never, he gives up. It always stays strong. Respect your opponents, behave in an exceptional way.
P. Have not you seen Maradona for a long time?
R. I saw it in the draw for the World Cup. Diego is Diego and I'm fond of him. Many times I think: "Diego, what are you doing?" But he is like that, it's like Gazza [Paul Gascoigne]. I never thought I would see someone better than Maradona until Messi appeared. The difference between them is that maybe Leo did the same thing for much longer.
P. Did the athletes of his time have more charisma?
R. I do not know, I think there are also charismatic athletes today. Messi is very shy. But you look at social networks and you meet a lot of fun people. You never really know a player until he retires and you really know his story.
P. He played in London [Tottenham] and in Liverpool [Everton]Do cities have a different way of living football?
R. Yes. In the north, for many people, soccer is the most important thing in the world, beyond everything, of religion, of work, even of their families. The result of Saturday conditions the mood of the whole week. In London, it is very important, but there is another perspective.
In his third season on the bench of Manchester United and after having invested 436 million euros in signings, Jose Mourinho is questioned that United is the eighth-ranked Premier League. Without answer in football, is also at odds with one of its franchise players: Pogba.
Question. Do you understand what happens to Manchester United?
Answer. It happens what usually happens with Mourinho after a while in any place. It starts well, then begins to have problems with the players and then everything goes wrong. It is a situation that repeats itself.
Q. Is your system obsolete?
R. The game has evolved, is more expansive. In successful teams, players have a lot of freedom. Look at Guardiola and Klopp, the two are very different, but their teams are very offensive. The same goes for Pochettino. Probably Mourinho can change, but I do not think he will. He is very cautious. Your teams are always very cautious. That gave him a lot of success, but the game has changed a lot in the last 10 years. I'm not saying you can not win that way, but you look old. I do not know … he's living in a hotel, he's lost his number two, he looks lonely. It is as sad. "