An interview with Jonatan Soriano, by Callum McFadden for WFi.
You have become a television pundit upon retirement from football. How much are you enjoying that role and how does it compare to being on the pitch?
“I am really enjoying my new role as a pundit because football is what I understand best.
“It makes me happy because I get to watch a lot of football and talk about it which is nice.
“I also enjoy meeting up with old teammates and travelling to see and experience others cities and cultures now that I am no longer playing.”
You started your career at Espanyol. How much did you learn from your time with the youth teams up to the B team?
“I started my career in Espanyol and I will always be grateful to the club because that is where I was able to learn about the basics things within football.
“What I learned from my time in the youth system there has stayed with me and makes me who I am today.
“I have full respect to the people that I worked with there and fond memories.”
You left Espanyol for Barcelona in 2009. How did that move happen?
“That move was the most difficult moment for me in my career.
“My last game with Espanyol was in Camp Nou as a captain in the Copa del Rey.
“Then, six months later I was in Barcelona B.
“It was difficult for me to be playing in La Liga which was the best league at that time against the best players to then being put in the B side at Barcelona and playing with younger players at 17/18/19 years old.”
What was it like to train under Pep Guardiola and alongside Messi, Xavi and Iniesta? How good are they on the training field and what are they like as people?
“Moments like those are ones that I will not forget.
“To be able to train alongside world-class players like those was very special.
“I used to pinch myself that I was sharing a pitch every day with them, together with them and also with Pep Guardiola.
“He is arguably the best coach in the world and he was coaching me.
“As players and coaches, they were all driven professionally and humble as people. Every day was a gift.”
You set goal-scoring records for Barcelona B. Was it frustrating not to play more for the first team?
“I knew that it would be difficult to play because of my age. At 24, if you are in the plans of the first team then you would not also be playing with the 2nd team.
“That was the reality of the situation and I knew the difficulty.”
You moved to Red Bull Salzburg in 2012 and had extraordinary success at the club. What are your personal highlights from your time at the club?
“After some difficult moments at Barça, I made move to Red Bull Salzburg to become an established first team player.
“The first six months were difficult as I adapted to the language and culture.
“After those six months, everything was so nice.
“I have a lot of highlights because I lived a lot good experiences alongside my teammates.
“The club managed to bring together many high-level footballers and we achieved a lot of success domestically with titles and cups as well as playing in European competitions.”
You played in China towards the end of your career. How did that experience compare with European football?
“After many great memories in Salzburg, I made a move to Chinese football with Beijing Guoan.
“I thought that my time in Europe was finished after a lot of success in Salzburg so it was nice to go and experience a new footballing challenge and culture in China because I was offered the opportunity to do so.
“At that moment, it was an exciting time to go China because they wanted to invest heavily in football and a lot of top players were going there too.”
Finally, Jonatan, given your experience of playing in multiple countries, which players would you pick out as being the best that you played alongside?
“Having trained and played in Barcelona during a golden era for the club, I could pick out so many of players of that time including Lionel Messi.
“However, without thinking of Barcelona, I would have to say that Kevin Kampl, Sadio Mane, Dayot Upamecano, Marcel Sabitzer, Sebastian Giovinco, and Andreas Ulmer who is a club legend in Salzburg.
“Those stand out but I am sure that I have probably forgotten some players who should be added to that list.
“I have been fortunate to have so many great teammates at all of my clubs.”