In a candid chat with Spanish publication Mundo Deportivo, Barcelona left-back Alejandro Balde has said that Jordi Alba helps him a lot despite the fact that the two are battling for the same position not just at Barcelona but also at the Spanish national team.
Balde arrived at the Spanish national team camp after fellow left-back Jose Gaya was ruled out of the 2022 FIFA World Cup due to an injured ankle. The 19-year-old went on to make his national team debut against Costa Rica in a 7-0 win, coming on as a second-half substitute.
Speaking about the new experience, the Barcelona defender explained how veteran players like Jordi Alba made him feel at home.
“They [veterans] guide us. For example, Jordi Alba, who plays in my position, usually advises me. On the first day, he already told me that in the national team the full-backs were positioned differently and he already explained it to me. He gives me good advice,” said the 19-year-old.
Balde added that he is considering his fight with Alba as a healthy competition because it is making him a better player.
“When there are two in the same position, people see it as if it were a war, but no. In the end, if he’s okay, he’s going to make me better. And if I’m fine, I’ll do better for him. It is competition, but it is healthy and good. It’s not bad at all because he makes me better and that’s good,” he added.
Meanwhile, speaking about his maiden national team call-up, Balde revealed that he only came to know about his selection a couple of days before it was made official.
“It was a dream debut. For it to be a debut and on top of that in a World Cup. They told me two days ago… It’s a dream for me. I’m happy for the opportunity and above all for the team’s victory.”
At the same time, he also said that he sent his support to Gaya for missing out on the world event.
“Yes, first I want to send a message of encouragement and support to Gaya because it is very difficult to stay out of a World Cup two days before it starts. When they told me that Gaya was injured, some were already making jokes at me.
“‘You can go, you can go,’ but I wasn’t going to celebrate anything until they told me. They told me and I already called my parents. We were all very happy and grateful to be here,” he added.
When asked about his opinion of Luis Enrique, he added, “He is a very good coach. The little I’ve spoken to him, I’ve liked him a lot. He tells me to be myself.
“I’ve already had several video sessions with him and he’s given me the idea he has. The staff are all very charismatic and cheerful. They don’t see it as pressure, it’s something different.”
“The game idea is similar but each coach has his own. It’s not that he’s from Barça or Madrid. Luis Enrique has his style and we’re going to follow him.”
Balde also spoke about Barcelona’s season so far and how the team must go for all trophies after getting eliminated from the UEFA Champions League.
“I think it was hard to be eliminated from the Champions League this year, because it is the biggest competition, but we have a lot ahead of us,” he said.
“We have the league, the cup, the Super Cup and the Europa League, which we have to win. The fans have to be convinced that we are going to give our maximum.”
The 19-year-old acknowledged that things have been moving very rapidly for him this early into his senior career, saying:
“It’s true. Four months ago I was playing most of my games in the reserve team and now I’m with the senior national team. I have my family, my friends who help me to keep my feet on the ground and I’m coping very well.”
Balde also admitted that there is still a long way for him to go and that there are aspects of his game he still needs to work on, as he said:
“I am very young and I still have a lot to learn. For example, defence, which is always something I’ve been told I can improve. There is plenty of time to progress.”
Talking about the pressure that comes with playing for teams like Barcelona and Spain and how he handles it, the youngster added:
“Maybe, yes. In the end, when you play for teams like Barça, one of the most important factors is knowing how to deal with the pressure. You have to be prepared both mentally and physically.
“With the national team there are also several of us who have been together since the Under-15s and it’s been six or seven years now. From a young age they tell us the idea they have and when you get here it’s clearer.”
Lastly, on Xavi, he said, “With him, I am learning a lot and lately he has been trusting me a lot. I’ve had a lot of minutes this season and I’m very grateful.”