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14.12.2009 15:46

Solari: "I’m a Madrid supporter but hats off to Barça”

Sandra Sarmiento (enviada especial)

Former Real Madrid star, Santiago Solari, now with Mexican side Atlante, was full of praise for Barça just 48 hours before the World Club Cup semi-final. He told us, “I’m a Madrid supporter but hats off to Barça”.

Cool, calm and knowing he has little to lose, Santiago Solari gave an interview to Barça TV and www.fcbarcelona.cat in which he heaped praise on Pep Guardiola’s team. “There’s a group of teams that stand out at the end of the decade. It’s not just that they’ve been the best team over the past year and a half in performances and results; this FC Barcelona is one of the best teams in the history of the game”. It would appear that Solari sees Barça as favourites.

How are things going for you at Atlante? You arrived this summer.

"Yes, I joined in the middle of the year. I’ve settled in very well. It’s a very small club. Here they do everything with the heart and with sacrifice, not with money. In fact they’ve got the lowest budget in Mexican football. But I’m happy. It’s another stage in my career and it’s nice to come to a competition like this. For Atlante this is historic. And for me to be part of this competition again, now on the side of the underdog, is a new and very positive experience”.

How did your transfer from San Lorenzo to Atlante come about?

solari2.jpg"When your time is up there are always offers. I liked the idea of experiencing a new league and I also like the fact that Atlante has been on the way up in recent years. Two years ago they won their third league title in their 95-year history and last year they won the CONCACAF and so qualified for this World Club Cup. Barça is playing it for the third time while it’s the first for Atlante and they don’t know when they’ll get the chance again”.

For those of us that don’t know much about Atlante, tell us a little.

"There are some very young players. In general the squad is very young. We’re not very strong physically, in fact we’re rather small, but we try and play football, create and keep the ball on the ground. It’s the kind of football that Barça fans or fans of Spanish football will be used to. Of course, as long as Barça let us play our game. That’s how we always play and we’re not going to change”.

If Atlante played in the Spanish league, whereabouts would they be?

"It’s impossible to compare. They’re different leagues. I think the Spanish league is probably one of the strongest in the world together with the English and the Italian, which has recently gone down a bit. We can’t make these comparisons even with South American football. The Mexican league is strong in the context of the Americas but the European leagues are on another level”.

Do your team-mates ask you about Barça?

"They don’t have anything to ask because you can watch Barça everywhere. Everybody who likes football enjoys watching Barça. I’m a Madrid supporter and I’m mad about football but hats off to Barça for the way they play”.

What about your fellow countryman Messi, who won the Golden Ball recently?

2009-12-12_PARTIDO_02.jpg"What Messi does is spectacular. When he made his debut you could see his potential, but he has managed to realise it and in a team that plays excellent football. All of Argentina is proud of Messi and we feel ourselves to be well represented by him and his style of play. Also he’s modest. I saw that he shared the award with his team-mates. We’re all happy for him because he deserves it”.

You said you were a Madrid fan. I suppose that makes the match between Atlante and Barça very special for you.

"Beyond the historical rivalry, when you play against the top teams that are always competitive then you respect them”.

The last question. How will Atlante play and create problems for Barça and what are Atlante’s chances of going through to the final?

"I don’t know. Obviously Barça hold all the trumps. But all the responsibility is Barça’s too. We know that. We’ll try and play our football as we always do. Then, how far we get will depend on the problems Barça create for us. Barça takes the ball away from you and doesn’t lose it. If that happens then what I told you about us having ball won’t happen”.
Solari: “I’m a Madrid supporter but hats off to Barça”
Historic opportunity for Atlantec
I suppose that it will historic for Atlante to play the supreme champions of Europe.

"We’re playing a rival that is enjoying a special moment. It’s not just that they’ve been the best team over the past year and a half in performances and results; this FC Barcelona is one of the best teams in the history of the game. There’s a group of teams that stand out at the end of the decade. For example the Madrid team between 2000 and 2003 and other teams before that. For us the most important game in our history was against Auckland, which enabled us to play against Barça. And now this one will be the most important. We know it’ll be a very different match. I told my team-mates to enjoy it whatever the result. The most important thing is to remain true to our footballing style”.

This trophy is important for Barça because we’ve never won it. Do people in Mexico give it more importance than we do in Spain?

"Recently, I think this has been changing. I remember going to Japan with Real Madrid and losing against Boca Juniors. That really hurt us. Getting through to this competition is really difficult. You have to win the Champions League in Europe or the Copa Libertadores in South America or the CONCACAF in Central America. So you never know when you’ll get the chance again. Afterwards, with Madrid, we went back and won it against Olimpia de Paraguay. But anyway, this is Barça’s third time and I suppose they’ve already got the experience and everyone gives it the appropriate importance. It’s not that it’s not valued in South America, Central America, Asia or Africa. When you leave empty-handed it hurts”.

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