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Jordi Alba talks Xavi, Pique, Gavi, Balde, Barcelona future, salary cut

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Photo by JOSEP LAGO/AFP via Getty Images

Jordi Alba is going through an interesting period in his career at FC Barcelona. The 33-year-old has been the undisputed first-choice left-back for the entirety of his stint at Spotify Camp Nou, but has found himself warming the bench this season, thanks to the emergence of Alejandro Balde.

Indeed, Alba’s game-time has taken a major hit this season, with the veteran star starting just nine of Barça’s 20 La Liga matches and was left out of the Spanish Super Cup final against Real Madrid as well.

In all, he has played 19 matches (14 starts) and has come up with a return of one goal and six assists, showing that he still has plenty left to offer to the team.

Meanwhile, Alba’s contract with Barcelona expires in 2024. Having tried to force him out of the club last summer, the Catalans are planning to review his contract again this year in their bid to slash their wage bill.

With so much going on around him on and off the pitch, Alba recently sat down for an interview with MARCA where he discussed a host of topics related to his career, the club, his future, and a lot of other things, excerpts from which are as follows.

On his fitness and physical conditioning: “As the years go by, you take more care of yourself in terms of nutrition and physiotherapy. There is a nutritionist at the club and I also have a private nutritionist who has helped me a lot. In the past, I used to eat a lot of stupid things and when you’re older you take care of yourself even more.”

On the managers he has played under: “Luis [Enrique] is a leader for the group; [Ernesto] Valverde is serenity; [Quique] Setién is a person who likes to have the ball with a good style; [Ronald] Koeman is a very good coach and a club legend; and Xavi is a methodical coach.”

On his relationship with Xavi: “Well, it’s not the same. It’s clear that the situation changes a bit from when you’re a teammate to a coach, but the relationship is good.”

On Barcelona’s recent lean period: “When we were winning a lot of titles we didn’t really value it, and when we stopped winning we realised how difficult it is to win a title. We saw it as something normal, but it’s not.”

On whether he wants to fulfil his contract: “Of course. I feel capable, and I think I’m at a good level.”

On his reduced game-time: “It’s true that I’m not playing every single minute, but when I do play I try to give my best. And when I don’t play, I try to help my teammates from the bench. It’s something new for me, but I’m happy with this role. I like to give advice to my teammates and help them.”

Alba’s game-time has taken a hit this season (Photo by JOSEP LAGO/AFP via Getty Images)

On being benched: “It’s the coach’s decision. I just focus on training, being at the highest level, trying to play well, and then the coach decides. Whatever his decision is, it’s fine for me. I’m motivated and happy.”

On whether he will take a salary cut: “I have a year left on my contract, and if necessary, I’m willing to reduce my salary. It’s the club’s decision, and I’ve always helped when they’ve asked me to do so.”

“A lot of lies have been told about the salary cuts, but I have always helped the club, yes. There are things that are said that hurt, but you have to accept it. I know the truth, and I know what I did, and I am calm. I always want to help Barça.”

On whether he thinks about leaving Barcelona: “I feel good, and capable of staying at Barça. The coach and my teammates are behind me. I feel good, and the day I don’t feel capable of playing here I’ll be the first to leave.”

On the Spanish Super Cup triumph: “It was a turning point. It was against a direct rival, and that motivates us more. We were superior and deserved the title. It gave us confidence, especially to the young players, because it was their first title. It was very special for them.”

On whether Barcelona are favourites to win La Liga: “Madrid will push until the end, it will be very difficult. Yes, we have a good advantage, but we can’t relax… It’s all in our hands.”

On the upcoming game vs Villarreal: “Villarreal are similar to us, they like to have the ball. It will be a very difficult game.”

On Quique Setien: “It’s not easy to arrive in the middle of the season. We played great matches, but when it went badly it wasn’t just because of him, it was also because of us. Setién did a good job, but it was the players who were responsible.”

“The truth is that Setién did well. He tried to apply his ideas, which for me were very positive. But, unfortunately, it wasn’t our best season.”

Alba sees a beast in Gavi (Photo by KARIM JAAFAR/AFP via Getty Images)

On what has changed within the team now: “Now we believe we can win. We’ve played some good games, others not so good, but in both cases we’ve won. Before, if we didn’t play perfectly we couldn’t win. Now we can compete.”

On going from a starter for Spain at the World Cup to being benched at Barça: “They are different coaches, it all depends on what the coach wants. I always try to give my best.”

On what Xavi seeks of him: “I always try to adapt to what the coach asks. I like to play higher up, to give the last pass. And there are the results, with the assists I’ve given.”

On what advice he gives to the youngsters: “That it’s complicated to be a Barça player. That now it’s all very nice, but when the difficult moments come, you have to have a very strong mentality to withstand the criticism and the pressure.”

“It’s difficult to get into the first team at such a young age. I tell them to take advantage of the opportunity, to be clear about which club they play for. And that they don’t just play for any club, but that they represent Barça.”

On Alejandro Balde: “I try to give Balde a lot of advice, so that he continues to grow and learn.”

On Gavi: “He’s a beast. He’s great, with his intensity he brings a lot to the team. He’s a kid, but with an incredible maturity. He still has a lot to learn, but he will be a very important player for Barça and the Spanish national team.”

On Gerard Pique’s retirement: “It hurts. He was a fundamental player for the team, and in the dressing room he was a very happy person. His absence is noticeable.”

On whether fans have been unfair to the club captains: “A lot of lies have been told, and they hurt because we are from La Masia. There are lies and lies, but we can’t deny what is said, like denying things every single day. Criticism hurts.”

On the referees and VAR: “It’s difficult. The referees give us a lot of talks, but everyone interprets it differently. It’s not easy for them, and the VAR helps, but then the decisions contradict each other.”

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