LaLiga Santander – Real Madrid An exclusive interview with the right-back
Dani Carvajal always had dreams of playing for Real Madrid and, while he has won it all with his boyhood club, the 2018/19 season has been a turbulent one with more negative points than there have been positive moments.
Yet Zinedine Zidane is back and things are looking up with attention turning to next season.
Ahead of his side’s Monday night match in Leganes, where he grew up, the right-back sat for an exclusive interview with MARCA to talk through everything that’s going on at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.
I imagine that it’s always special for you to play at the Estadio Butarque?
“Yes, for me it’s like coming home. Hopefully we win, but I wish all the luck in the world to Leganes, of course. Tickets? There are enough requests. I’ll try to ask the partners.”
You said that this has been a bad season. Can you explain what has happened?
“It was a heat of the moment thing. We’d just finished the match against Ajax. It’s football, but we haven’t given the best we could give. For what reason, I couldn’t tell you. But none of us have been at our best. We’ve been together for many years and we know each other. That has been the key, this year we haven’t fought for anything.”
Did the coaching changes also impact you?
“Those are decisions that are made, but we’re the ones who go on the pitch. We don’t have to ignore the issue. The ones who have to win are the players.”
Luka Modric said there were players who could do more, even if that wasn’t replacing Cristiano Ronaldo’s 50 goals. Do you agree?
“It’s clear that when a player hits 50 goals you have to try to find them from somewhere else. There have been times when we scored many goals, but also conceded. We had anxiety and it cost us points.”
What grade do you give yourself?
“I’m not really one who gives out grades. I’d give myself a four, a fail. I go with what the group is, and we’ve not done things well.”
Have these been the hardest months of your career?
“Yes, as a professional. It’s rare to not fight for any title from March onwards. Just for the pride of the shirt, it’s an uncomfortable situation.”
As a Madridista, do you suffer more? How have the past few weeks been?
“The first two or three weeks hurt. I was in a bad mood at home, it was a strange feeling. When more time passes you try to understand the situation. You try to win the matches remaining and think about next season.”
Who has to put up with it?
“My partner, my friends, my family and my circle suffer with me, and I do with them. I’m a person who finds it hard to open up in those times. I like to be alone and think. I’m not open in that sense.”
Did you understand Sergio Ramos’ decision to force the yellow card against Ajax?
“In the end he acknowledged that it was wrong. The 2-1 scoreline was a fantastic result and he thought it was best for him and the team. He himself said it wasn’t right, but you never know. They are decisions that get made, you can’t question them.”
During the match against Ajax was there a certain moment when you thought you could be knocked out?
“When it was 2-0 we all knew that we had to wake up and step forward. I thought the 3-0 really hurt us. We had to equalise on the night, it wasn’t easy, we weren’t finding holes and it was a bad match. We had four or five clear chances to turn it around, but nothing came through. It’s football, they were better and that’s why they’re in the quarter-finals.”
Was it hard to cry as soon as it was over?
“Sometimes I’m emotionally weak. It hurts, it hurts a lot. My head doesn’t think about losing, or getting knocked out so soon. I felt contained anger. I slept very little that night between the match and the disgust.”
You also ended the game injured…
“Yes, the two injuries this season have been due to knocks. I had a knock in the Clasico that weekend and the muscle was already a little more sensitive. In the 60th minute I noticed it, but in the end it was the game to take a risk in. If you don’t risk things in that game, then when will you?”
Do you think that playing to the limit in both matches impacts you when you have a physical problem?
“Maybe. I talk a lot with my parents and I have to think about things more calmly, without so much impetus and adrenaline. In the end your muscles tense and it’s more likely to injure yourself.”
What do you think when the press write about a revolution, about cleaning the slate and that heads will role?
“I’ve been a Madridista for many years and when you have nothing to play for in March it seems that things get thrown at everyone and in the end it’s logical. There are always players who come and go and even more so if nothing is won. When you win, everything is great and nobody wants to leave.”
Do you feel that there has been a lot of criticism after being European champions for 1,000 days?
