Did you watch European football growing up, and did you have any impressions of United?
“Yes, just at that time when I was still quite young. Although we didn’t watch the football all week, as I don’t think there was as much on the TV as there is nowadays, with three games a week on sometimes. But it was the weekends when we really lived and breathed football. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, especially so on Saturday and Sunday. It was all about getting up in the morning and the first thing that you heard on the TV was the footy. If it wasn’t our own league, it was the English football because there was a lot of coverage of the Premier League in South America. That was the time when United were doing so, so well. That was their heyday. They were going well and winning trophies and so on. It wasn’t just all about sitting there watching the football. You were aware that it was on the telly, with English and Italian football featuring most, so football was in the air! We weren’t just glued to the television set, though. No, I’d be off out to play football, all the time, to play outside. But I realised that all the matches were on the TV, and that at night there’d be all the highlights of the weekend’s fixtures. And so, that’s when I’d watch it a bit more.”
You left Uruguay for Serie A at just 20 – what are your memories of that period in your life? What were the easy parts of adapting to Europe and what were the hard parts?
“I always talk about that period, and it was what I’d always hoped for, to come and play in Europe. And one of the things that I’d particularly thought about and hoped to do at the time was to go and play in the Calcio, partly to do with my family background, and my grandfather’s Italian heritage. My father always made me aware of that Italian ancestry, and my grandad had always wanted to see his children and grandchildren play football. So it was something that you were drawn towards, going to play and live in Italy. But when you arrive in Italy, it’s almost as if you are still in that dream, the dream that you haven’t yet awoken from. It’s like you’ve accomplished something that you really wanted and desired. So you start off in your first season and first year there, you don’t come back down to earth. And it’s the same in the second year too, as you’re still not so aware of it. It’s like you’re in that wheel that just keeps turning and turning as you search for your dream. Then you realise it and suddenly you’re living it. But as time goes on, you begin to grow as a person, you know, as a family, you begin to have new experiences and you start to become aware of the distance involved. That distance that separates you a bit from your family and your friends and it keeps you apart for quite a long time too, from your loved ones, from your roots, your country and your customs. And that’s when you begin to feel it and to miss things a little bit more. I’ve always done my best to settle in to places really quickly, but settling in is always quite tough. Irrespective of whether or not we have similar cultures, settling in somewhere and getting used to any kind of change is always difficult. And as the time passes, at least in my case, it starts to get more complicated. The longer and more years that you’re away from home, it starts to get even tougher, being out on a limb. That’s why I say, at the beginning it was one thing, and then you start to miss one or two things. I guess I probably have settled in quite well and maybe I was still always chasing that dream, that desire to be involved at the highest level in football, and to remain there. And for better or worse, I’ve always been right there, competing and giving the absolute best of myself.”