Cristian Portugués Manzanera (Beniel, 1992) speaks with the same enthusiasm with which he plays. When he puts on the txuri urdin, there is neither fatigue nor a pandemic, although he misses that parish most devoted to his courage. In a few years he will tell his daughter, the San Sebastian Vida born in May 2020, that the aita forced the penalty that the Cup gave to the Real. But it is not satisfied.
The staff is arriving with the deposit in the reserve, how is Portu?
I feel very good. At this point, not only us, but all teams, are suffering. We still carry what happened last year, the three months stopped, that the League started so late and we have already accumulated many games that we have also played during the week. They are decisive matches in which you have to play to the limit and it is normal for fatigue to appear.
Do you notice him on a day-to-day basis?
Yes. The load has dropped dramatically. The workouts are very different. They are done much more thinking about recovering than training.
Are you hungry for competition or are you already looking forward to the holidays?
We are looking forward to the game of the weekend. We have a very positive dynamic and there are opportunities to play next year in this beautiful competition that we have been able to enjoy this year, unfortunately without an audience.
The 0-4 in Turin was a very big stick, we had a very bad time for 48 hours, but it made us mature a lot. It helped us to take a step forward in the following matches and in the Cup final
What is your goal now?
The clear objective of this team now is to enter the Europa League. We know that the possibility of securing the Conference League by achieving seventh place is close, because there is a lot of distance with the eighth, but we want to play the Europa League, which is what most excites us and the people too.
Is the thorn stuck in United’s 0-4?
Yes. That tie was beautiful because it was against a great rival and this type of game is not played every day, but above all it was a learning experience. The 0-4 in Turin was a very big hit, we had a very bad time for 48 hours, but it made us mature a lot. He helped us to take a step forward in the following matches and in the Cup final. He taught us to compete in high-tension matches like the final and helped us win it.
What do you think of this more combative and less round version of the Real from the last games?
Soccer is a competitive sport. It’s about competing and winning. And if you win, you are up and everyone is happy. We all prefer to win than play very well and lose. In November, everything was working out, everything was beautiful, we were doing very well physically, we were all fresh, but the important thing is knowing how to compete in all phases. Now everyone is playing something and before the games you will not hear anyone say: “We are going to play well.” Yes, you will hear people say: “We are going to die and win.” La Real has the merit of knowing how to compete in all circumstances to be able to be fifth.
We all knew that it was our opportunity to enter the history of the Real, which is something very beautiful. We knew there was no escape. On a mental level, it was an effort of many weeks
After winning the Cup, was it difficult to focus on the League?
It was not a normal match, it was “the match.” We had been waiting for it for a year. We became aware of what it entailed, which was the happiness of many, many people. We all knew that it was our opportunity to enter the history of the Real, which is something very beautiful. We knew there was no escape. On a mental level, it was an effort of many weeks. Everything went well and it was difficult to focus again, but we did it, we got two draws and we had that hunger, that ambition again. This team is very hungry and wants to do beautiful things.
A month has passed since the Cup, what comes to mind when you think about it?
Until the season is over, I won’t look back. We know that we have done something great, that people will not forget. It had been 34 years since the last time and neither I nor almost any of my peers had been born. I left home the day before, I saw 50 or 70 flags in the houses before arriving in Zubieta and I knew that we had a responsibility and a unique opportunity and also against Athletic. Nobody remembers the second. The days were spectacular in Seville, since that tremendous farewell in Zubieta.
Did you think you could live a moment like this?
We are footballers to be able to live them. When there was one minute left, we were winning and I knew that it was not escaping us, the feeling was incredible. And when the end whistled, we all exploded. Emotion, tension and happiness are reflected on our faces. We will have forever the moment when Illarra lifts the Cup and we feel like Cup champions. It would have been wonderful to celebrate it with everyone on the field. I hope to reach another final, win it and enjoy it with the people.
