"Hello, is that Ivan Campo?"

I was reading The Sunday Times on the metro to the Camp Nou ahead of Barca’s title-denting defeat to a very well-organised Villarreal side. The excellent team spirit among the Villarreal players was evident the night before in Barcelona’s Hilton hotel.

With their distinctive yellow banana team bus parked outside, the track-suited team got up to any manner of high jinx inside. They pushed each other into lifts, tapped team-mates on the shoulders, then hid when they looked around. And one even managed a reverse cup – that is a fart wafted into the face of an unsuspecting colleague from an offside position according to the Viz profanisaurus.

The only exceptions were Robert Pires and Pascal Cygan, two wily old pros who were completely absorbed in the televised Zaragoza v Atletico Madrid game. And Nihat, the Turkish striker whose ever-expanding entourage numbered 30 glad-handing compatriots by the time the players started disappearing to their rooms around midnight.

But back to the paper on the metro and a match report from the Liverpool v Newcastle game. The headline said ‘Torres’ and the accompanying picture of Spain’s second most famous Fernando filled half a page. I turned the page, but not before noticing a dozen eyes had been looking at it.

A large interview spread with Juande Ramos followed, further evidence of the impression Spaniards are making at the highest level in England. The same eyes were drawn to the piece about one of their compatriots excelling in Inglaterra. Or maybe they were just intrigued by the format – broadsheets don’t exist in Spain.

On Friday, I interviewed another Spaniard in England, Ivan Campo, formerly of Real Madrid and over half a decade into a Bolton career. I went directly to Campo because, unlike in England, Spanish players are used to being contacted by journalists. Campo got straight back to me, his only request being that we did the interview in Spanish.

Part of the reason for openness is that because of an absence of tabloids, most Spanish footballers have little reason to distrust the media. Quotes aren’t twirled in print, talk is largely kept to football and private lives are usually respected.

Cesc Fabregas is regularly on Catalan radio doing in-depth interviews and answering the kind of probing questions which would make a British press officer faint. But the Spanish media wouldn’t expect anything less.

In England, I’ve been asked to send a list of questions for a reserve-team player. In Spain, top-level players I’ve never met have called me back and asked when it’s convenient to do the interview.

Campo was enthusiastic, warm and finished the conversation by saying: “Call me if you need anything in the future.”

It’s how it used to be in Britain according to older journalists. But not now…

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