Local boy come to rescue Deportivo la Coruna

A CORUNA, Spain — “Every player has their experience, what they lived, their story,” Deportivo de La Coruna’s captain Lucas Perez says. “This is mine.”

Outside, the winds whips by Abegondo, Deportivo de La Coruna’s coaching floor, rattling home windows. Inside, Perez, nonetheless in coaching equipment, is tracing his journey right here, going again to the place all of it started. To Monelos, town neighbourhood the place he was raised, with its fourteen blocks of flats, its drug issues and his goals. To the stadium he all the time wished to play in, and the place he now does.

It is lower than two miles from these fishermen’s towers to Depor’s house floor Estadio Municipal de Riazor, which stands on the seashore and — like Galicia, land of emigres, the northwestern nook of Spain that individuals depart — appears out throughout the ocean. But Lucas’s journey has been so much longer.

“I grew up with my grandparents,” he says. “My dad was at sea. He would be away for six months at a time or more: [in a fishing area called] Gran Sol in the Atlantic. I lived with my grandparents in Monelos; they raised me in one of the flats given to fishermen back in the day. It was a humble, working-class neighbourhood. Everyone knows each other, people live their whole lives there. The kids would play at school or on the concrete courts. I went to a team called Victoria; you could sign up from four or five years old. When I didn’t play there I played in the street. And, basically, that was my story. My life. Always with a ball.”

“I left home at 15. Alaves first. They had problems and decided to send a load of us home. A couple of years playing at local clubs. Montaneros. Ordenes. Then Atletico Madrid. Rayo Vallecano. Ukraine, Greece. I come home. I go again. To England. Arsenal. West Ham. Then Spain. Alaves. Elche. Cadiz. Now Depor.

“Half my life I’ve spent away from Galicia. Maybe you would not have deliberate it like that, possibly that is not all the time the way in which you wished it, however that is the place life is: alternative. I’m in love with soccer. It’s my ardour. I knew what I wished. I fought for it, pursued it, and I’ve been knowledgeable for fifteen years. I’ve all the time performed within the first division.”

“Until now.”

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Now Perez plays in Primera RFEF, the country’s third tier with its forty teams and two divisions. Not because he had to, a 34-year-old striker past his best forced to slip silently down the divisions, but because he wanted to. This is the life he chose.

In January, Perez left first-division Cadiz — where he was not just a starter but the top scorer, where he bade farewell by getting a goal on his very last game — to sign for Deportivo de La Coruna, two divisions lower and a world away. In salary, for a start: a tenfold cut in pay.

But, he had decided, it was time to go home. To play for his team. It had been for a long time. “I wished to play for Deportivo a few years in the past and I could not,” he says. Now, he could. It cost him half a million euros to buy his freedom, and it was worth every cent. “I do not see this as going to the third division, I see this as going to Deportivo,” he insists.

This is his third spell here, and it will be his last — which is what he had wanted the others to be, too. It took him until he was 26 to make his debut for the club he supported. He went, came back, and was forced to leave again. He had been trying to make his final return happen for almost two years, seeking to convince Cadiz to let him go.

In January at last, he got his wish. There is something very fitting, very Galician about it. Here, where many go to sea, and many leave, they talk about morriña: the pull of the land, of home, a kind of longing, a nostalgia. Many never get back; Lucas did. Sometimes though, it must feel like it took too long to get here, where he always wanted to be.

“I do not see it as a case of taking too lengthy; I see it as a case of issues do not all the time occur while you need them to,” he says. “Life is a course of. You do not get the place you need at the beginning. Everything in life prices.

“What matters is that I got to Deportivo, which is where I wanted to be and I have had a long, important career. I played in the Premier League. The hardest thing is always to have played in the first division, to remain at the highest level, and I did that. When I was in Ukraine I never thought I would play for a team like Arsenal or West Ham. And then to play for Depor. I’m proud of where I have been, how I got here and what I have achieved. I followed my path.”

(Editor’s Note: This interview has been frivolously edited for size and readability.)

Sid Lowe: You set off, alone, at 15.

Perez: It’s laborious as a result of I do not assume you are prepared for it. I had been dwelling with my grandparents and so they gave me all the things. It was all finished for me. And you go someplace the place you may have to do all of it. You flip up and there are individuals from different cities, different nations.