It will be nice to be able to say that yes, that I participated by forcing the penalty, when I see him at home many years from now
No one will take away the fact that you participated with the penalty
It will be nice to be able to say that yes, that I participated by forcing the penalty, when I see him at home many years from now. Football is moments and sometimes it is decided by details and with that pass from Merino and the penalty they gave me, I will appear in the images. But the effort belonged to everyone.
Will you teach it to your daughter?
Yes. She has already put on the medal they gave us.
He was not seen much at the celebrations, why?
There are colleagues who express it much more. I lived it all, I was present, I enjoyed it like the most, like a little child, but I was a wreck. And they are younger and have more vitality.
Who did you remember at that time?
The day before I spoke with all the important people around me: my wife, my daughter, my brother-in-law, my in-laws, my parents, my grandparents … I told them that if everything went well, they should be attentive to their mobile, that I was going to call them later of the party so that they were participants. I didn’t know if my grandfather was going to be there because it was late, but I was able to talk by video call with all of them. Soccer gives you many difficult moments and a few of immense joy and they also deserved that of full happiness. I wanted them to feel as special as me.
How was your grandfather, one of the culprits of all this?
I was surprised by his calm the day before. Maybe he had it inside. He told me that he was going to see it, because there are many who see them later or follow them on the radio because he gets very nervous. I thought it was one more reason to win the Cup.
Have you been able to go see them in these months?
No. I have not seen them for more than a year due to the pandemic. In fact, they don’t even know his granddaughter. They are a risk group and we prefer to be cautious until they are vaccinated.
Two years ago, Olabe told me that this project was ambitious, that we were going to fight for European positions and that he aspired to achieve a title. And I realized that it was for real
Why did Portu fit so well in La Real?
I was at a very good age and wanted to go to a team that aspired to important things and in which I saw ambition. Two years ago, Olabe told me that this project was ambitious, that we were going to fight for European positions and that he aspired to achieve a title. And I realized that this was for real, that they wanted to be a great team. And they are showing it, at the team, club and work level. The Cup and being up there is a reflection of all that.
He said upon arrival: “I’m going to be very happy at La Real.” Are you doing it?
Of course. Nobody takes me away from the fact that my daughter is from Donostia and that she has entered the history of the Real by winning the Cup 34 years later.
He also said that as a child he was struck by the Real de Kovacevic, Nihat and company. In a few years they will talk about the Real de Portu, Oyarzabal …
There are many things that we are not aware of. You focus everything on football. I think about football even when I am at home. For me it is incredible to see a child with a Real shirt with my name and the number ‘7’. I am very sorry for your affection. In Anoeta, with an audience, there was an aura between the fans and the team that was felt. They cheered us on from the first minute and we made them have fun. I am very sorry for that, seeing the crowded stands and cheering. Love it. Now, you score a goal, you go to the stands and you only see cameras. The feeling is bittersweet.
I have already scored two more goals than last year, but it is not enough. In these five games I have to overcome it.
He has 83 games, 16 goals and 13 assists at La Real, what do the data tell him?
It is good data, I know, but I can hardly say that I am satisfied. I have to improve those numbers. I can do it. I feel very good. I have already scored two more goals than last year, but it is not enough. In these five games I have to overcome it.
He has three more years of contract at La Real, can we have any questions with Portu this summer?
I am happy, happy. My family is too. In this football you can never put your hand on fire for anything, but when a player is happy he has no doubts.
Do they keep calling you ‘vinegars’?
Yes. We all know each other. Just by looking at us, we already know if you have a good day or not, if you have come pissed off or you are fucking good. Coexistence is very good. I squeeze others. I don’t like losing much in all exercises. I squeeze them, but from love, because I love them and I want the best for them. Sometimes they finish me up to the hilt. Deep down, they know that I push them to be ful.
What about Huesca?
Life is at stake and it does not deserve to be down either. It is a team that knows what it plays, that squeezes and bites. Now they have changed the system with this coach, it is an uncomfortable team and we will have to play a great game to get the three points.