In a modern football colonized by ostentation, Oriol Romeu (Tarragona, 31 years old) appears in the restaurant of the PGA de Catalunya clubhouse, an exclusive resort in Girona with golf courses and tennis or paddle courts, dressed in sportswear . Nothing strange so far for a player who has just finished training for the day. He wears a Casio on his left wrist.
“How much is your watch?”
-20 euros. It’s what I’m comfortable with.
After growing up in the Barcelona youth academy, Romeu came to Chelsea. At that time, the players of the London team had a discount at Dolce & Gabbana, one of the entity’s sponsors. At 19, it’s hard not to fall into the temptation of supposed glamour, or at least the idea of fitting into a new wardrobe. “I went to the store and a tracksuit fell out, a sweatshirt and I don’t remember if a suit. What I do remember is that I bought some shoes that were extremely uncomfortable and that cost me 450 pounds”, explains the Girona midfielder. The charm for the new lasted a day. When he appeared in the dressing room at Stamford Bridge the next day dressed in the latest Italian fashion, the Spanish Juan Mata blurted out: “What are you doing dressed like that? It doesn’t hit you.” And Mata, according to Romeu, was right. “I thought a Chelsea player had to dress like that. But then I thought: what need? It has always helped me a lot to think about what makes me feel good, ”he reflects. More than 10 years later and after going through Valencia, Stuttgart and consolidating himself as one of Southampton’s benchmarks, Romeu returned to the League to take over the Girona midfield, which this Tuesday hosts Real Madrid (7:30 p.m., Movistar) .
I do not change. “The other day I thought about changing my car, I’ve had it for a long time. I thought that I could afford it, that I had done well. I did not do it. So that? If the one I have is still going well, ”she says. He does not try to impose his philosophy in the locker room — “Our life is defined by the decisions we make, I only give my opinion when asked,” he emphasizes — but he does know how to scare away bad companies. “You get them right away. Those people who barely know you want to know your economic level or they only want to go to places of a certain status”, Romeu explains. A countercultural footballer, he got closer to reading thanks to tokyo blues by Haruki Murakami, wrote the book The season of my life: The inner journey of a footballer (2021) and tries to stay away from social media. “I only use Twitter a little because I’m interested in following nutrition, neuroscience and exercise, recovery accounts,” he lists. And, as if in passing, he adds: “Also from Stoic philosophy. One day I was listening to a podcast and I got hooked on Seneca, Marcos Aurelio, Epictetus. There are phrases that marked me, such as: ‘We don’t dare many things because they are difficult, but they are difficult because we don’t dare to do them.’
Romeu says that he has been exposed to situations that are difficult for him, such as speaking in public, just to learn how to manage them. In the field, however, he tries to solve everything with simplicity. “Difficult decisions, easy life”, says the Girona footballer while he explains how he understands the role of the midfielder. “It is a position in which an error is practically a goal for the opponent. You have to learn to balance. What is the use of taking risks and throwing a pipe to get out of between three players if you have 50 meters ahead of you afterwards? Only Busquets can do those things. There is no other pivot capable of stepping on the ball to escape from a mark ”, he analyzes.
Soccer evolves towards intensity, according to Romeu. “In modern football there are few players who only use talent. Before the teams were more stretched out and there were more spaces and many one against one. Now there are organized low blocks and toppings. They all move like clockwork. People complain that players don’t dribble, but it costs more to break them. The one who runs more, usually wins more games. And it’s cool to see how coaches who work well and those who are aggressive with and without the ball do well”, explains Romeu, who gives Mikel Arteta (Arsenal), Pep Guardiola (Manchester City), Roberto De Zerbi (Brighton) as an example. ) and Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool).
He does not forget, in any case, his coach: Michel. “It gives the player freedom to be creative, but it also generates a lot of automatisms, especially in defense. He is sick at dominating the match and likes to push a lot. But he is aware that he cannot expose himself too much. He empathizes a lot with the footballer, he knows how to find the right words. Girona has one of the best groups I’ve been in in my life. And that is the coach’s merit”, explains Romeu.
This season, Girona left Barcelona to zero at the Camp Nou and drew with Madrid at the Bernabéu (1-1). “You have to steal the ball from the big teams and make them run. Let them see that you are not running after the ball all the time and that, if there is a space, you attack. You have to have personality against these teams”, says Romeu. Girona, however, is not the only team in La Liga trying to take care of the ball. “The number of teams that they propose in Spain strikes me. In the Premier that does not happen, long ball and run ”, he recalls. But the English League has another charm. “The atmosphere, the aura in the stadiums. I was shocked the first time I saw a cheering tackle [una entrada]. It’s cultural. Perhaps it comes from the passion of the English for rugby ”, he maintains.
He does not miss, in any case, the cold of the changing rooms. “In these six months in Girona we have made more barbecues than in the seven years I was at Southampton. Sometimes little importance is given to how comfortable or uncomfortable you make the person next to you feel. I like that, when a season ends, you know you’re taking relationships for a lifetime. That is priceless ”, closes Romeu. And it’s said by a guy who doesn’t care about the material value of things.
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