The former footballer, who has successfully joined the Movistar + broadcasting team, assures that he is not affected by the comments that seek to condition him
“I try to explain football in the way that I would tell my friends what happens on the field in real time”
“In private I am from Real Madrid, of course I do, but I do not put one before the other. It would be irresponsible and I would not be doing my job well”
After a few years away from music, he has relaunched Pignoise and intensified his creative drive: “At home I have 174 new songs”
In a few months Alvaro Benito he has earned the respect of the always touchy and often irrational soccer public opinion. With precise comments on the ins and outs of the game and away from the common places, Benito has revealed himself as an effective communicator. And it was not easy for him. It was his turn to occupy the immense space of Michael robinson.
The 44-year-old former Madrid player has been overcoming complex challenges for a lifetime since a terrible knee injury amputated a more than promising career. He reinvented himself as a rock star with Pignoise, then as a coach and now as a television commentator. Whoever knows him highlights his tenacity and his immense capacity for work.
There seems to be a consensus that Movistar has been right with you in the difficult replacement of Michael Robinson. Did it weigh on you at some point? The first thing is that I do not consider myself a replacement for Michael because he is irreplaceable. He invented a way to tell this and together with Carlos (Martínez) they have been part of the lives of many generations of soccer lovers. So if I were to consider being his substitute, I would lose out. I try to explain football as I would tell my friends so that they could understand what happens on a field in real time.
At what point did you realize that you could be good at analyzing the game and explaining it? Good question. I walked away from soccer after my retirement. I found music a blessing because it is something that I love and I was able to turn it into a profession. It allowed me to get away from football and for it to heal in a natural way. Then time passed and it was like getting closer to my ex-girlfriend (laughs), who I missed, and that call got louder and louder. I realized that I was very interested in the reasons for the game and I decided to get the title of coach. I had a few years in which every day I inquired into what other coaches did, how they worked, read about group leadership, about coaching, I was very interested in everything that being a coach involved. I was training for many years as well as training and when the time has come to communicate it, it has come naturally to me; I never considered being a certain type of commentator.
Piqué recently valued very positively how he does it but, on the other hand, considered that he cannot comment against Madrid. Defend yourself. The shirts I see when commenting on a match do not condition me. In fact, if any reproach I receive is from a Madrid fan who is waiting for a white supporter commenting on football, but I will never play that role. I’m a professional. Then in my privacy I am from Real Madrid, of course I do. But I don’t put one before the other. It would be irresponsible and I would not be doing my job well.
Have you talked to Piqué about it? We had a very friendly and loving conversation. I hadn’t taken it the wrong way anymore. I have a lot of respect for him and that’s where the thing ended.
But have you noticed, now that you are in the front row, a lot of pressure? Me? This job does not pressure me. Absolutely. Pressure is playing at the Bernabéu with 18 years. I come to comment on matches and nothing else. Besides, I am not the important one. The important ones are the ones on the grass. You will be wrong sometime, but I don’t feel conditioned. Football generates these kinds of irrational comments, for better and for worse. I have lived it as a player. There the roller coaster was bigger. When you win you are the king of the world and when you lose you are a mercenary. You have to go your way and be honest. It is impossible for everyone to like you and the worst thing you can do is try it, because you are going to stay in a lukewarm area and in the end they will not value your opinion.
A pause to scribble the story of Álvaro Benito. In 1995, he made his debut for Madrid at the age of 18 and Jorge Valdano as coach. He immediately became a starter in an eleven that included the fifth of Vulture, Laudrup, Luis Enrique, Hierro or Redondo … In his second game he scored his first goal. Praise rained down on him. Until in a match with the U21 team, he injured his knee. The first operation, instead of healing him, ruined his career. He went through a Stations of the Cross of up to nine operations and endless hours of undergoing rehabilitation. At 25 he threw in the towel.
You have an unfortunate story, but one of the best things about football is that ability to generate anecdotes and locker room legends. It is the great unknown. From the outside, people see football as if it were Hollywood and in reality the players are normal guys, most of them very young boys. A lot of.
“I try to have empathy with the one who is down there. That not everything is rosy. Everything has its servitudes and in the case of football on an emotional level it is quite large”
Do you take that into account when prosecuting? Of course. I see it in hindsight now. I see myself with 18 years playing for Madrid and I realize that being a player for Madrid and Barça is not a responsibility that you have to bear at that age. His only concern should be which career he is going to study, which girl he is going to meet for the weekend and have a beer with friends. That must be your vital thought at that age. Instead, you must endure a pressure that, if you cannot, you are not worth for that profession, because it is a privilege too. I try to empathize with the one down there. That not everything is rosy. Of course they pay you a lot of money and to do something you like, but everything has its easements and in the case of football on an emotional level it is quite large.
