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When Joselu Mato (Stuttgart, 33 years old) is asked why he is so happy, he replies that he enjoys seeing his children being able to meet their cousins, and their grandparents, because they, their sons, Leo and Lucas, six and three years old, did not know what it was like to have family nearby. Then yes, of course, then Joselu talks about what it's like to play for Madrid, and for the national team, and to have reached both places, to have reached the summit, at the age of 32. "Everything has to be in harmony," says the man who left home to become a footballer at the age of 11, to Celta, and then, at 19, to Madrid's youth academy, and then, at 22, to Germany, and then, at 25, to England, and then, at 29, he returned to Spain, and then...

And then, in his thirties, Joselu, a normal guy, a good guy, was called up to the senior team for the first time (in March) and Madrid got him back 11 years after letting him go. He's not stupid, he knows what is being said and what is written about him. But he shrugs his shoulders and asks, "What am I going to tell you?"

Why do you think young people are so devoted to you? What do you give the kids? I don't know. I suppose they see that I can be an example for them, they see that I left here when I was 20 years old and that the opportunity to come back is always there. An example of not giving up and that all work pays off. At that age, kids start to realize what they want to be, and when they ask me I always say that based on work and sacrifice, dreams can come true. It's a good message for young people. I don't know if today's kids have assumed that culture of effort. That's what I try to transmit not only to children, but also to players who are in the Second Division at the age of 20. It's not an option to give up right from the start. You never know when the opportunity will come. I've worked, I've had a hard time, but I've never given up, and I thought, "Why not?" And look, I'm at Madrid.

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Joselu, 500,000 euros to get the 'tank' back: 52 goals since 2019, aerial duels, that debut in 2011...

  • Written by: ABRAHAM P. ROMERO Madrid

Joselu, 500,000 euros to get the 'tank' back: 52 goals since 2019, aerial duels, that debut in 2011...

Euro 2024.

Joselu, the unexpected hero: nomadic, stubborn and "very good person"

  • Written by: EDUARDO J. CASTELAO (Special Envoy)Glasgow

Joselu, the unexpected hero: nomadic, stubborn and "very good person"But, at 27-28 years old, did you never think that you would not make it anymore?No. Man, if you had told me that at the age of 33 Madrid signed me, I would have said: "I don't believe you". But not because I wasn't going to try. I've always had that in my head. I've always believed that something good was going to come my way. I've taken a step back to take two steps forward, and the option to play for the national team and Madrid has come to me at 33, but I'm enjoying it as if I were 25 again. Especially my wife, she has been a fundamental pillar. It's been the one that has been with me since I made my debut in the First Division. She's the one who guided me, the one who ate all the browns, the one who's always been there. Now we are enjoying ourselves, but along the way there have been very hard moments. Do you remember any of those hard days? These are moments that become very personal. For me, football is not a sport, it's my whole life, and the bad moments are very difficult, but I've been lucky that she knew how to guide me and redirect me. I've reset several times in my life and it's been very good for me. How has your life changed? Playing for Madrid and being an international is the best thing there is. Of course, life changes you for the better. My wife's family is from Madrid, my family is very close, my children are with their cousins, with their grandparents. The eldest is six years old and had never experienced it, and that gives you a plus, seeing that your family is calm is the milk. Being at Madrid is the dream of my whole life. Is maturity referring to children when you talk about happiness? It's just that for me, my family, my wife, my children, it's the most important thing. To be happy, everything has to be in harmony and we have found it this year.

My mother says I look like a criminal because of the tattoos

Is Madrid as big as it looks from the outside? Much more. And it shows in everything. What it feels like when you put on that shirt, and step into that stadium... There are people who leave a salary to be able to go and see Real Madrid. You're not aware of it until you're in and you know you're on the biggest team in the world. What did you learn from everything that happened with Rubiales? These are episodes that have happened, at the time we made a statement and with that we settled what happened. Let's see how I ask you this. I don't know if he's aware that there are people who think: 'Joselu, at 33 years old, doesn't even believe where he is, at Real Madrid and in the Spanish national team'. Yes, of course I am aware. And what do you say to them? These are people who don't value what a person does during an entire career. I try to abstract myself a bit from the negative comments. I don't care about it. I'm really enjoying it. You look like a normal guy, except for the tattoos, if I may. That's what my mother says, that I look like a criminal. And what does she say to her mother? Every time he says that, I say, "I'm going to make another one" [laughs]. I have both arms all over, my left leg tattooed... And what do your children say to you? And what will you do when they want to become one at the age of 14 or 15? No, no, not at 15 years old.

Joselu, striker for Madrid and the national team. PABLO GARCÍARFEF

But if nothing happens, right? Yes, but not when you were 15 years old. How many did you get the first one with? I'll pass word [laughs out loud].What's the best thing about being a footballer? To be able to enjoy a profession that I have loved since I was born. To be able to make a living from this. And the worst? Maybe when you're not able to handle the pressure or not being able to live a normal life. But none of that happens to me. I try to enjoy it to the fullest because there will come a time when it will end. Sometimes it seems that footballers live oblivious to everything, in their bubble. It depends on the player. It's just that sometimes it's difficult, because there are players who can't go out on the street. Vinicius, Bellingham... They can't go out on the street, they're not normal people in that sense, and mentally you have to be very strong. People who know me, when I leave a game, if I don't call or ask, they know it's better not to ask. If I go two days without talking to someone, my parents for example, the next question is, "How about the kids?"

I try to enjoy it to the fullest because there will come a time when it will end. I've reset several times in my life, and it's been very good for me

Have you thought about what you're going to do when football is over? No, because I don't plan on retiring. I get asked this a lot, and it makes me angry, because I'm like, "Joe, these bastards already want me to retire!" What do you think he would have been if he hadn't been a footballer? A cafre [laughs]. No, I don't know. When I was 11 years old, I left home for Celta's youth academy because I already felt like a footballer and I didn't like studying very much. I've considered myself a footballer since I was four years old. That he knew he was going to make a living from football? Well, obviously not, but when I was four years old I thought I was Zidane, that is, I loved football so much that I really thought I was a footballer.

  • Spain national football team
  • football
  • Real Madrid