But it is good too: I’ve performed with gamers from Africa, South America, Europe. Russians, Ukrainians, English, Germans, each nationality. You may not like what’s on the market, you would possibly resolve that you simply like house extra, however how are you aware that till you may have lived it? And if it is dangerous, you be taught. That has been good for me, to assist me perceive what I like, the place I need to go, the place I need to be.

Was Ukraine actually that dangerous?

It was the primary journey the place I left the nation. I used to be 20. You go there and also you’re deserted, helpless. I did not converse the language: not Ukrainian, not Russian, not English. There’s a translator however what occurs in case you get sick? Who takes you to the physician’s or the pharmacy at 2 a.m.?

I used to be fortunate, I turned superb associates with Daniel. He was an Ecuadorian who lived there, learning on the college. He had financial difficulties and got here to dwell with me. He helped me so much. He spoke Ukrainian. If not, I do not know the place I’d be. We’re younger however it’s true that we’ve cash as gamers, in contrast to a traditional 20-year-old and let’s be trustworthy: cash helps. But 20 remains to be 20, away from house, with out the language. The cash would not deliver your loved ones shut. In that sense it was laborious; you are feeling forsaken. And then my teammates have been…effectively, a bit like that, y’know? [There’s a pause.] They weren’t nice teammates. But not simply with me. With different foreigners too.


They did not take effectively to the actual fact that there have been individuals coming in from overseas who earned extra money. [They felt] possibly the president preferred individuals who got here from outdoors extra.

You had issues with the president, although.

They did not pay. I used to be there as a result of I had gone from Rayo, the place we had that scenario with [Rayo owners] the Ruiz Mateos household during which we had gone months with out getting paid. We had no cash, no wage, and a flat to pay for. I used to be 18, 19, I hadn’t earned sufficient cash to have a cushion to see me by that. I had no financial savings.

I went to Ukraine, they gave me a signing-on price, and the very first thing I did was purchase myself a flat again house in A Coruna and take a look at to save what I may. But then you definitely would possibly go 4 months with out getting paid in Ukraine. Or he would resolve that he was going to take 20%, 30% off you. You would go and ask why. Why? Because the president wished to. And that is that.

But you have been enjoying effectively. It’s not such as you have been letting them down.

I used to be fortunate: on a footballing degree, issues have been going effectively. I scored objectives, went to Dynamo Kiev. But day to day it was laborious. You would go unpaid, there have been teammates who did not provide help to, the tradition was troublesome. I spoke to Andriy Yarmolenko about this [at West Ham], and he recognised loads of the issues I went by. We informed loads of tales.

In a scenario like that, what do you do? Call your agent?

What are you going to name your agent for? What can he do? They’re going to do no matter they need to do.


Because the contracts depart you very unprotected. This is the place UEFA have work to do. In Spain it is all authorized, all clear. In Ukraine — and I’m speaking about my expertise, not about the entire place — the working situations weren’t good. Not for me, not for others. My wage was [officially] €500 [a month].

Do you assume a participant will depart Spain to go there and play for €500? I went as a result of I wanted the cash. And then…effectively, you be taught. You want to expertise that to be taught. It was enriching at a private degree. And now I’m house and I really feel lucky, however I fought for that. No one gifted me something, similar to so many individuals.

You go there, you are alone, a child.

No one can go along with you. To get there from my metropolis, it is 4 or 5 planes. A Coruna-Madrid-Prague-Kiev-Lyviv. One time they diverted our airplane to the border and we have been there ready, fifteen hours to cross. We could not land due to snow, so we landed in Poland. The bus driver that they had did not have the visa to cross. We had to pay some individuals to take us over the border of their automobile. There are plenty of tales. I wished out after two months.

But getting out is just not really easy.

I used to be there three years! I wished to go after two months.

So how did you get out in the long run?

By enjoying effectively.

You had to win to persuade the president to allow you to depart?

No, no. The president from PAOK Salonika was the one which satisfied him, by paying. Playing effectively satisfied him to signal me and so after I bought out, it was thanks to him. He got here to Ukraine to struggle for me. He was Russian: he and our president argued, negotiated, and ultimately agreed a deal.

Meanwhile, you may solely wait and hope?

