Veteran player Patxi Puñal has played 500 matches in CA Osasuna colours. A lifetime dedicated to football and to one team. The LFP.es spoke to him about the current situation in Spanish football.
LFP.es: Osasuna have almost reached the middle of the Liga BBVA table, how do you see the team right now?
Patxi Puñal: We are improving with time. The team now has confidence, and I think we can win any match, not just at home, but also on the road.
LFP.es: Do you think the change of manager has been beneficial?
Patxi Puñal: Yes. Sometimes it is tough because the players will not always be behind a manger. We are very happy with what Javi asks of us. Javi's team is more receptive to new techniques. José Luis Mendilibar prepared for matches differently. These coaches are open to new ideas.
LFP.es: How has football changed in the last 20 years?
Patxi Puñal: It has changed in so many ways. Since Barcelona have monopolised possession, all the other teams are trying to do the same.
LFP.es: Do the players prefer this type of football?
Patxi Puñal: It has taken hold because Barcelona have done it so well and they have set a trend. When it is done well, as players we enjoy it more than winning in a different way.
LFP.es: Don't you think trying to imitate Barcelona can be disastrous?
Patxi Puñal: Sometimes it is. You have to do it well, and the manager has to take great care over the details.
LFP.es: How is José García, the youth academy player looking?
Patxi Puñal: The kid looks great, but he has a long way to go. You need a lot of things to make the first team. There are times that if you do not know how to put it all together it is tough. He is in good shape and he looks very good, but we have to see how he progresses. You have to arrive at the right time. It is a shame that we cannot give more minutes to players of this type in the league.
LFP.es: What is the secret to reaching 500 matches with one team?
Patxi Puñal: First of all you have to love football. There are good, bad and mediocre times. You have to eat well and take care of recovery above all. I take a lot of care to rest well now. Siestas are essential now.
LFP.es: If you had to pick one of the teammates you have had as your favourite, who would it be?
Patxi Puñal: I would pick Pablo García. He was a very special guy in every sense. He had an incredible left foot, and off the field he was a very special guy. I found it hard to keep up with him in a few seasons.
LFP.es: Do you think that Osasuna could make better use of its youth academy?
Patxi Puñal: It is a losing battle. Osasuna needs to sell to be in the first division, much to our despair. We would have a great squad if they had all stayed with us. Times are not good for club economy. You have to have patience with home-grown players, there is no choice.
LFP.es: What is the secret of Osasuna's dressing room?
Patxi Puñal: I have not played in many dressing rooms, but there is a great atmosphere in ours. Anyone who joins us does so to contribute. It is a working environment, but we are also friends and colleagues.
LFP.es: How important are the fans in El Sadar to your results?
Patxi Puñal: The fans are very important to us. The fans really identify with the team on the pitch and they are used to suffering. The more we need our fans, the more they are there for us. They rarely criticise us. Our fans are second to none.
LFP.es: What memories do you have of the UEFA Champions League playoff against Hamburger SV?
Patxi Puñal: It was an amazing day. There was a great atmosphere in the city and we really enjoyed it. It would have been the icing on the cake to play in the UEFA Champions League.
LFP.es: What does Patxi Puñal do in his free time?
Patxi Puñal: I try to watch quite a lot of football. When I have time I watch football, but I also like to relax with my dog. Nature helps me unwind a little.
LFP.es: What is your best memory of football?
Patxi Puñal: My favourite moment was the final of the Copa del Rey and everything it meant to the city of Pamplona, it was incredible.
LFP.es: What do you hope 2014 will bring?
Patxi Puñal: I hope to continue enjoying football injury-free. And, as for the team, I hope we can stay up.