By the age of 29, a footballer’s career is pretty established. It’s a time in which many hit their peak, a combination of experience and physical tailoring means that it’s a window in which many players perform with prowess. Exchanging Celta with City and Vigo with Manchester, Nolito is a player who has adapted to life in the blue lane at pace.
What were your thoughts about England before you moved to Manchester?
"Before I came over, I did have a few concerns about the weather. I knew there would be a little more rain than I am familiar with, but so far it’s been good. I was a little concerned about the language because I don’t speak English but so far, so good."
What were your first impressions when you touched down in England?
"Well, my first impressions were really good because the training facilities we have at Manchester City really are amazing. I was actually surprised by the weather, it hasn’t been as bad I thought it would be so far. It’s not so different to the weather in Vigo in Spain. One really important thing for me is that my family are happy to be here. My wife and my eldest daughter are very happy here and I like just how many restaurants and big malls there are to go to on the free days with the family, so I’m really happy now."
There's a strong contingent of Spanish players playing in Manchester. Did you speak to them about moving here?
"Before I came over I spoke to David De Gea and mainly with David Silva. David Silva was the one who was really telling me to come over, he was very encouraging but they were the main two I spoke to before I came to Manchester. It was good to have some close friends already living in the city, not just to see regularly but to reassure you that you’re making the right choice."
Moving to a brand new city at 29 years old. Is it easier to adapt to new surroundings than players who move away in their late teens? How have you adapted to life in Manchester?
"For me, there’s no difference between moving away when you are older compared to when you are younger. At the end of the end of the day, you’re still doing the same things that you were at your previous club. You train, you see your family, you explore your surroundings. At City I’ve got many friends that I knew from the Spanish league. It’s not such a big change for me. It’s a bit of a harder change for my family because they have had to leave everything behind. For example, my eldest daughter had to leave her school where she already had a lot of friends, she’s now come to a new school with a new language that she has to learn. So for me it’s not so different, but it’s quite different for the family."
How do you cope with the language barrier? Has it been a challenge with the daily routine, away from football?
"Yeah, my wife actually speaks a little bit of English so she is the one who takes care of that when it comes to going to a restaurant or the supermarket, but I’m learning. I try to use google translate as much as I can to learn the language and communicate. The best way of learning a new language is to live in the place and to get out and explore it rather than isolating yourself. You must make an effort and when you’re in the city centre you’re constantly learning."
Can you describe what your home town of Cadiz looks like in comparison to sunny Manchester?
"The main difference really is the sun. In Cadiz, the sun brings out happiness in people but Vigo where I was previously is actually a little bit more like Manchester. If you wake up in the morning and see it’s not sunny and it’s raining you can feel a bit down but that doesn’t happen in Cadiz so you wake up, you see the sun and everybody is happy."
Manchester has a lot to offer for someone in their twenties, have you been able to get out into the city and get a feel for the place?
"I don’t have all that much free time with all the training and the traveling, but I live in the city centre and I can already get a feel for how different it is. It’s really interesting to see the reality of Manchester with all the different nationalities, which we didn’t have in Vigo. I like the look of the pubs. That was something I have always seen on movies and TV so now that’s something I can see in real life and I like the culture that surrounds the pubs."
Have you had a Sunday lunch?
"No, I’ve not had one but now I’ve heard about one I’ll definitely have one."
It’s interesting for a player to choose a city centre over the countryside. What made you make that choice?
"It was David Silva who recommended that I live in the centre. It’s closer to the training ground, but it’s also important that my family and I embrace Manchester and be part of it. We could live further away, but because we’re new to the city we thought we should live in the centre and get a feel for it. Since I’ve been doing that, I’m really happy it was the decision I made because it is better for the family because they can go to the city centre, they can walk around and see things that they may not have if we were in the countryside. Also, it feels that in England it’s a little different than Spain in that people give a little more respect to the footballers, so I can walk around and go to the restaurant and people will give me space so I’m happy about that."
Do you see much of your Spanish teammates around Manchester? What did they tell you about the rivalry with Manchester United?
"Before the game, all the Spaniards from each team were joking around in the build up to the game and it was good for me personally to get that first win. It’s followed up by another derby already so we’ll see who wins but hopefully we can do it again. They told me how intense the rivalry is, especially now Manchester City are competing at the top of the Premier League. You could feel the build up to my first derby all week, you can’t escape from it here."
What have the United guys said to you since the derby victory? Do you tease each other before and after the games?
"Silva and I were joking with De Gea about the derby, that the two us won against United while we were away with the international team, but it’s always done with respect and in a funny way because you never know what will happen in a couple of weeks. You must enjoy the victories though, and hopefully we’ll be able to wind them up again next time we meet up on international duty."
Have there been any observations about the place that you've made that have stuck out to you? Whether it's the fashion sense or the architecture – the surroundings must be different?
"Yeah, I mean Manchester has those things that a big city has - those fashion areas, the restaurants, all the things a big city should have, but something that really caught the attention of my wife and I when we walk around is the architecture. The typically red bricked buildings and again the pubs, they’re typically English and unique, with so much character."
Photography by Matt Stansfield. The full article features in SoccerBible Magazine Issue 7 'Northern Quarters' – Available here.