With an open mind and a thirst for regular football at the very top, Alvaro Negredo is a player residing by The Riverside. A man at the heart of proceedings at Middlesbrough, we caught up with him as he takes on a fresh challenge up north.
Alvaro, you’re back in the Premier League. What’s life like as a Middlesbrough player?
"Everything’s going really well. It’s nice and quiet and things are really calm here. Middlesbrough is a nice place to do your daily job, you sometimes need that don’t you? That peace and quiet to be able to focus on the task in hand and that’s certainly what I’ve got here."
How did the move to Boro come about? Was playing in the Premier League again something that was important to you?
"It came about when I spoke to Aitor Karanka and the Director of Football at the club. We spoke at length about the plans that they had for the club and what I needed at that particular moment. I wanted to be playing regularly and that was what the conversation was about. We spoke about the plans and the project that they have for the club and it suited me well so here I am."
At Manchester City there were lots of ‘headline’ players. At Middlesbrough you’re probably the most high profile, what’s that like?
"I don’t consider myself to be any more of an important figure than anyone else in our changing room. I’m not more of a key player than any of my team-mates. It’s more about about the whole squad contributing together and as a group getting the best out of each other individually to benefit the cause which is to improve where Middlesbrough are keep moving forward positively as a club."
At Manchester City the focus was to win the Premier League, at Boro it’s the target to stay in the league. How do those challenges compare?
"Of course, they’re two very different challenges. We managed to respond to the challenge when I was at City, we were fortunate enough to win two trophies in my last season. Middlesbrough is a new project and a new beginning for me in the Premier League and of course it’s very difficult, it’s a tough challenge in its own right. You’d probably say it’s not as tough as going out to win trophies but the objective that we have, the long term and short term aims is to keep Middlesbrough in this league."
Have you had to adapt your game? At City you may have had five or six chances per game. At Boro you may only have one.
"It’s true that at City there were probably more chances for a striker created in the ninety minutes and maybe less so here but that presents a massive test you’re ability. It’s a new challenge, you try to score every chance as a striker so when an opportunity presents itself you have to be ready, perhaps even more so now. Let’s hope we score more goals to keep Middlesbrough in the Premier League."
Was it a case of coming back to the Premier League with a point to prove?
"No, not at all. It was a case of wanting to keep growing and developing as a player. You always learn don’t you? I think it’s important to keep learning as a person and a player and that’s what it’s all about. There’s nothing that I feel I need to prove."
What did your time at Manchester City teach you?
"I think overall I grew as a footballer just generally. I learnt a lot during my time at City – movement, creating space for myself, linking up with other players. I had some great team-mates there and there was lots to learn there for everyone. I learnt a lot about having to play a certain way to complement other players."
You’re a tough and physical player. Do you think the Premier League suits your style?
"Yeah, it’s a strong, direct and physical type of football in the Premier League. There are qualities in the league that suit my game, certainly. That style of football that you find here in the English league was a big factor in my decision to come here and play again, this time at Middlesbrough. I still feel that there’s still a lot more that I can give as an individual."
Who are some of the toughest players you’ve come up against in the Premier League?
"There’s a lot of good defences in this league. First of all Manchester City are very strong at the back, having played with and against them I can tell you that they are very tough. You can also pick out teams like Chelsea, Spurs and Liverpool. All defenders in the Premier League tend to be very good in the air and work very hard. They're vigilant in their approach to marking you."
You’re with New Balance now. What is it about the brand that appealed to you?
"The reason I decided to come part of the New Balance family is because of the trust and confidence they showed in me right from the very first conversations that we had so I was more than happy to wearing their logo and their products. I’ve been given huge amounts of confidence in everything they’ve done for me so far."
To leave Valencia and Spain to live and play in Middlesbrough, you must like the way of life in England?
"I had two very difficult seasons with Valencia and sometimes what you need is a complete change of scenery. Middlesbrough is a little smaller, a little bit calmer and is the perfect place for me to focus on the task. My job is to play football and I’ve chosen to come and play football here in Middlesbrough. You might argue in certain aspects, whether it’s the food or the weather, people might say that Spain is a good quality of life, and it is, I would agree, but I wanted to play football. I like the quality of life here in England and as I say the quiet environment is conducive to concentrating on the sport that I’ve chosen to play."
Do you still have a love for the game now similar to when you did when you were a child?
"Even more so now. First and foremost, if I didn’t have football in my life I don’t know what I’d be doing. But yeah, I love it even more now than I did when I was a kid. I think when you’re a kid you’re almost kind of living the dream and you have that desire that you’re going to make it one day but I think when you actually do make it it’s almost more satisfying. I realise that I’m privileged and playing professional football brings huge benefits. Through the hard work that you put in, it teaches you to enjoy it while you’re actually in the profession. Everything has a balance and there is a slight negative side, and don’t get me wrong it is great but you have to compensate time away from your family and loved ones but I still love it more than I did when I was fighting to become a professional."
Alvaro Negredo was talking at the launch of the New Balance Furon 2.0 update. Want a pair? This way.
Photography by Adam Barnsley for SoccerBible.