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“They called me a mercenary, but I had refused to leave Espanyol for three times as much”

BarcelonaA few months after resuming his professional career, now as a coach, in the Alella children’s team where his son Joan played, Joan Verdú (Barcelona, ​​1983) has taken a step forward this year by assuming the youth bench C of the Damm. At this Barcelona club, he will again coincide with another former player, Sergio García, who has accompanied him at different stages of his career: from his beginnings in the Barça youth team to his maturity at Espanyol, passing through the national team Catalan or the final stage, in La Muntanyesa.

Now, moreover, they are also neighbours: “Since we were little, we have had a good relationship on and off the field, hopefully it will last for many years. I really enjoyed playing with him, he was a top player in the world and knowing him well had an influence on the pitch: he knew if he wanted it on foot or long, on the right or left profile, or what he would do if it was pressing or not”, explains Verdú to the ARA. This year they will manage different teams from Damm, but both already dream of a future together at the head of the Espanyol first team bench. “We talked about it, but first we have to train well, gain experience and be prepared”, he admits.

Verdú admits that he physically and mentally wanted to keep playing, but decided to stop so he could spend more time with his family. This summer he hung up his boots after a final course at l’Hospitalet. His was a prolific career, with 435 official matches played in the elite, where he signed 82 goals and 45 assists. “A stuck thorn? Having been fighting for a title until the end”, he says sincerely. He had it close in 2015, when he reached the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey with Espanyol. Despite the fact that he reached a large box in the football market, the Barcelona player never generated any transfer between the ten clubs where he played. Of offers, of course, there was no lack: “I had several, especially one in the summer of 2011. A European club in the League paid my clause, of eight million, and doubled or tripled my salary . I, despite having 30% of my financial rights, declined the offer because Espanyol, which was going through difficulties, had just sold Osvaldo and Callejón and the fans were in pain”. Club and player understood that it was not the best time to leave.

A bitter exit from Espanyol

That summer, Espanyol told Verdú, who still had two more years on his contract, that he would approach his renewal after a few months. Despite the Barcelona player’s insistence, over the course of a year and a half, to discuss a contract extension, no one spoke to him until almost the end of the contract. “I felt as if I was being invited to leave”, regrets the Barcelona native, who ended up leaving as a free agent at Betis. “It hurt me that some people accused me of being a mercenary and whistled at me when I returned to Cornellà-El Prat. But I am calm with the decision taken, I was honest until the last moment with the fans, the club and my teammates, which was what worried me the most. Years later I received the recognition of people from Espanyol and I am grateful to them”, he explains.

Verdú began by sculpting his talent in the Barça squad, where he spent almost a decade. “I learned everything there, they taught me to have ethics, respect and guidelines”, he remembers. After four years in the Blaugrana subsidiary, he understood that he had to continue his career away from the Miniestadi. He became the replacement for two of his references, Juan Carlos Valerón (Deportivo) and Iván de la Peña (Espanyol), and misses the figure of the midfielder in today’s football. “He is a figure that is disappearing, this technical player profile is increasingly being asked to be physically stronger to press on the front line and help behind. The current midfielder must be a more complete player than perhaps we were before”, he reflects. Now, he analyzes profiles like Darder’s with the eyes of a coach: “He is a very complete player, able to get the ball out from behind and who also has a shot and finish. He is one of those differential footballers who, when they are good, the team notices it and benefits from it. It should not be played exclusively for him, but he should be helped to get as much profit as possible”.

Verdú, who has received the influence of very different technicians, is clear about the style of play he wants to impress on his teams. “Caparrós demanded a lot from us, Lotina was more calm and Pochettino knew what we were thinking at all times, but surely the one who most fit my way of understanding football was Jordi Vinyals, who implemented a style of play of always going to the attack and wanting to be the protagonist in China. I want to make offensive teams that generate chances, although I know that I will have to adapt to the players”.

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