Marcos Alonso is the latest Chelsea player to remember his early days in the game, from when he used to kick a crushed can around with his mates, to shaking as he came on for his Real Madrid debut at the age of 19.
Alonso comes from serious footballing lineage. Both his father and grandfather played for Spain, so it is no surprise the game was integral in his upbringing, which he recalls containing plenty of joyful footballing memories and some tricky times, too…
I first played in a team when I was seven or eight years old. I used to play five-a-side when I was at school. I was a striker.
This was in Santander in the north of Spain. I spent a couple of years there when my father was manager there.
We were champions of the local province. It was great. I am still in touch with the guys I used to play with. One of my team-mates at that time was Sergio Canales. When I left Real Madrid he came, and then we have played together in the national team. But we are all still in touch - the best thing is the friendships you make along the way.
I remember my coach at that time. He taught us a lot. He is still working for the school and I have good memories of him. Sometimes when I go to Santander, which is not very often, I have seen him. He’s always very nice and remembering the good old times. And my dad didn’t put any pressure on him!
Football was something natural for me when I was younger. My dad was coaching all around Spain so I had the luck to see all around. Sometimes when I was off school, he took me to see the training of his teams. When I was that age I didn’t realise, but years after it was great to support him and know how it works inside a professional changing room.
When I played with my friends, if we didn’t have a ball I remember we used to play with a crushed can of Coke. We would try and make it as close as possible to a football. We would play games for hours with it. Anything would do!
I’ve always tried to be the best I can be. I think my talent was something natural. My family, my dad, used to watch me and always tried to make me better. I wanted to win at everything I played. With this mentality you always improve, you become a better player, and you are ready to take on any challenges.
I played for two teams before Real Madrid: one in my area in Madrid, called Alcobendas, and then another one, A.D.Adarve, who had a deal with Real whereby players used to go on trial there. I played a very good game against this team and joined them. After a year there, I went to do a trial with Real Madrid. I stayed there for almost 10 years.
I was 11 or 12 when I had my trial with Real Madrid. My father is a massive Barcelona and Atletico fan because he used to play in those teams. My mum’s family all support Atletico, so it wasn’t easy for them! One day they came and they told me: ‘listen, we got this call from Real Madrid, only if you want, it’s just a trial and you can go and see what happens’. That was during the summer. When I went back to Madrid I did the trial and they asked me to stay.
The Real Madrid mentality is not very complicated. It’s not like Barcelona who play a very defined style. Real Madrid instead during the first years teach you how to behave, how to be professional, how to be a good person, and then at the same time you develop as a player.
It wasn’t easy sometimes. I was very small when I was young. I’m also born on 28 December, so I used to play in the age group of that year and I was very young. And then for a few years I played with the age group above, so some of the boys were almost two years older than me. At that age the difference is very big, so at some points it wasn’t easy to play there. It was hard to make a physical impact and to compete against these big boys, but I think this also helped me grow and make me a better player today.
I was 16 when I had a growth spurt. Then I had a bit of a problem in my back because of this quick growth. I remember I played the first game of the season taking anti-inflammatories because I was playing in pain, and then I had to stop for a bit. As soon as I came back I played another game, and then I started training with the second team of Real.
When I signed for Real Madrid I was a winger, and then two or three years after I had to play left-back because of injuries. I did very well, and I had a chance to go to the second team and play left-back, and that’s where I stayed.
A couple of months after joining the second team, I was called to the first team to train with them for one day. From then on I started training with them, and then the following year I was settled in the second team. After two or three months I started training all the time with the first team and travelling with them, and then if I didn’t play, I would play the day after for the second team.
I felt the pressure when I was training with the first team. It was good pressure, a good feeling, but of course it was pressure. I was training with Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, and I was only 16 or 17 years old. I was going 120 per cent! It was a dream come true.
The day I had to play for the first team, my debut in La Liga, that was unbelievable, but I remember I was so nervous before coming on. My legs were shaking when the manager, who was Manuel Pellegrini, called me. Six or seven times I had travelled with them, I warmed up, but I didn’t get a chance. But when he called me that day – which was in Santander! - it was an amazing feeling. And I came on for Gonzalo Higuain!
- the three middle photos in the body of the article are courtesy of Marcos's official website, www.marcos-alonso.com