club | 2016-09-09
Digne: 'When I lost 6-1 with Roma at the Camp Nou I couldn't imagine I'd be here a year later'
The French left back spoke about his joy of being at the club and how he deals with pressure
The recently signed left back spoke with L'Esportiu about his dream of playing for Barça and one day becoming a starter.
Does playing for Barça cause vertigo?
No, on the contrary. No vertigo. It’s a pleasure, a great happiness. This is the greatest club in the world and the fact I’m here it’s magical.
One year ago many French journalists criticized you because you left PSG to join Roma, what would you say to them now?
I have nothing to say about that. Those are opinions. At Paris Saint-Germain, I took an important step in my career and I was able to play the World Cup while I was there. But then I had some objectives in my mind and I wanted to follow a path. And now, I’m in the greatest club in the world at 23 years old. I believe there’s a lot of people who would like to be in my place.
A year ago, wasn’t the easiest path to stay at PSG and not changing leagues and countries?
Maybe it was. But I’m a restless person. I don’t enjoy being comfortable. I chose to leave because for me it was very important to play the Euros with France and if I stayed at PSG, it was going to be complicated to achieve that goal due to the little playing time I had got. I left and everything worked out well. But it has to be said I could have returned to Paris.
And then Barça knocks on your door…
Being honest, I didn’t expect it. But when you know Barça knocks on your door you don’t think about twice. You don’t have to think anything else: you say yes! [Laughs].
In what moment did the first contact happen?
At the beginning of the Euros, just a few days before the tournament started, the first contact was made.
So everybody was talking about Umtiti’s signing and you, who also was going to join Barça, nobody asked you about anything?
[Laughs] It’s better when there’s discretion. In that way, there’s not that much rumours. I laugh a lot with Samu [Umtiti] in the France locker room. I said to him: “Look, I will join Barça as well but the one who gets all the questions is you”. I made a few jokes about the subject.
Pogba, Digne, Umtiti… It seems the U20 world champions are trendy.
It seems we are and we hope we'll be for a long time! Truth is in France, my generation has a lot of quality and it makes me very happy to see how many of my teammates have these chances. And in Umtiti’s case, to reunite us here in Barça.
Your competition at Barça is Jordi Alba but when you started at Lille you were the fourth left back and you ended up playing as a starter. Was it more difficult five years ago or now?
Wow! This is the greatest club in the world and obviously, it will be more difficult to get a starting spot here than it was at the beginning of my career. The best players in the world are here and there’s a fierce competition on each playing position. Now my duty is to improve my game level if I want to earn a spot in the starting XI. The biggest beneficiary from the competition will be the team itself.
Do you [and Alba] have similar style?
Yes, Barça looks for attacking full backs and we are similar on our game style. It’s complicated to analyze a teammate and yourself, but it is likely that we are similar in style.
What is your personal objective?
I want to play as many minutes as possible and win titles.
And if you had to choose a title, which one would you choose?
It’s difficult. Maybe the Champions League, but the league would be awesome.
Would it be better if we join the two?
Yes, let’s put them together [laughs] or since we are wishing why not a poker of titles and everybody’s happy.
What has Luis Enrique asked you to do?
He has explained us how Barça plays and how to play each position. How to balance the zones depending if we are attacking or defending. To sum up, how to incorporate us as soon as possible to the game philosophy.
Is it easy to maintain the pleasure to play football in a team such as Barça with the sporting and media pressures?
To me football is, above all, a passion and a game. That’s how I see it. Each professional footballer desires to play in a club like Barça. It’s a dream come true. Now that you reach your objective you have to make the most out of it. If you lose your passion and you can’t handle the pressure, you are not made for this job.
I see you’re very fond to tourism. You're all over Barcelona.
Yes, I like to enjoy my free time to get to know the city. I’ve been in the Güell park, the Sagrada Familia, the citadel and zoo as well.
Amazing! A globetrotter!
It’s just that everything is surroundings and I said: “Let’s go to the zoo”.
You should take advantage of it because for the moment people don’t recognize you in the street.
Not many. They think I’m a tourist [laughs].
What have you enjoyed the most?
I have liked everything but what has impressed me the most is the Sagrada Familia. It’s amazing and different from the rest of cathedrals I have seen. We have a lot of churches in France, but the Sagrada Familia’s architecture is unique.
You have shared the locker room with great football stars but what do you feel when you see Iniesta, Messi and Luis Suárez all together?
