Interview: I will return to Europe only to play in a Premier League team, says Ezequiel Lavezzi
- Lavezzi also spoke about his former clubs PSG and Napoli, Lionel Messi, China, and a possible move to the ISL.
Ezequiel Lavezzi left Europe in 2016 after spending nine years in total with Napoli (2007-2012) in the Serie A and Paris Saint-Germain (2012-2016) in Ligue 1. For the past year, he has been playing in the Chinese Super League for Hebei China Fortune.
The Argentine won the Italian Cup with Napoli in 2012 and every possible domestic title with PSG (Ligue 1 in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016; French Cup in 2015; League Cup in 2014, 2015; and Trophy of the Champions in 2013, 2014. He also won the Clausura of Argentine Primera División in 2007 with San Lorenzo.
He has been an Argentina international since 2007 and was part of the 2008 Summer Olympics gold medal team.
The 31-year-old revealed to Sportskeeda that he rejected offers from Chelsea and Inter to leave Europe and play in China. He also revealed that if he were to return to European football, he would only play in the Premier League. Lavezzi also refused to rule out a move to the Indian Super League in the future.
In the interview, the striker spoke about Zlatan Ibrahimovic's spell at Manchester United as well as his desire to have played alongside Ronaldo.
Here are a few excerpts from the interview.
Since 2016, you have been a part of Hebei China Fortune in the Chinese Super League. Why did you decide to leave European football?
I made the decision of going to China because it was a great opportunity and I was tired of playing football so competitively. I think that in two or three years I’ll retire. China was a good place for me to go and I'll probably come back to Argentina in the future.
I noticed that the club was very interested, and when they told me about their projects I was interested as well. Also, personally, it is a new experience for me and a very positive thing for my life.
Last year, Hebei CFFC had a disappointing season. Do you think you can do more this year? Maybe reach the AFC Champions League spots or even compete for the title?
The objective this year is to be at the top of my game. Great trainers and great players have arrived at the club. I think, and have hope, that we will give the best we can and that we will do much better than we did last year. We have high expectations of winning this year, therefore getting into the Champions League would be really good.
Several players that have played in Europe have gone to China to play football. Do you think players like you can help China's football grow more and how?
It is really positive that other football players come to play in China because they help football turn into a more competitive game, and help the Chinese players grow. It is still a bit limited, and there are very few spots for international football players.
Ideally, five international football players would be great, and they would not interfere with the spots for other Chinese football players. It is normal for this to happen because football will be much better and a lot more demanding as the international players are the ones that raise the bar.
What are your impressions of your club Hebei CFFC and the Chinese Super League?
It is a new team that aspires to become the best in China and Asia. Hebei has very interesting projects: they are building a new stadium in the south of Beijing which will be finished by next year, and they are also developing a sports city. There are great ideas and really interesting project proposals. They plan to be the best in the Chinese League, and it is one of the reasons I came to China.
Your Argentina teammate Lionel Messi didn't win any of the awards Ballon d'Or or FIFA Best player this year. Do you think it was unfair on him, taking into account that Barcelona won La Liga and Argentina reached the Copa America final in 2016?
It really doesn’t matter that Messi didn’t win any trophies this year, and it definitely doesn’t change what I think about him, and I think that people, in general, feel the same way. Messi is above every football player out there. Today, Messi is just pure talent; he shows his abilities in every match. The whole trophy thing can have a positive or negative outcome, towards how he might feel, but that is up to him.
To me, without a doubt, he is the best football player in the world, and the fact that he didn’t win anything this year doesn’t affect my view on him and I don’t think there’s anything bad about it. But it doesn’t surprise me, either.
Having not won anything this year, it could have happened to Messi like it can have happened to any other football player. It implies that the choices made are not up to them, and doesn’t depend on the quality of the football player. Like I said, Messi is above everyone.
Did you ever have a proposal from a big club such as Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United, Chelsea or Manchester City which you rejected?
Yes, to be honest, I was given the opportunity to be part of one of the teams you are talking about. Well, in some cases I wasn't allowed to go because I was at Paris Saint-Germain. Before coming here, I had a hard time making a decision because I had offers from Chelsea and Inter, but I finally made the decision to come here. It’s the decision I made.
Time will tell whether it was the right decision or not, but I am pretty happy at the moment.
If you could return to Europe to play for a big club or a top championship, which one would you choose? Perhaps a Spanish or an English team, since you have never played in La Liga or Premier League?
One always dreams about going back to Europe. My contract ends this year in China. I have to think about what I want to do, and how I want to move forward with my career. But I am sure that if I were to play in a league, I would choose the English one because it is very competitive and I could adapt myself very well to its requirements.
I would also love to learn English. I would like to live in London if I were to move to England. I always prioritised living a good life, not just when it comes to football. So we’ll see what the future holds.
Do you watch games of your previous clubs?
Of course, I watch it. I try to follow it as much as possible because they were the ones that really left a mark in my life, and I also have lots of friends there, so of course I am interested in knowing how they are doing. I am always up to date with their respective championships and matches.
What do you think about PSG and Napoli’s chances of progressing in the Champions League quarterfinals against Barcelona and Real Madrid, respectively?
I think they have to encounter two really difficult teams, but nowadays – you never know – anything can happen. They both have a chance to win. I wish they do well because they are teams that I keep close to my heart.
Which player would you have loved to play with?
I would have loved to share training sessions and matches, and be a teammate of Ronaldo. Not Cristiano, but the Brazilian one. What a guy! He's a football player I've always admired, and it would have been nice to be in the same team.
The Indian Super League is also a league in Asia which attracts big names. Would you be interested in this project?
To be honest, I wouldn’t know what to say. In football, one must never give a 'no' for an answer, because you might end up changing your mind. But I don’t think it will happen anytime soon. I don’t see myself playing in Indian Super League, but you never know. I always keep the door open for new opportunities.
Do you think your ex-teammate Zlatan Ibrahimovic can help Manchester United return to winning ways?
He is a player that has been in many clubs and has always fought for titles, and actually won many. I don’t see why he wouldn’t do it in Manchester. It would make me really happy to see him doing good in Manchester, just like he has done in every club he's played in. I hope he does well.Published 20 Feb 2017, 11:45 IST