Mendieta predicts tough test
By Gary Stonehouse
Friday, 11 November, 2011
Former Spain star says countrymen will have to be at their best on Saturday.
As excitement starts to mount ahead of the World and European Champions’ visit to Wembley this Saturday, former Spanish international Gaizka Mendieta spoke with TheFA.com about two footballing nations very close to his heart.
The former Valencia, Barcelona and Lazio midfielder represented his country at U18, U20 and Under-21 level prior to winning 40 caps at senior level, scoring eight goals in the process for ‘La Roja’ before he moved to England to join Middlesbrough in 2003.
Although now retired, Mendieta still lives in the Teesside area and this Saturday’s encounter between his homeland and his adopted country is one he is keenly anticipating.
“Any game against England, even if it is a friendly, is a big game,” he said. “The home supporters will want to make Spain aware that they are there backing their team and try to make them feel the pressure from the stands.
“England is one of the top international teams in the world so Spain will have to be at their best. The work rate has to be high and you have to take any game against England at Wembley very seriously.
“The main difference between the styles of football in England and Spain is the intensity and pace of the football that is played,” he continued. “In England, the tempo is very high and whenever a Spaniard comes over to play it is that intensity that they first realise.
“In Spain, teams are a bit more patient with the ball and not so direct. Spanish teams in general like to keep the ball more.”
Mendieta is obviously familiar with the vast array of talent in the Spanish squad, but he is also keen to highlight the ability at England’s disposal, including two of his former team-mates.
“England have some young talent coming through, players such as Danny Welbeck and Phil Jones, who are very exciting for the future,” he said.
“Stewart Downing and Adam Johnson were both former team-mates of mine and they have really progressed.
“Stu broke into the national squad whilst I was still playing with him at Middlesbrough after he had established himself in the first-team and was playing really well for the club, which made it difficult for Johnno to break through being the type of player that he was.
“As a young player, Johnno wasn’t getting as many chances because of the form of Stu, but since Stewart left Middlesbrough for Aston Villa he has really come on as a player and established himself in his own right since his big move to Manchester City.
“Both of them can be match winners on their day.”
You can read more of the interview with Mendieta in the match programme for the game. Click here to order your copy now.
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