PAOK inform me they need me. I say sure after all. It’s a giant membership. I may play in European competitors. And the contract is sweet. There aren’t any issues: all the things is paid into your account. They got here, fought and bought me out of there. And they modified my life. I had a correct, skilled contract.

Does that make you assume: “bloody hell, football is s—” generally?

But it is not simply soccer. In life, there are a lot of issues which can be s—. Any job could be. But we’ve to perceive that soccer has two components: the sentimental and the skilled. You have to have the opportunity to distinguish between them. The enterprise could be like that. There are tons of people that need to con you, who promise issues. But I feel that is true of any space of life the place there’s some huge cash round.

PAOK opened the doorways and handled me effectively and I can solely say thanks. Club, president, teammates: they have been all superb to me. Also, these are levels of life. You have to dwell them. I’m a dad now: my son cannot stroll but, not to mention run. He has to crawl, toddle, fall, harm himself. That’s how he learns. How do individuals succeed? By having failed 1,000,000 occasions. By studying. And soccer’s the identical.

The distinction is soccer is extra meritocratic than most industries. If you are no good, there isn’t any bluffing your approach to the highest.

[Lucas points to the pitch outside] That? That would not lie.

So getting to Greece is…

An enormous aid! An expert membership. A correct coaching floor, correct journey, actual accommodations. Everything is correct. In Ukraine, the president would stick us in a convent if he bought aggravated with us. There was this convent run by cloistered nuns, who would lease out rooms. We would keep there the night time earlier than video games generally, sleeping in double rooms. It was all very spiritual, very austere. With time, you be taught to recognize these experiences. When I get to Greece after that, PAOK is the very best group on this planet.

After Greece, you lastly get to Deportivo, the group you all the time supported, for the primary time. You’re 26. But then you definitely depart for Arsenal, come again on mortgage, and depart once more this time for West Ham. Even then you definitely talked about needing to come house, how this was your home, that every one you wished was to play for your club. Does that imply you did not need to depart while you did?

Well, look: need? No, however there are alternatives.

But for you or for the membership?

You have to perceive the scenario. Arsenal paid €21,400,000 for me. And a membership that has the type of debt that Deportivo had at the moment, it is laborious for them. I had value them one thing like €1.5m. They’re multiplying their revenue many occasions over. It’s not that they put me up towards the wall or something however they let you know what the scenario is: they noticed that cash as being good for them, to assist them enhance [the situation], to develop.

So, effectively, what occurred, occurred. For me it was an opportunity to go to Arsenal: it is one of many greatest golf equipment on this planet, I received two trophies there, it is the very best membership I’ve been at in my profession when it comes to its historical past, its fan base, the individuals I performed with, all the things. It was unbelievable, actually good for me personally. I had by no means received something; I did there. I used to be coached by Arsene Wenger, probably the greatest in historical past.

But it did not go as you hoped.

Wenger known as me, informed me he trusted in me, that he had seen plenty of movies. I bought on very effectively with him. But then I did not get alternatives. He had Olivier Giroud, Alexis Sanchez, Danny Welbeck, Mesut Ozil. Arsenal signal chosen ones. I did not demand to begin on a regular basis, however a couple of minutes. I scored a hat trick within the Champions League after which did not play a minute in three, 4 video games. So after all you are feeling frustration however you do perceive it: the very best gamers on this planet are there alongside you.

You go to coaching and there is Alexis prepared to play. And you assume: are you higher than Alexis? He’s superb too. He was having an amazing 12 months, probably the greatest with Ozil, Santi Cazorla. Giroud did not play a lot — and he is a world champion, you realize? Alexis was in nice form, wonderful kind. The supervisor desires to win in the long run: and we did win. My numbers aren’t dangerous: I completed that season with 9 objectives and 6 or seven assists. I performed 1,000 minutes. If I play each sport that works out at 20, 25 objectives. And the followers have all the time proven me loads of affection, they appear to have good recollections of me.

You have a 12 months again on mortgage at Depor after which West Ham signal you. Is that return to England in 2018 about proving some extent after what occurred at Arsenal?

No. It was an opportunity to attempt the Premier League once more. In the top, they did not put their religion in me, however that is regular, that is soccer: not each participant will play effectively. I then went to Alaves and there I used to be high scorer till the pandemic as a result of they performed me, trusted in me and it got here off.

