Interview with Marc Muniesa: 'Forever Grateful to Pep Guardiola for Barcelona Debut'
Marc Muniesa was only 17 years old when we got stripped off and ready on the touchline to walk onto the hallowed pitch at the Camp Nou, for the very first time. 51 minutes on the clock, Pep Guardiola hands the second youngest player to ever play for the club, his Barcelona debut.
Muniesa struts onto the pitch in a moment that was realised after years of hard work and innumerable sacrifices. All those days spent at La Masia - arguably the greatest football academy in the world - looking at the likes of Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, and Lionel Messi go on and rule the world.
I wonder if it makes you almost certain of achieving the same kind of success or, at 17, are you too young to even contemplate the gravity of the situation accurately?
1-0 down against Osasuna, Barcelona were looking to overturn the deficit. And if they were to go on and do that, it would be a perfect start to life with the Barcelona first team for the Spanish defender.
Do that, and then you get to travel to Old Trafford for what would be an even more special debut in Europe's most elite competition. And who knows what after that? What not?
31 minutes after coming onto the pitch, Muniesa got into a crunching tackle with Antonio Hidalgo and referee Antonio Rubinos Perez stunned everyone by producing a red card, sending him for an early bath. Just like that, the fairytale debut turned into an unending nightmare.
Muniesa would travel to Old Trafford but his Champions League debut never came. It wouldn't for another two years. Finally, in 2011, the Spaniard came on against BATE Borisov for the first time in Europe for Barcelona - one in only another three more games that he would go onto play for the Catalan club in all competitions in four years at the club.
We had the opportunity to ask the Girona defender what he went through in the most important game in his stunted career with Barcelona and how he felt about it now, nine years on from the incident:
"It was a very good experience for me obviously, to make my debut with 'my club' - the team that I played so many years for. It was a dream coming true."
Acknowledging that the card hurt his cause and, arguably, his career at the club, Muniesa said he had only good memories of him making his first professional appearance for the Barcelona first-team:
"Of course, I got the red card, but I played for 30 minutes with the best players in the world in the best league in the world when I was just 17."
The Spanish defender, who can also deputise at left-back, said he was especially grateful to then-Barcelona manager and current Manchester City manager, Pep Guardiola, for helping his dream turn into reality.
"For me and my family, we will be grateful all our lives to Pep Guardiola for giving me my debut with Barcelona. It a moment we will remember all our lives."
We also got to ask the Girona man, who spent a crucial spell of five years in England with Stoke City, how an elegant Spanish defender like himself coped with establishing himself in a physically intimidating side like Stoke in the most physically demanding league in the world, and if the presence of Ryan Shawcross alongside help his cause.
This is what he had to say:
"It is a different experience playing in the Premier League from La Liga. It is more physical obviously, but I learnt a lot from Ryan Shawcross and other players (in Stoke City).
"So it was easier for me to play with them. It was a great experience to stay there for so many years and now to be back in La Liga with Girona FC."
Marc Muniesa moved back to Spain last season and played a central role in Pablo Machin's Girona side which defied expectations and was in the reckoning for a spot in Europe in the club's first-ever campaign in the Spanish top-flight till the very end, but managed to finished in the top half of the La Liga table in 2017/18.
We wished the player and his team all the very best for the upcoming season and we will be hoping to see this dynamic side achieve greater heights in the years to come.