It’s fantastic to be able to share moments with them on a daily basis. They are the best players in the world and they’re even better when you get to know them. They have welcomed me with a familiar treatment and that’s awesome.
Do you have to be extremely gifted in football in order to able to play for Barça?
It’s not easy to join Barça because there’s a hard selection process. Not everybody plays here but I’m not the most suitable to evaluate if I’m gifted. I try to do my job the best I know in order to help my teammates and improve each day.
You raise your eyes and you find Luis Suárez and Messi who made the perfection out of anything.
Yes, sometimes you send them a terrible pass and you’ll know they make something happen out of it. Just like Busquets.
Is Busquets the player that has impressed you the most?
He’s extraordinary. He’s before the defensive line and balances everything and minimizes the team’s shortcomings. Another jaw-dropping player is Iniesta. He possesses this easiness to see and execute the game that everything seems amazingly simple.
You shared the locker room with Totti. Who would have that role in Barça?
I’ve not been here long so I can’t say it. I still have troubles speaking Spanish… I can’t tell right now who is Barça’s Totti.
How’s the language coming?
I speak Italian so now I’m at a phase where I mix words in Spanish and Italian. It’s fun! [Laughs]
Speaking of fun, the locker room must be all jokes and more so with the fact that in your presentation you just had had a nose surgery...
[Laughs] I know who the joker is. Busquets is the one who has made the most fun of me and somebody else. I’d do it too [laughs].
What coincidence to be presented by Barça recently operated!
What are you going to do? I was forced to do it that way in order to being able to train better. I had broken my nose twice.
When did you break your nose?
The first one was in Paris, with an opponent’s elbow in the base of my nose; and the other one was last year. Another elbow from an Udinese player. My whole nose was a wreck and in the nights I suffered sleep apnea. Now, I’m much better.
And is your wife happier?
Yes, I believe she’s happy. I’m more handsome now. But you will have to ask her.
You got married a year and a half ago at 21 years of age. It’s strange to be married so young in the football world. Is it a sign of maturity?
I don’t know if it’s maturity, it’s a gesture of love. I’ve been with my wife for seven years and I felt great. Getting married has been a logical step in our relationship.
Now you are part of Barça’s universe, what helps you to remain with your feet on the ground?
I know I’m very fortunate to be where I am. Many have fallen down in the path and I’m privileged. If someday I lose track, I have my family by my side and they will remember me about it quickly.
Do you remember that moment when you told your parents: “I’m going to Barça”?
I’m a very familiar person and I’m so close to my people. They were in the known from the first moment and lived the process with a great expectation, as any mother or father who wants the best for their child. My father was the most happy because he’s a Barça fan and when I was a child, we have talked about this, that my dream was to play in the Camp Nou.
What’s your first Barça memory?
The Champions League final in 2006 with Ronaldinho and Giuly. There, in that moment, you realize that Barça means football. To watch Barça play is magical.
Are the trainings also magical?
Yes, the ball carries music [he starts clapping with a rhythm]. The ball possession in the trainings is brutal and in the matches is staggering. It’s amazing how Barça smother the opponents with the pressure.
Do you say so by your own experience?
[Laughs] Do not remind me the match with Roma! [They lost 6-1 in the Camp Nou on November 24th]. But when you lose in such a way, you want to play in that team. When I played that match I couldn’t imagine I would be in Barça a year later.
Abidal has made history in the club. He’s the most loved French player. Would you like to follow his steps?
He’s a reference for me and he has been so kind by helping Samuel and me to settle here in Barcelona. He’s an extraordinary person and he was an excellent player.
What’s the best advice he has given you?
He hasn’t given any advice about football. He sent me a message congratulating me for having won the Spanish Super Cup and then I joked with him by telling him why he was congratulating me after all the titles he won here with the club.
One final question, you’re from Meaux, the hometown of Brie cheese. I suppose you have shared some appetizers with the locker room, right?
Not at all. I don’t like cheese that much. I have started tasting some in Italy.
This can’t be, a Frenchman who doesn’t like cheese!
[Laughs] My teammates will be thankful because it’s better for keeping a good shape!
Anything wrong? Send your correction.
TRANSLATED BY: Jaime Ibarra
Jaime is a chemical engineer from Venezuela who is passionate about football and Barça. He loves the club’s history and he has been an unconditional fan since Ronaldo “The Phenomenon” amazed the world with the Blaugrana colors.