Juan Gómez: ‘Winning a Cup against the eternal rival is the host’

Juan Gómez (Curuzú Cuatiá, Argentina, 1971) was the first foreigner to become captain of the Real, an unequivocal sign of the mark he left in the three years (1996-1999) that the elastic txuri urdin defended. Needless to say, he would change almost everything he achieved as a professional to be at La Cartuja on April 3, where he hopes to see the Real celebrate a title again.

There are nine days until the final. What feelings does it produce?

First of all, it is very gratifying for me to be in contact with the people of San Sebastián through Mundo Deportivo. Before the pandemic it was in my plans to travel to the final. I am envious of the protagonists who are going to be on the grass that day.

How do you imagine this final against the eternal rival, being the real champion 34 years later?

Playing a title against your eternal rival is something that happens once in a lifetime, like River-Boca in the Libertadores final in Madrid. The feeling leads me to be optimistic and more seeing the team we have. I feel very proud and identified with this Real that we have today with Imanol, who has done a great job with Olabe and the leadership at the helm. You have to have balls to give opportunities to these young centrals that we have. It is the only way these guys can be the great players that they are proving to be tomorrow.

How do you see the game?

I imagine the typical derby, stuck, but the Real has the advantage that it adds football to the claw that identifies us. It is a vertical team, which with the ball is very dangerous. If Real has control of the ball, we will have a better chance of winning the Cup.

What scares you the most about Athletic?

Without wanting to offend anyone from Real, I have always liked Athletic who never gives up a game for lost. Imagining that the Real is winning, it is a dangerous team, because of that character they have.

Athletic has great players but today I think we are one step above them. Once when I had to play against them we were one step below, but now we are above but that has to be shown on the field. I fully trust the Real.

You have been a champion with River. La Real has not been for 34 years. What message would you give to the players who take to the field?

The biggest challenge is to stay in history. I think the memory that I left in La Real is that people said, “I don’t know if this guy is good or bad, but he gave up his life in every game.” The possibility that these guys have of winning a Cup against the eternal rival is the host, it is to be up there at all. It is wanting to be in history, to get pride. The txuri urdin colors should burn their skin in the final.

What would you give to play the final?

I would give the Copa Libertadores that I won with River. I never thought, after playing at River, that Real was going to be so important in my life. My first son, Esteban, was born in Donostia and the other three are named Iñaki, Andoni and Maite. I blew out the 50-year-old candles in January on a cake with the Royal coat of arms.

He was a partner of Imanol. Do you identify him with the one you met?

As a player he was a bulldog, just like me. That today I have a team that plays and that is the protagonist, I no longer imagined this in Imanol. But how good to have him on the Real bench.

What would you highlight of what you have achieved?

When I sit down in front of the television with some dunks, the team makes me feel that they play as equals against anyone, as in Valdebebas against Real Madrid. We are facing a Real that is the protagonist, which is a serious thing.

Which player do you like the most?

I have always put Oyarzabal as a reference, because I come from Argentinos Juniors, the seedbed of the world, and I am a defender of the quarry. But Merino is crazy, Portu, the centrals have tremendous merit, I really like how Remiro plays with his foot … Imanol managed to put the pieces together and make a very strong group. Being a Real fan as I am, I am proud of the team that represents me. He is the protagonist in any field. And that is not done by just anyone in today’s football