You began your career at Barcelona’s La Masia youth academy. What do you think are biggest differences between that set-up and the Liverpool Academy?
“The truth is that I was very different ages when I was at each of them. I was only 12 years old when I was at La Masia. That’s really young. Everything I have to say about La Masia is positive – from the contract they give you to the way they teach you. It’s unique and I think this is why they get such good results. It’s a different experience at Liverpool. At first you live in houses with local families, which is another way of growing up and maturing. Each of them have their positives and I was very comfortable in both.”
Rafael Benitez brought you to Liverpool. What does he mean to you?
“Well for me, he is the most important person I have met in football. It was him who gave me the opportunity to enter the professional football world and the person that had faith in me and brought me to Liverpool.
“I learnt so much from him over a period of three years and I will always be very grateful to him. I still have dealings with him and I know that he will always be there for me. He is a person who I will never forget and I will forever be grateful to him.”
Would you like to work with him again?
“Yes, without a doubt. That would mean I could be at the highest level and performing under his command again. If the opportunity came one day, I don’t think I would have to think about it.”
The 9th of December 2009 is a date you will never forget. What did you feel when you walked onto the pitch against Fiorentina to make your debut in the Champions League?
“I was so happy because it was a dream that had been there for so long and I had my family near me – they were in the stadium watching it. It was a great day and although we didn’t win, I am never going to forget it. Playing with such good and important players is something that affects you and stays with you forever.”
At Liverpool, you always excelled in the Reserves but unfortunately you never really held down a place in the first team. Why do you think this was?
“Football is like this. I was only young when I came here and was pushed to the top – playing in the Reserves from day one and things were great. I thought if I stand out, soon I will be forming part of the first team. Maybe if I played more first team games, I would have felt more stability playing at that level and that might have allowed me to be more confident but it didn’t really work out that way.”
At international level – things started really well for you. You won the Golden Boot in the 2010 European U19 Championships. Was that one of the proudest moments in your career so far?
“I was happy yet sad at the same time as we played France in the final and didn’t manage to win the title. I would have much preferred for Spain to be champions rather than me getting the top goalscorer title so it was bittersweet. I had a really good tournament to be honest but without the help of the great team we had, I wouldn’t have been able to do it. It was a shame not to put the finishing touches on the tournament by winning the title.”
On the subject of Spain, what do you think fellow countrymen Iago Aspas and Luis Alberto will bring to Liverpool this season?
“I didn’t spend that long with them but from a footballing perspective, I already knew them. I think they can certainly adapt to the style of play that Brendan Rodgers wants. That’s why they were bought and even though they have to adapt to a new league and a new country but one of the best things about Liverpool is they help with everything and enable you to just concentrate on playing football. I have no doubt they will adapt very well and they will bring many good things to Liverpool.”
How is your friend Suso getting on at Almeria?
“He’s doing well and I wish him well. He is a great friend of mine and I have great affection for him. We have spent a lot of time together and he has all the attributes to be a very important player for Almeria. I think he is ready to prove it and I want him to do so.”
How would you define your time at Liverpool?
“I think I matured a lot. I learned a lot. I am very grateful to the club and the treatment given to me for six years. The truth is that it was a very important stage in my life where I learned as a person and as a player and where I got older. I didn’t play as much as I had wished but, hey, this is football. I must continue working to prove that I can play a high level.
“Liverpool is a great club and it is the dream of every player to play for clubs like Liverpool. When I came to Liverpool I was 16 and I could see myself playing at Anfield and that was my dream. Although I may have done it on several occasions, I would have liked to have done it for many years but that could not be, for now.”
Which players did you learn most from at Liverpool?
“I spent time with many players over the six years I was there For many years but I think Steven Gerard is an example to all. He is a spectacular person; a captain who is always aware of everything. He is an example on the field and while he is the best, he still works hard to be better. I think he is certainly a great reference for any player.”
Who are you going to miss most as teammates?
“Well, to tell you the truth, the teammates with whom I spent most time are gone – players like Avaro Arbeloa or Suso who is on loan. From the beginning and also in recent years, a person who has been very aware of me and given me great advice is Pepe. We had many discussions and good times and I will always thank him for those times. I still have a fantastic relationship with him because I think he is a person who always listens to you.”
What is your dream now?
“My dream is to always play at the highest level for many years and at the biggest clubs. That is far away now so I have to work very hard and do things very well. I am here to show that I want to play in many years at a high level and that’s what I’ll try to work at.”
How are you facing up to your new challenge with Alcorcón?
“With a lot of excitement. It’s a new opportunity for me to be able to demonstrate a lot of things, to be at ease and to feel important. I can develop everything that I already have and all that I have learnt from so many years in England. I am really looking forward to working and doing things right and I hope that Alcorcón and myself both get victories and enjoyment.”
You have the chance to say goodbye to the city of Liverpool and the fans ….
“They have been good value for the few games I’ve played with the first team and the love I have here is real. I’ve always been treated great – on the street, in the city, on social networks – and the truth is that I will always be grateful to the fans. The people here are super-friendly, super-close and the truth is that this is something I will really miss. Liverpool Football Club certainly has the best fans in the world