Sergio Busquets, the trophy collector, will play in a European Championships game for the first time on Sunday, as one of the key pillars of Vicente Del Bosque's team. Busquets has few defects and Del Bosque said that if could be reincarnated as a player, he'd want to be Busquets. The Barcelona midfielder rarely gets criticised for his football ability, but he is often accused of play acting when he gets tackled. But Busquets says: "When I hear this, it goes in through one ear and out the other."
It's been two years since Busquets' worst moment in a Spain shirt, when the team were beaten by Switzerland in the opening game of the World Cup in South Africa. Del Bosque showed a lot of faith in him, as Guardiola had, and he was seen as the natural succes to Marcos Senna, even though he had not played many games in La Liga before the World Cup. After the defeat to Switzerland, he was the centre of the criticism. "Everyone said I was at fault for the defeat, and I thought that was uncalled for," he remembers. Days before starting a new challenge, Euro 2012, EFE can see how relaxed Busquets is at Spain's training camp in Gniewino.
Your European Championships debut is getting close, the Italy match is on the horizon. Are they the worst possible opponents to start the tournament against?
Without a doubt, they are one of the strongest teams we could have faced in our first game. It's a really important game. It will be a great spectacle, but it will be very tough. We have to get off to a good start, that's vital.
Have Spain learnt from the defeat against Switzerland during the first game of the World Cup?
Definitely. We knew how important that first game was because it really had an impact on the rest of the tournament and how we prepared for the other group games. Now we know what it's like to get off to a bad start and we're going to try to make sure that does not happen again.
You didn't play against Italy in that historic game in Euro 2008, which Spain won on penalties, but you did play against Italy in the friendly in Bari last year, which Spain lost 2-1. That was a difficult day, wasn't it?
I've still got bad memories of that day. Not just the result, but I also picked up a rib injury and had to spend a day in hospital and missed the first leg of the Supercopa. I also had to play at right back in that game. It's better not to think about that game, because the circumstances were totally different to Sunday's game.
That day you really showed your commitment to the team. You played out of position and despite being in pain, you didn't ask to be substituted. You finished the game pissing blood
We'd already made all the substitutions because several of the team had picked up injuries. I had to play at right back for the good of the team, even though I was suffering after getting struck in the ribs. When the game finished I was in a state of shock. But at the end of the day you sometimes have to make sacrifices for the team. Due to the circumstances I had to play at right back and I was happy to play there, but I would have liked to have been 100% fit.
That was some way to repay Del Bosque for the trust he had shown in you. Did you feel like you were his favourite?
After he said that if he could have been reincarnated as a player he would be me, obviously people started saying I was his favourite. Obviously he's always shown a lot of faith in me, he's treated me really well and it's very important to me that I have his trust.
Del Bosque made those comments at a difficult time, after the defeat to Switzerland. for which you were blamed
I don't think that would happen now. A lot has changed in four years. We have had a really good qualifying campaign and I hope we can contuneue in the same way during the Euros, although I'm also prepared for the debates that are bound to take place.
Does criticism help a player grow?
It makes you learn and hels you realize some things, but there are some things you can't take as constructive criticism. Some of the criticism I received was out of order. As a player you know perfectly well when you play well and when you're not at your best and that you need to improve. After losing to Switzerland, I didn't think I deserved all the criticism. But in football if you lose then there'll always be scapegoats.
Did you get over it over time?
Not over time, I got over it immediately. In the next games in the World Cup the boss continued to trust in me, the team played better and everything was forgotten.
What do you prefer, playing for Barça or Spain?
I enjoy playing for both. They're different, but I'm lucky that both teams have a similar philosophy, with great players that I enjoy playing with.
Can a Barcelona player by friends with a Real Madrid player?
It's difficult to be friends with someone who is not in your club and who you don't see all the time, but there's no problem speaking to players from other clubs or spending time with them. But the idea that we are enemies is ridiculous.
What do you say to those who have said you are a theatrical player?
I have no response. It's a game people want to play. When i hear people say I'm theatrical it goes in one ear and out the other. My foucis is on playing and giving my all for the team.
You are a trophy collector. Are you going to add the European Championships to the collection?
I'm going into the competition determined to win the only trophy I haven't won. It's obviously one of the most important trophies and I haven't won it yet, so I really want to make history for myself and for the team.