squad | 2016-05-20
Mathieu: 'The league is the most important title, it shows your consistency'
The Frechman reveals what it feels like to share a locker room filled with super stars and ambition
Jérémy Mathieu (France, 1983) has recovered from his injury just right on time to play the last two matches of the season. In Granada, with the league title at stake, he entered in the final minutes. For the Spanish Cup Final against Sevilla, he will be fully fit. With his usual candor, the Frenchman footballer reveals the truth about a season which he rates "tough" and "magnificent".
Congratulations, you won the league!
Yes, the league is already home and now we have to win the Cup. We went through a bad month because of the drop in results, but the double is close.
You celebrated it well.
Of course, the league is the most important title, it shows your consistency.
And the Cup?
It’s also an objective for the club. It’s the last trophy we have left now. The dressing room wants the double.
Sevilla has just won the Europa League. They play two finals in a week. Is that an advantage?
I don’t know if it’s an advantage, if they’ll be euphoric and relaxed or competitive, but it’s a final. It doesn’t matter how they arrive, we want to win.
You suffered an injury at the end of March, but you managed to recover in time for the end of the league and the cup.
I don’t think I’ll start, honestly, but I work to be on the bench. The important thing is that I was able to return very fast, in time to be with my teammates and experience these moments.
When you came here you said you were coming to win everything and you’ve won everything.
When you sign for Barça it’s to win everything. You enter the dressing room and you already know that the objective is winning the treble. The first year was fantastic.
Without the Champions League, how do you value the double?
The league is the most important trophy; it’s the work of the whole year. It’s 38 games and finishing first is incredible. In the dressing room, we value it a lot and I’m sure the fans do too.
Has this been a more difficult season that the previous one?
At first, it seemed it won’t be because we were coming from a season in which we had won everything, but it was. We went through a very difficult month, like a lot of clubs.
You were unbeaten in 39 consecutive games and then suddenly the level dropped. Was it exhaustion?
I don’t know if there is an explanation, but I don’t want to give any excuse. It happened and it’s done. And we managed to pick ourselves up. Maybe it was exhaustion. We’re not machines, we’re humans, it’s normal.
Did the captains have to intervene?
No. The situation was simple. We had to raise our heads and remember our objectives.
Do you feel appreciated by the fans?
I don’t know. I feel valued by the coaches and the players, of that I’m sure and that’s the most important. Some people always criticize you, but I don’t mind that. I prefer the group. Anyway, people are always with us. I’m not interested in the ones that criticize me, I don’t care.
Luis Enrique has always shown that he trusts you.
He trusts me and all the players. I went through a difficult moment. I made mistakes like everyone does. I did good things and others that weren’t so good, but I don’t think the coach cares about that. There’s a group of players and if he has to change one player he does it. He trusts all of us.
You talk of errors, do you mean in the game against Villarreal?
No, I was talking more about the game against Depor at home. I entered the game cold, not as I should have. The Villarreal thing was bad luck; the ball touched me and went in. Football is like that.
Who was with you in that moment?
Everyone. I talked to the coach and apologized. He only told me that I entered the game badly and nothing else. I also do things right. It’s important that the coach and my teammates trust me so that I can keep going.
When you got here you said that you were ready to withstand the pressure.
We have the pressure of results. We know that we have to win everything and at times it’s difficult. There are a lot of clubs that fight with us. Nothing more.
Your adaptation hasn’t gone bad.
It’s been good. It was all very fast. The squad is incredible. It’s impossible to play everything, there are a lot of players and they’re very, very good. I’m pleased with the minutes I have. I’m happy.
At first, you and Piqué didn’t completely understand each other. Now you’re even making jokes with him on Periscope.
It’s normal because we didn’t know each other. When a player comes in, you have to get to know him. It’s a question of time. Now I’m very happy on and off the pitch. I get along with him and with everyone else.
Are five center backs a lot?
It’s complicated because there’s always some injury. All players want to play more, but I don’t complain, I was satisfied both last season and this one. I know that I’m behind Piqué and Mascherano.
But you have different qualities.
Everyone has their own characteristics. When I play I try to do it very well. I always want to help. That’s why I work to be at 100%.
Do the socis acknowledge that?
I don’t know what they think. When I go out on the street people congratulate me for the season and for the league, but I don’t know what everyone thinks. I know that my friends are happy. There are people that like you and people that criticize you. It will always be like this.
Has being an honest player done a disservice?
I always tell the truth, I don’t like lying to people. If there are things that I think should be told I tell them to the face, not behind someone’s back.
That brought you some problems, like the day of the incident with Messi and Luis Enrique.
Yes, that’s true. I said it as a minor incident, without any importance. I said that it happens in every club and it does happen in every club. Sometimes there are incidents, it’s nothing unusual. Some coaches even do it to get the best out of their players. At Barça, everything gets amplified. I think that a bit of the fault of it being blown out of proportion lies with the press, but it’s fine.
The environment in the dressing room is as good as it looks?
Yes, yes. It’s a great environment, nothing I’ve seen before. It’s the most important thing to have in order to keep winning trophies. If we wouldn’t laugh in the dressing room we wouldn’t be able to overcome the adversities.
When you came here you also said that you were one of the guys that watch and listen. What do you see, what do you hear?
I see everyone being very happy. When we have to laugh we laugh, when I have to talk I do it, but I prefer to listen and laugh. There are people who lighten the mood like Geri, Aleix and Alves. It’s very good that others do that.
Other stars always make the front pages.
It’s incredible for me that I share this dressing room with these great players. I don’t feel like I’m a star, I think I’m a bit to the side of that. I prefer that people don’t talk about me.
But you’re also important.
I don’t feel like they do. I don’t know how to explain it. I am a part of a winning team, but they’re special.
He doesn’t talk a lot either, but when he does it on the pitch you have to listen. I’m next to him in the dressing room. It’s true that he doesn’t talk a lot, he hangs out with Luis, with Geri. But then on the pitch he’s fantastic.
You took out your meniscus to get to the Euros.
No, my commitment was to Barça. I said it when we were still in the Champions League. The club was my first concern. There was the Champions League, the end of the league, the Cup final. Of course, I also thought about the Euros, but if you’re not with your club it’s not the same.
You might be left with some lasting problems.
I don’t care. I want to enjoy my passion, which is football. I’m almost 33 and I’m at the end of my career. I want to play the most games I can and if I’m limping when I’m 60 I don’t care. It’s been my passion since I was five years old.
Do you feel well in Barcelona?
Very well. The kids are happy, they have friends at school. You live well here. And I have a contract, even if it’s true that they’re looking for center backs.
Yes, but you haven’t been told anything.
No, no one has told me anything.
Well, I’m not a starter. Every time I play I do it at 100%, I try to have the trust of the coach. But if he told me that he doesn’t count on me, I say: Ok, I’m going.
It doesn’t seem to me like that is the case.
No, not to me neither.