“I think we’re in football’s history. I don’t think it will happen again, or it will be very difficult to be achieved again. But football has no memory. It’s all about the present, just as when you lose on a Wednesday you can forget it on Saturday, that’s the way it is. What was done before doesn’t count anymore. We have been criticised and questioned for this season, which hasn’t been good.”
Do you think new faces are needed?
“The coach and the president will decide what the team needs and in which positions we need players who can help us.”
You said after Julen Lopetegui’s dismissal that he was your best ever coach. Why?
“I always try to take good things from coaches, but he impressed me the most. Since he met me with the Under-18s he has lived football like me, with impetus and with emotion. I connect with him. He knows how to attack and to defend, but it was more a matter of affinity rather than a comparison with anyone.”
What was he lacking in those months?
“As weird as it sounds, a bit of luck. There were games we deserved to win by two or three goals and we lost. The ball didn’t want to go in, and results are powerful at Real Madrid.”
Then Santiago Solari arrived. Did he make a mistake by dropping important players?
“Coaches make decisions. I don’t think he did it to annoy anyone. He wanted to do what he thought was best for the team and he was our boss, so we have to respect him.”
Did you fear that Jose Mourinho would return?
“No [he smiled]. There were a number of candidates on the table. There was no need to fear anyone, we just had to fight together.”
But Zidane returned. Was that the best solution?
“It was the right one, at the time it was the best thing that could happen to us. We know we don’t play the same, he knows our confidence is low and he’s brave to take the job now. He knows us all very well, he knows the club and I think he’s the most suitable.”
Did the dressing room experience things this year that they never had before?
“Yes, being without anything to challenge for since March is something I haven’t experienced, but we have a good group. When you don’t win the smiles aren’t the same.”
Are there wounds or is the group united?
“We’re united, we’re aware that we must work to move forward. We look forward to finishing the season, winning the matches that are left and coming back strong next season.”
You’re already a heavyweight in the squad. Do you acknowledge the responsibility?
“It’s already my sixth season. The years go by even though you don’t notice. Yes, those of us who have been here longer welcome the new players, show them around and tell them what this shirt means. Especially on the pitch.”
As a Real Madrid fan, would you go to the stadium now? Do you understand why the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu has lost so many fans?
“It’s understandable. There’s nothing at stake. These are the decisions of each ticket holder, but I would go. As a Madridista, and someone who loves watching football, I would love to see the Real Madrid players. I’d encourage them to come and we will leave everything on the pitch to win these games.”
If I asked you what Real Madrid will be like in 2020, what comes to mind?
“A winner, with desire, dominating the world and fighting for everything in the month of April.”
What do you think of the new stadium?
“It will be great. I hope I can play in it. It will be futuristic and a unique stadium.”
Do you see yourself playing in it? Four more years…
“I hope so. I’m 27 so I think I can get there. Let’s see if I can make it with luck and hard work.”
You’ve missed the last three Spain squads.
“Yes, I missed the October and November ones with a calf injury and then the last injury saw me miss the March one. I’ll come back strong and with rhythm and try to make the next list.”
How is the Spanish national team right now?
“I think the coach isn’t married to any player, as he is calling up players based on their performance. I think that’s the best thing he can do, so that everyone feels part of it and also that nobody takes their place for granted. It’s time to try things out, to try players out and to try to find a starting XI and a squad of 23 players for Euro 2020 so that we can compete and win it.”
Do you see yourself spending the rest of your career at Real Madrid?
“Yes, the truth is yes. If the club want it then I would retire wearing white. I know I’ve said I’d like to try out the Premier League in an interview, and it does seem attractive, but if I could pick then I wouldn’t doubt to retire here.”
Have you had offers or temptations? Have you listened to any?
“No, I’ve not heard of any offers because at no point have I considered leaving. The club have always acted well with me when it came to renewing and extending contracts. So no.”
Have you thought about what you’d do when you retire?
“It’s still early, but that’s the million dollar question. It’d be difficult to get up every morning and not go to train. I would like to be a coach to remain linked to football, but I don’t want to consider this question because it takes me away from the dream.”