When Sergio and I began getting to know each other some time ago, I noticed that he had clear values and a frank personality, and that he was loyal to his ideas and would defend them in front of anyone. You could tell that at the age of 18, he already knew what he wanted. It wasn’t a matter of rebelling, it was a matter of principles. It bothers him when people have a wrong opinion of him, and that’s something I can relate to.
Sergio always tells you things to your face. He defends his ideas. He says everything that he’s thinking and he won’t let you twist his arm easily. He’s had problems with some coaches but not because he didn’t know what steps to take and who was in charge, which he knows clearly and is the first one to respect, but because he defends his ideas.
Take Luis Aragonés, for example. In the first Eurocopa, they had a face to face exchange of opinions in front of their teammates. Luis helped Sergio a lot and Sergio knows that, but on the day that he believed the míster had violated the code, he said so. Perhaps this is why we’ve always understood each other well. I believe we’re similar. We like the same things and the same things bother us.
We’ve had media attention focused on us since we were very young and we know what happens. I have probably seen him and spoken with him less since I moved to England, but it’s not necessary to speak every day to maintain a friendship, and we have that. It’s a two-way friendship. He knows that he can count on me for whatever he needs and I know that he’ll always be there to help me if I need it.
I believe he will be one of the leaders of the national team and of his team, if he’s not already. In football terms, he has everything, physique and technique. The secret of his success is in his head. Other players have the same qualities but don’t get to where he has. You have to be very strong to take a Panenka-style penalty in the Eurocopa after failing one in the Champions League. I would never have done that. I missed four or five with Atlético and if I’m called to take one, I just want to make sure that it will go in. If he fails, he’ll just try again and he’ll take it with the same confidence. This confidence, this head, is what you should never lose. I’m envious, in this sense, of the tremendous personality that he has.
One day, we had an altercation, when I was with Atlético. He was sent off after a play against me. He put his hand in my face and they showed him a second yellow card. I fell and I wasn’t acting. It was in the Bernabéu. He scolded me saying it wasn’t that serious, that I had deliberately fallen. He had put his finger in my eye, I don’t know how he wanted me to react.
Before the World Cup in Germany, we had another altercation during a free day. All of a sudden, he came towards me, grabbed my shirt and backed me up against the wall. He thought I had played a dirty trick on him. I swore and I swore that I had not done anything. He took me to his room. Someone had left him a “little gift” on the minibar. We went to my room and I had received the same “gift.” We figured that someone else had done it. That’s why I always liked to be his ally, next to him, so he won’t trick me. But he doesn’t have any wickedness, and he always knows who he can play jokes on and who he can’t.
I would always want Sergio on my team. He’s never going to leave you hanging or disappoint you. If Madrid doesn’t want him, I know where he can go…