Otamendi: Messi wants to win with Argentina more than anyone
Spain is certainly not a stranger to Nicolas Otamendi, the Argentinian defender who returns to the country where he made his name with Valencia, and is now as one of the world’s best defenders.
He will line-up against the Spanish national team on Tuesday evening as he prepares for the World Cup in Russia.
“If Leo [Messi] is good, everything is good,” said one member of the Argentina team in the lift of the hotel where the Abiceleste are staying in Madrid, and surely Otamendi would agree.
The Manchester City defender spoke exclusively to MARCA to reveal his thoughts on the challenges ahead.
Are you in the best form of your career?
“Yes. At a personal level, I’m having a very good season, I’ve adapted to the team, the play, Pep’s ideas, and I’m happy because I’m playing football how I’ve always liked to play it.”
Are there friendlies against Spain?
“I don’t think there are friendlies of any game, only when friends are playing against friends. We are in a situation where we have to find what our coach is asking for to make it work. It’s the last game before the World Cup squad is decided so we have to play seriously. Knowing that we are facing a national team which has spent many years playing together, who play very well, we have to be focused and play our own game.”
Which Spanish player would you love to have in the Argentina team?
“David Silva. He’s a player who looks different, it’s very difficult to take the ball off him. I’m lucky to play with him for our club. Spain has many great players, like Iniesta. Who wouldn’t like having them in their team?”
You know Rodrigo Moreno well, you’ve played against Diego Costa and Alvaro Morata… Who do you think is most dangerous?
“I’ve had some good battles with Diego. They are players you always have to be close to, because they can turn you or help another player with a tiny detail. I played with Rodrigo, and he plays very well. Spain has great players, both in the line-up and those that don’t play as much.”
Do you think your style compares to Sergio Ramos?
“No. Sergio is a magnificent central defender, he has always been at the top, one of the best in the world. Maybe we have some similarities, but everyone has their own potential. I try to improve from game to game, I know my characteristic is to win individual duals, be tidy, well positioned and now with Pep I have learned to play and come out with the ball.”
Who would you bet on to win the World Cup?
“The contenders for the work they’ve put in and the players who’ve spent a long time together are Germany, Spain and Brazil. They are potential world champions. We will try to go as far as possible.”
How do you explain the demands on Lionel Messi to win the World Cup with Argentina?
“For Leo it’s obviously what’s missing, but it doesn’t stop him being the best in the world. In Argentina we are very demanding, but we are lucky to have Leo, he helps a lot. He is always calm, he tries to deliver for the team. He’s a competitor, a winner, in games and in training. Sometimes the game doesn’t go as planned but he always looks for the best for the team. We try to help him, to give him what he needs, to make it work and take advantage of having him in the team.”
But can you notice the demand to win the World Cup?
“Given the players that Argentina has, it’s a demand that we all want, but we won’t win it in the first game. We will play each game like a final and destiny will tell us where we will end up. In Brazil, we got to the final and we almost won it, but it wasn’t to be. We’ve had three finals where we couldn’t do it, but if we get into that position again it’s because the team deserves it.”
Do you think that Messi is not appreciated in your country?
“In Argentina he is valued highly, there are comparisons with [Diego] Maradona. I am lucky to share a team with Leo and he wants to win a title with the shirt of his country more than anyone.”
I read that your mother knows more about football than you… Is that true?
“[Laughs] Well, now I am a bit better… My mother always keeps demanding more from me with a message before games. ‘Good luck,’ ‘be careful, they’re quick up-front,’ ‘when they put it out, try to stop the throw-ins’… I have a lot of communication with her before games. I’m used to it, she wants the best for me and tries to give me advice. What advice shouldn’t she give?”
Which striker has made you suffer most?
“There are many. Luis Suarez is a striker who is constantly moving, making diagonal runs, creating space, then you always have to be prepared to run. Then [Romelu] Lukaku is another very strong player, technically good, quick… It’s between those two.”