You don’t become a striker
Everyone’s a striker when they start. When you’re a kid, everyone wants to play up front. Most kids move backwards in the team. I didn’t. In Spain, we start with fútbol sala [futsal] and you don’t really have a fixed position – there’s lots of mobility, everyone rotates. I played fútbol sala until I was nine or 10 when I started with an 11-a-side team. I didn’t really have a position until then. I had played fútbol sala and scored lots of goals but a friend of mine also scored lots of goals and they made him a right-back. At that stage it’s really down to the coach. There are of course kids who think ‘hang on, I don’t want to be a full-back’, but you’re only 10 years old, you just want to play football and you’re not going to complain. In the end, your qualities end up carrying you into one position or the other. If you score lots of goals, you end up playing as a forward. If not, back you go…
More after the break
Football is goals
If there are no goals, there’s no match. The nicest thing you can do is score goals. The reality is that when you pick up a paper and look for the results, the first thing you want to know is who scored. You don’t look up who played well, you look up who scored. Goals are the most important thing. If I go 10 games without scoring, I’m not happy – even if I am playing brilliantly. But at the same time, if I score in all 10 games but I’m playing horribly, I won’t be happy either. I always demand goals and good performances of myself.
There are two types of strikers
Those that live for goals and only goals – players who know how to score and every time they get it they try to score. And then there are those who score goals thanks to the team. I’m not the kind of striker who when he gets the ball near the penalty area only sees the posts. I think and hope I fall into the second category. I like to provide assists as well, I like to be involved in the team’s play. I enjoy scoring individual goals but I have never wanted to be a greedy player; I have always seen football as a collective sport not an individual one. Tennis is an individual sport; football isn’t.
There are few players left who are only goalscorers
That’s normal. If you get goals, you’ll be happy but you have to demand more. I prefer to help my team-mates out, to feel like I have played a part beyond putting the ball in the net; I want to improve tactically, physically, positionally. I want to help my team win possession, gain free-kicks, carry a territorial threat. But in the end, the goals are incontrovertible – they never go away.
I always believe i'll score
I go into every match thinking it will happen again. It doesn’t matter who we are playing against, I feel like I will score. And you give everything because you never know which might be the biggest game of the year – you might have a blinder against someone that you didn’t expect.
After 15 minutes, you can feel if it’s not your day
Especially away from home. You can feel that something’s missing: there’s no atmosphere, there’s a coldness about the occasion, a flatness about the match. Sometimes, you’re only 15 minutes in and deep down you already know that even a draw would be a good result. That is when you need your big players, players who can get everyone else going. At Liverpool there were a few players like that - especially Gerrard.
If I don’t score in the warm up there’s a bit of me that thinks ‘oh-oh’
I don’t like to take more than four or five shots, just to see how well I’m connecting with the ball, to see if the pitch is quick, if the ball is moving well, if I feel sharp. I like to score at least one of those shots. The first time I scored no goals at all in the warm-up, Liverpool lost 3-0 to Man United. Since then, it bugs me if I don’t score in the warm-up. But it’s not always a good gauge: I’ve had great games after warm-ups when I just couldn’t hit the net.
If you score early in a game, that really settles you down
It’s as if you’ve done your job already. You think: ‘Right that’s it, the pressure’s off – I’ve done the thing I had to do’. I don’t like to be egotistical, and that early goal allows you to be more relaxed. Goals are very important but they are not everything. Having got one enables you to play better, to think about assists, to think about your movement for others.