The courage of the strong head. And there are people who do not have it. There are footballers who when they are not going through a good football moment, neither do they go through it on a vital level. You take it home, you sleep badly, you are sad, you have problems with your close nucleus because you are not doing well in football … It is not easy to dissociate one thing from the other.
How far would you have come as a footballer? That is never known. My little thorn that I may have about what happened to me is not having seen myself in my fullness. We will never know. Let’s see, it looked good. He gathered many things: physically he was good, he had personality, he understood the game, he had a good shot, a good one on one. The head well furnished. I’m a worker. I think I would have had a good race, although the ceiling you never know …
And will he be a coach again? Well, I am in a situation where if something irreplaceable comes out I will take it. If it is not irreplaceable, I cannot afford to give up what I have, which I like very much and which I believe can last for many years. But if it comes out, I have to try it. Hard to come out, too.
Why? If a sports director hires an experienced coach and goes badly, it is the fault of the coach who has not hit the mark; If instead he chooses someone without experience and it does not work, it is the fault of that sports director for his choice to hire a boy to try out for Primera. Although I do not share that from experience. There are many examples. In the end there are good coaches and others who are not so good.
How about Koeman? It has taken time to put the pieces together. I think that little by little several players have found their position and the team has improved a lot on a defensive level. I see the team very committed, and that has surprised me a lot, especially in times of difficulty. He has also managed to keep Messi motivated and he can be seen to be enjoying himself on the field. And with the three centrals he has found a lot of balance. It has especially favored Busquets and De Jong. In the end, I think it’s a smart coach to find out how your team can perform better. You can have an idea in your head and the field puts you somewhere else.
And he has won over the locker room. I was speaking before about group leadership. That is important. In a team like Madrid or Barça it is the most important thing. In fact, it is the hardest thing to train. Everyone has a knowledge of the game, a style, at this level there are no bad coaches. The difficult thing is that a group believes you, and especially when things are not going well. In the low moments Koeman has been very calm, he has kept his speech, and I think the dressing room is with him.
In one of his songs with Pignoise, Álvaro sings: “And now that dreams die in reality / Feel the ground, when stepping on / And now that the bones settle with age / Feel the ground, when stepping on”. Perhaps these verses are not inspired by his football misery, but it may seem like it.
With Pignoise, a band of frenetic guitars and vigorous percussion born in 2002, he built a career that was propelled by the sound of one of his pieces in the series ‘Los Hombres de Paco’. From a hobby for bar platforms, he went on to professionalize and perform in front of thousands of spectators. He managed to link 140 concerts. “Crazy”. After almost five years of hiatus, Pignoise fine-tunes new material. If it weren’t for the pandemic, a bowling-filled summer awaited him.
Are you relaunching your music career right now when you are riding the crest of the wave as a commentator? Why? In 2015, with a newly released album, they called me to train at the Real Madrid quarry and I stopped playing music. But as a result of I was fired from the club [por criticar a Casemiro desde un micrófono de la SER] I got the playing bug again and in the summer of 2019 we gave a few concerts that turned out wonderfully. For whatever reason, the group has aged well, we have taken a generational leap and guys who were very young when we were successful, the songs are known and they came to the concerts. So we consider going back. Because we feel like it and without any expectations.
“For whatever reason, the group has aged well. There has been a generational leap. Guys who were very young when we succeeded, the songs are known”
I understand that it is a songwriting machine. I do a lot. My only talent for music is my imagination. I neither have a good voice nor am I a great guitarist, even though I work hard to improve both facets, but I do have a lot of imagination to create.
Apparently he takes advantage of the AVE, when he comes to Barcelona for a match or the Champions League program, to write songs. On the AVE I make the letters. We must seize the time. I leave the rhythmic bases already made, the whole song hummed with the melody I want, I record them in the voice notes of the mobile, and with the headphones on I write the lyrics. So when I return I have an advanced task.
How many songs does it have? New I’m 174, I looked at it the other day. I compose a lot.
What provides more adrenaline, playing or touching? Soccer is a different level of passion, much more sacrificed than music, but much more. Soccer gives you a lot of kicks on the back, but in terms of adrenaline there is no color. The day you go home after a good game, having won something, you are floating.
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Recommend me a couple of albums. The latest from Biffy Cliro, who is my favorite band, and from Billy Talent as well.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.