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“What Paolo Guerrero needs is to play as soon as possible thinking about the Peruvian team” | INTERVIEW

-Has your life changed after entering the Newcastle Hall of Fame? Do you value your legacy as a footballer more?

I have always taken things very calmly. Praise has never made me dizzy. But receiving this tribute, the recognition of the people even though many years have passed since I stopped playing for Newcastle, is very gratifying. Today, my children sometimes watch some of my goals on social media or YouTube that I didn’t even remember. That makes me very nostalgic and happy for everything I had to experience. I couldn’t win titles in Europe, but I feel proud of the career I did and now I value it.

-Do you feel that you are not valued in Peru?

I don’t want to victimize myself. But in our country, it seems that anyone who stops playing football is quickly forgotten by the people and sometimes even by the clubs themselves. They wait until someone dies or is in a very serious condition to assess. And it is not like that. I admire countries that value their players and coaches. That is important. Sometimes there is that unease of what more we should have done to have more opportunities.

-Living in England, being one of Newcastle’s idols, does it open a door for you to work at the club?

I am open to wherever I can be given the opportunity. Being a coach is not easy. Yes, I have spoken with the club, my former teammate Steve Harper is the director of all minors. Maybe until what I’m looking for happens, he can work there. But for now we have to wait.

Solano shared jobs with Guerrero in the Peruvian National Team (Photo: GEC)

-As a reference in the club, have you ever been asked to recommend a Peruvian?

More than recommending or not, it is necessary to talk about the lack of work with minors that is done in Peru. We need to put more strength into that aspect so that the boys reach the professional level with all the clear concepts and what is necessary to carry out their career as a professional. But as long as we have these potholes, these voids, it is very complicated. And, be careful, it is a task for the clubs. From all the clubs, not just Alianza, Cristal and Universitario. Peruvian soccer cannot depend only on them, but all clubs that are in the professional league must be required to work in minors so that soccer in our country expands. There are kids, especially from the province, who are lost because they don’t see a future in a club in their region. So I feel that there is talent, but we have to give it a chance.

-Until 2010, Peru had Solano in England; Pizarro, Guerrero and Farfán in Germany, Vargas in Italy… Why doesn’t that happen today? Why do we go backwards while other countries advance?

We have become accustomed or hopeful because Peru has been a land where natural talent appeared. But there came a time when this talent had to be helped. And I think that infrastructure is very important there. I’ll give you an example: Alianza Lima recently turned 123 years old, a club that I am very fond of and I thank them because they gave me the opportunity to play soccer from the age of 11 to 16 before going to Cristal, but it just seems that they are putting in the effort to have a high-performance center. That speaks volumes about where we are, where we are located. If the clubs do not have infrastructure where the kids can develop and learn decently, we will continue to talk about this for many more years, unfortunately.

-Is the problem only with the clubs?

Unclear. There must be demands. The Peruvian Football Federation has to do it. Let’s hope, being positive, that one day we can see those changes.

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-In the Gareca era there was a lot of talk about a restructuring plan for Peruvian football. What prevented this from taking place?

We have to live a reality. Why are natural replacements made in other countries? Because the clubs themselves have ambitions. They sold me to Boca Juniors in 1997 for almost a million dollars. Almost 30 years have passed and Piero Quispe went to Mexico for two million dollars or a little more. It can not be possible. Almost three decades have passed. In this context, Ricardo Gareca arrived in Peru with a mission: for the senior team to obtain results. Afterwards, it is not his task, nor that of the national team coaches, for Peruvian football to be restructured. As I told you, it is a matter of demands on the part of the FPF and ambition of the clubs themselves to invest long-term in their quarries with the dream of selling.

-Today, Alianza, Cristal and the ‘U’ have almost all foreigners in the lead. Are you worried about that scenario?

That is the reality of our football. What ends up being hired are outside forwards or centre-backs. It’s not the fault of the foreigner, of course, but the clubs themselves also have to start putting effort into training players and giving them opportunities. Alianza itself should be concerned about forming a ‘9’ because they haven’t done it in a long time.

-The Peruvian team has a new head: Jorge Fossati. Did you have the chance to return to Videna with the Uruguayan coach?

No. But, anyway, it is our selection and we must always wish for the best. When I listen to the professor speak, I notice a lot of experience in him, the years in football have given him that wisdom. Now he has the opportunity to have the boys in those two friendlies in March, two more in June and in the Copa América. I think he will be able to express what he wants for this team there.

-Is Fossati the ideal man to get out of the hole we are in?

I listen to Fossati and he is one of those typical experienced technicians who make the player feel very confident and who are attentive to all the details. But the answer to your question will be given with the results that the team gets. At the moment I feel a calm, trusting atmosphere, very good for the kids. We hope it goes very well for you.

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-It is difficult not to ask you about Ricardo Gareca. Do you consider, like the fan, that he is a Chilean coach as a betrayal?

It is a very strong word. We have to be grateful to him because he gave us a lot of joy in recent years. He has a lot of affection for the Peruvian fans, for the country, but he is still a professional. I think it’s best not to mention that word because it’s very strong. We know about the rivalry that exists with Chile, but it is nothing more than football.

-Did you have the opportunity to go to Chile with Gareca?

We talk little with Ricardo. There is still friendship, we greet each other at important moments. When the Chile thing came up, I realized that it was going to be difficult to take me because I was going to prefer to have a Chilean to have as an assistant and get closer to the players. Can you imagine if Gareca had worked with Marcelo Salas here? Difficult, if not impossible. But after all is well, the friendship continues. I always wish him the best, although not when he plays against us.

-Gareca’s Copa América debut in Chile will be against Peru…

Yes, things of destiny. There she will meet several of her children. It will be a nice reunion I think.

-One of his children who will not be there is Christian Cueva, who has not yet undergone surgery for the rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee, an injury he has suffered since March of last year. Do you think Christian can still return to the national team?

He has to have surgery on that injury now, recover that knee because it is his work tool. Then, if he wants to continue playing, let him do so. He is 32 years old, he is not a child who has to be told what to do. He is the only person who knows what he should do, and not do, to once again talk about what a great player he is. He can’t end his career this way.

Ñol entered the Newcastle Hall of Fame.  (Photo: Instagram)

-Is Paolo Guerrero, 40 years old, and recently joining a club (César Vallejo) an option in the Peruvian team?

When you reach this age in football, what works against us is being stopped, without football rhythm. His last game was in mid-December I think. It’s been more than two months now. What Paolo needs is to play as soon as possible thinking about the national team. He has to speed up.

-Can Luis Advíncula, who will surely start this Sunday in the classic against River Plate, be considered a reference in Boca Juniors?

The beginning of his stage was very hard, with criticism of his game, but time corrected things because he is a great player. I think all Peruvians are proud that he is doing so well and leaving the name of the country in style. Looking to the future, thanks to him, when Boca needs a full-back, they will look to ours. That is his legacy. Furthermore, he has entered a stage of maturity in which the fan recognizes the dedication, courage and professionalism with which he lives his day to day life. Boca is definitely one of the biggest clubs in South America and Advíncula is going to be remembered by people, like Julio Meléndez was. When I arrived, in ’97, Maradona told me about ‘Negro’ Meléndez, whom I never got to meet, but then you realize what he did.

Source: Elcomercio

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