Javier García Portillo (Aranjuez, Madrid, 1982) is a Real Madrid youth academy legend with over 700 goals scored during his time with the Whites. The prodigal son returns to ‘La Fábrica’ for matchday 24 of the Liga Adelante campaign looking to take all three points off Real Madrid Castilla as Hércules’ top goalscorer. LFP.es had a chance to sit down and speak with him about his thoughts ahead of his trip to Valdebebas.
LFP.es: You return to ‘La Fábrica’, the academy where you made a big impression and are fondly remembered. How do you feel ahead of this match?
Portillo: As the years go by my feelings have changed. It has been years since I left there, but going back to Valdebebas to play Castilla, and not the first team, is a return home. I spent a lot of time there and Madrid thought me how to be a person and a footballer.
LFP.es: What are your fondest memories of your time in the Real Madrid youth academy?
Portillo: I have very fond memories. I was treated excellently in Madrid. Also during that time we had a great team and had a fantastic time together.
LFP.es: Your return aside, this is an important match against a direct rival near the bottom of the table. How will Hércules approach the game?
Portillo: Castilla have improved a lot, now they are a much more dangerous side. They have very good players, like most reserve teams, and it will be a very complicated match. It isn’t a final, but it is a very important encounter against a direct rival. We are just a few points ahead of them but a defeat would not see them climb above us. We lost to Tenerife and now need to win in Valdebebas whatever it takes.
LFP.es: This Liga Adelante season is more competitive than ever, proof of this is that Hércules sits one point above the relegation but just six off the promotion play-off places. Do you think it will remain this tight until the end of the campaign?
Portillo: I reckon it will last until the end of February or the beginning of March. From March onwards each team’s position will more or less be decided. All the teams are very similar and evenly matched. For me, every year in the Liga Adelante is fantastic.
LFP.es: Does it surprise you to see a historically big club like Hércules struggle so much. Does the team have a plan to get out of the current situation or are you keeping calm for the moment?
Portillo: We can’t be calm, especially after the defeat against Tenerife. We can’t be complacent. Things are very tight and now we get ready to face Castilla, a direct rival and a very good team which will definitely make life hard for us.
LFP.es: Despite things not going that well for the team, you must be happy with your Liga Adelante goal tally (17 goals last season and 7 in the present campaign)
Portillo: As a team we have struggled a bit during the last season and a half. Hércules shouldn’t be near the bottom of the table but due to the circumstances that’s where we find ourselves. Now we have to move away from the danger zone quickly in order to finish the season as high up the table as possible. On a personal level, I feel like an important player for Hércules, I am starting games and 26, 27 goals in a season and a half is a decent return. I want to continue scoring goals that earn my team points.
LFP.es: Who were the toughest teams you faced during the first half of the season?
Portillo: We are all very similar. The important thing in the Liga Adelante is to defend well and at the moment we are the team with the most amount of goals conceded, and that takes its toll. Look at the case of Deportivo, they are conceding very few goals and that has helped them pick up a lot of points. There are also very good teams like Las Palmas, Sporting Gijón and Recreativo de Huelva, although all the sides are very evenly matched.
LFP.es: Do you dream of returning to play in the Liga BBVA?
Portillo: Thanks to God I am someone who takes good care of himself. I stay in shape and obviously I would like to play in the Liga BBVA. Without a doubt I would like to return to the topflight and hopefully I can do it with Hércules. Given the circumstances it is going to be difficult, but we are trying to improve day by day in order to return.