The line between success and failure may be very nice.

I do not see it as failure. It’s soccer, not a failure. Sometimes it would not occur. How many occasions have gamers gone someplace and it hasn’t labored? Then they go someplace else and so they’re actually good? Take Alexis: he was unbelievable after I was at Arsenal, then he goes to Manchester United and nothing. So? Are we saying he is a nasty participant now? No. Maybe it wasn’t fairly proper for him. We’re individuals. It’s very laborious to make it, we’ve to recognize that.

In England, my numbers are there: they’re good for the minutes I performed. Then I’m going to Alaves and it goes very effectively. I even get a proposal from Barcelona after I was there, nevertheless it wasn’t to be.

Why not?

Alaves did not need to promote me.

What went by your head?

What can undergo your head? You cannot do something. It’s irritating.

Can you plead? It’s Barcelona!

And it is Villarreal too. But they mentioned: [Barcelona have to pay the full] buyout clause, €15m. I used to be 31 years previous. If it had been €8m, which is what Barcelona supplied, then okay. But not €15m. No pasa nada: that is the way in which it’s.

What are you going to do? It’s a practice coming previous and you may’t get on. You have to perceive Alaves too. They need to keep up and promoting their high scorer is not an amazing thought. It occurred to Joselu the next 12 months when Sevilla wished him and Alaves would not promote. And they went down anyway.

When I had got here again from Arsenal [on loan], I had Villarreal and Valencia as choices, however I wished to go house to Depor. And that 12 months we went down. My solely relegation was right here at Depor, in my house.

That hurts, a thorn in your aspect nonetheless.

Mucho, mucho. I can not neglect that.

You determined you wished to come house to Deportivo for good, despite the fact that that they had slipped additional down to the third tier, however the story repeats itself: Cadiz would not allow you to, not at first. You have been attempting to make this transfer now for 2 years.

I had to persuade them as a result of they wished me to keep. By the top, I had a 12 months left however a proposal to prolong my contract.

What did the Cadiz president Manuel Vizcaino say while you informed him you wished to depart his membership, a first-division group, to go and play for Deportivo within the third?

[Lucas laughs] He’s my mate. So I inform him like a son tells a father. We chat. We sit down. An hour goes by, two, we discuss a great deal of issues, not simply me going to Depor. He understood however he defends his place too. He’s the president of Cadiz! The president of a first-division group with a great deal of followers. I perceive it completely. I’d inform him each day, in the long run, I satisfied him.

And the factor is, I used to be pleased at Cadiz. You cannot be unhappy there. It’s not possible. There’s no approach anybody can ever go to Cadiz and say they do not dwell effectively. Lies! And Cadiz and Coruna remind me of one another so much. I used to be pleased there.

The supervisor, Sergio Soriano, mentioned: I can see you are pleased, that you simply love soccer, however there’s one thing inside you that claims you may have to go house. And you may’t management that. Sooner or later you may have to go house. It was laborious for him to preserve enjoying me as a result of individuals knew that I had requested to go however I saved enjoying. I scored on my remaining sport, which gave me nice satisfaction.

Vizcaino had tried to provoke you into staying by poking at your pleasure, daring you to actually do it: to actually drop down two divisions to a league beneath you, to threat saying goodbye to top-flight soccer ceaselessly. Your agent could not imagine you wished to drop up to now, both. Even in case you do get promoted this season, you will not be again on the degree you left.

That was the toughest half. It’s beautiful to play in primera: you play on the very best pitches, towards the very best gamers. I did that for 15 years in Greece, Ukraine, Spain, England. I’ve solely ever performed seven video games within the second division, after I was beginning out at Rayo. I had solely performed ten video games within the third tier, the place I’m now, after I was within the B group at Rayo. And that is it. Otherwise I had by no means set foot on this degree, so it was laborious.

And then there’s the cash. Here’s the rudest, most ugly query of all. How a lot of a pay reduce did you’re taking to drop down two ranges?

There’s a huge distinction. Mucha, mucha.

How a lot is mucha?

It’s €90,000 internet, this season. Less than that. And I had probably the greatest contracts at Cadiz. I do not know if the best, however roughly. And I had a proposal to prolong it for 2 extra years, paying me extra.

And but you took the reduce. And you paid half the switch price.

