Ayoze Pérez (Santa Cruz de Tenerife; 29 years old) has started his return path after almost nine years in England. A player from the Canary Islands who emigrated at the age of 19 to a football and a country very different from his native Tenerife. His time in the Premier (eight seasons plus one in the Championship), where he won a Cup and a Super Cup with Leicester, has hardened him as a person and as a footballer. In his own right, his 48 goals at Newcastle, who paid two and a half million euros to Tenerife in 2014 for his signing (the top scorer that season with 16 goals in the Second Division), have made him a historic player. The 33 goals scored in the Premier alone with the team from the north of England have made him one of the top 10 goalscorers for the club in the Premier era. He is ninth, with Alan Shearer leading with 148. Leicester signed him in 2019 for 35 million euros. A trip full of successes and also some disappointment that he put an end to in the last winter market, when he signed for Betis.
Ayoze returns after 223 games in the Premier, the competition longed for by all. As if driving in the wrong direction, he comes when everyone is going. Four crashes in LaLiga illuminate this rookie in Spain. “Everyone wants to go to the Premier and I come. I have spent almost nine years there and I considered that my cycle was over. It was time to return to Spain, at a good age, with good years ahead of me in my career and without having made my debut in the First Division yet. Mentally, I felt the need to return”, clarifies the Betis striker on a sunny morning in the Luis del Sol sports city. “Don’t see how I appreciate this sun. In cities like Newcastle or Leicester it is night at four in the afternoon from September on. I think I have returned to the light. I had colleagues at Leicester who lived in Manchester or London and would drive two hours to go to training. There is a world between London and those cities ”, clarifies Ayoze, who delves into the reasons for his return to Spain, where he no longer has to hire an Italian cook to prepare food for him at home. “Everything is different here,” he says. “In 20 minutes I arrive at the sports city and the treatment is familiar within the greatness of Betis. It is as if I had returned to my origins after a somewhat difficult year at Leicester, where I was not a protagonist. I want to be important ”, he reviews.
In the process of searching for a new horizon, a call from Manuel Pellegrini, the Betis coach, was decisive for him to sign for the Verdiblanco club, where he has been on loan until the end of the season. “It is no longer just about money, which in the Premier earned it well. It’s just that for me, at this point in my career, having a coach trust you in this way is very important. Manuel’s desire for him to come, to be part of a team that plays football very well, is priceless”, clarifies Ayoze.
Now, the canary is trying to adapt to a football that has nothing to do with the one played in the Premier. Almost a decade in English football gives him a chair. “The key is in the rhythm and speed in the game. There is a lot of quality here, which is noticeable above all in the area, in the last pass and in the shot. The speed and pace are superior there. There is a huge change. It is a more intense League, there is a lot of contact, it is a continuous round trip where there is hardly a pause. You don’t have a second to rest. It is attack-defense for 90 minutes ”, he indicates. “I told my friends that the Premier was the seventh cavalry. It is that there the rhythm does not let you play what you want. It makes you feel very uncomfortable. It happened to me in many games, you can’t adapt, you play in a very uncomfortable way. Only Guardiola’s City does it differently, with very good and well-worked footballers who have the ball. For the rest, in the Premier it is inevitable to suffer. Either you adapt or they crush you, ”he adds.
“I think it is the best League in the world. It also influences that there is a group of teams that can win it, and, above all, that the competitive level increases every year. ”, indicates Ayoze. Many analysts speak of an inferiority of Spanish football in Europe as a consequence of that intensity, especially physical, of leagues like the Premier: “Well, here some things should be qualified. For example, the power of Madrid. We already saw it against Liverpool. Spanish teams compete. In England the greatness of Madrid and Barcelona is highly respected and admired”.
The career of this footballer who admired Villa as a child is determined to go against the current. At the age of 29, after facing powers like United, City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham, he will play against Madrid for the first time. “Notice that for me and after so long it is special to play against Madrid. It doesn’t obsess me, but I have a flame inside me that motivates me to score my first goal in Spain in this clash against Madrid”, says Ayoze, who could play this Sunday behind Borja Iglesias, replacing his teammate Nabil Fekir, injured long lasting.
“I see myself prepared to play in Fekir’s place. That is another of the good things that the Premier gave me, versatility. I can play on the wings, as a center forward or as a midfielder, ”he smiles, although he recognizes which position he enjoys. “I am a center forward. The movements come out on their own in that position”, says Ayoze, the footballer shaped by the hand of Rafael Benítez at Newcastle and who now, with Pellegrini, wants to succeed in the League that he left in 2014. “Rafa (Benítez) is very demanding , but that requirement is good for the footballer. The Spanish technicians are dominating the Premier, each one with his style and with his needs. Manuel (Pellegrini) is surprising me. He seems very serious, but with us he is not. I like the proposal that he has at Betis ”, clarifies Ayoze.
“I don’t feel the need to prove anything to anyone on my return to Spain. It’s more of a challenge with myself. I want to feel important again, to be a key player”, reaffirms a footballer who has no doubts when it comes to defining his football history: “My life can be summed up in two words: perseverance and resilience”.
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