Iago Aspas: ‘I feel loved at Celta but didn’t show my talent at Liverpool’

April 1st, 2022

Iago Aspas has watched title dreams slide away before – and when Celta Vigo host leaders Real Madrid on Saturday he will be hoping to provide another twist in the race for this season’s La Liga crown.

The 34-year-old was a second-half substitute when Steven Gerrard’s slip during a defeat by Chelsea at Anfield sparked the beginning of the unravelling of Liverpool’s Premier League title hopes in 2013-14.

Aspas’ time in England may not have worked out, with that season being his only one, but he has become a hero at Celta since returning to his boyhood club in 2015.

He is among La Liga’s top scorers this season, with his 13 goals giving the Sky Blues an outside chance of qualifying for Europe.

“La Liga is very equal this year, which proves it is full of quality teams,” says Aspas, whose side sit 11th, nine points off a Europa Conference League spot.

“Real Madrid seemed to be winning [the league comfortably] but then they lost to Barcelona.

“We hope now we are going to make the league very emotional when they come and play at Estadio de Balaidos. We really want to get into the European positions this year.”

The Spain forward does not regret his short spell in English football – where he scored just once in 15 appearances for Liverpool – as he found himself behind Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho in the pecking order.

“I didn’t play as much as I wanted to,” recalls Aspas, who joined Sevilla on loan in the following season and helped them win the Europa League. “But it is a big club, big players – we were really fighting to win the league right up to the end.

“I had lot of expectations in pre-season, I did quite well and then, after Luis Suarez came back, I didn’t have a lot of minutes to play.

“Maybe I could have enjoyed more minutes there and consolidated my football in the UK and enjoyed the Champions League, but if you are not happy, not enjoying being out on the pitch, I can never get the best talent out of me like that.

“So I thought it best to come back to La Liga, come back home, and to play football with my people. That has proved to be good for my football, my good characteristics. I played at a World Cup, scored a goal at the World Cup and that was one of my biggest dreams.”

Aspas also learned on Merseyside from playing alongside Gerrard, describing the current Aston Villa manager as “exemplary, world class, marvellous”.

“It was a true luxury to have shared the dressing room with him,” he adds. “I can always tell my kids I have played with Steven Gerrard and Liverpool.

“He was always one second ahead of the others. Now it is easy for him to transmit all these things to his players when he coaches.”

Iago Aspas
Celta sit 11th in the table, nine points off a European spot with nine games still to play

The veteran frontman is enjoying his football in Galicia too much to think of hanging up his own boots any time soon, with Celta establishing themselves as the biggest club in the region and building towards an exciting future.

“I have lived here for many years, I am local and I feel as if this badge is part of me because I came from the academy and joined it very young,” says Aspas. “I feel loved here and I am at home, so this makes it a lot easier for me to show my talent.

“I joined the elite late, joined the first division when I was 25, but I have been enjoying this time to the maximum. I have really put a lot of importance on the way I play and think I have a couple of years to go in my football career.

“We have a great academy, we have always had great players. The academy’s model at Celta for the past 15 years has had an important change – we have always been one step ahead of others from Galicia.

“We are one of the healthiest clubs in La Liga today, our finances are great and, for the past 15 years since [president] Carlos Mourino has been on board, we have had an important change and gone from difficult times.

“We have a successful model and I really think this will help us make this great leap forward that everyone is wanting to look for.”

When retirement does come, Aspas – who has 18 caps and six goals for Spain – sees himself as a scout or sporting director rather than taking to the dugout like Gerrard.

“I am really interested in sports management because I have always loved football from an analytical point of view, looking at the players,” he explains. “Halfway through the match I analyse the different situations, especially to improve the way I am playing.

“From when I was very young I always played manager games – the older people know what I am talking about, Football Manager!

“It is a change from our daily football life, lots of training, but I don’t know yet.”


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