€493,000, sure. I do not go to the financial institution and take it out, then pay it in. The Cadiz president does it: it comes off the cash they owed me. But that cash was mine. I had earned it however did not have it but. I used to be fortunate; I had all the time had good contracts within the first division. And nearly €40m have been paid for me in switch charges, so I really feel like I all the time have left some cash, that they’ve finished good enterprise with me.

This time, fairly actually.

Look, it is some huge cash, sure. But I do not like to discuss it in these phrases and it was one thing I wished to do. Come house, play. I used to be considering: how would you like your profession to finish? In the primary division? Or at house, attempting to take your group again there? I had the prospect to proceed at Cadiz and different first-division groups have been too. But I felt like going house and attempting to end my profession there. Why not? In my thoughts, I had wished this for a very long time.

Even after I first went to Cadiz I used to be already enthusiastic about that. At the time it could not occur as a result of Deportivo have been in administration. Look, the way in which I see it, the cash I’ve invested to come house is effectively spent. Maybe this is not the way in which you imagined it, however that is the way in which life took you.

Do you play otherwise now?

Subconsciously possibly, however I do not assume so. I’ve all the time given all the things; the shirt I’ve worn is all the time a very powerful. But I’m going out at Riazor and for me it is a first-division floor. In reality, it is a first-division floor. It’s Deportivo. It’s 20,000 individuals. Every sport, 20,000!

The day I made my debut there have been extra individuals within the floor watching us towards Unionistas than watching Real Madrid at Villarreal. And while you rating, pfff, the sensation is exclusive. You’re not even aware one way or the other. And then you definitely hear them sing your title. It’s stunning to be house once more. I really feel at peace with myself.

How does it really feel to be the very best participant within the league?

I’m not.

You are.

I’m simply pleased to be right here. And it is laborious, I can guarantee you. There are good gamers right here.

But you are the Messi of Primera RFEF.

Buah! Not in any respect! Let me go up with Depor and play towards him in primera.

But he wont be there.

Maybe he’ll come again. God keen. I’ve performed towards him plenty of occasions. We have suffered him at Riazor. Let us undergo him once more — or attempt not to. That could be good. Playing Cadiz could be unbelievable. If I rating, they’re going to perceive. It would piss them off however they’d be pleased for me.

And then a Depor-Celta within the first division. That’s the sport I’d most like. I can not even think about promotion; I do not need to. I need to dwell it. I’d love to have the opportunity to retire from soccer leaving Deportivo in primera. That could be good.

How a few years do you may have left?

Lots. Because I nonetheless have the need, the fervour. I’ve not had too many huge accidents, no operations. As lengthy as I get pleasure from it, I snicker, I come right here every day and find it irresistible, I’ll preserve going. I’m doing what I all the time wished to do. I’ve been in soccer since I used to be a little bit child studying to tie my laces, till the day that you simply untie your boots for the final time and hold them up, the day you permit soccer behind, nothing would be the identical. The scent of the grass within the morning: it is distinctive.

A good friend who’s a Depor fan says she cried while you got here again — and she or he hadn’t cried for ten years. Are you conscious of simply how huge the influence has been?

We’re individuals, we’ve feeling: to see somebody so pleased for you, so happy you are there, is priceless. People right here have lived by so many disappointments, the scenario on the membership is just not straightforward, you are feeling that it is simply not occurring, that soccer has not been giving this metropolis again what this metropolis was giving soccer. What this metropolis was chasing, what it was dreaming of, was simply out of attain. And possibly in me they see hope, perception.

People discuss in regards to the ‘Lucas Effect,’ and if that impact has been generated, I’m pleased. But something I’ve given was repaid many occasions the second I noticed all these individuals at my presentation. It was low cost! That’s the best affection I’ve ever felt in my life. I’ll carry that with me ceaselessly. One day I’ll inform me son: I lived that.

What would your grandparents assume?

They could be very proud. If there’s something I may change in my life, I’d give all the things to be with my grandparents. I used to be 14 when my granddad died, 16 when my grandmother died, I wasn’t actually aware of all the things they imply. In my case, much more so as a result of they have been the mother and father I by no means actually had. I need my son to spend plenty of time with them right here, as a result of that hyperlink is particular. The love and grandmother and a grandfather have, nobody does.

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