The list of talented Spaniards to pull on Liverpool’s red jersey is as lengthy as it is unpronounceable. The latest being Jesús Joaquín Fernández Sáez de la Torre (wisely shortened to Suso), who, three years after signing as a 15-year-old, made his full debut this season and has become a shining light for the Merseyside club. ShortList caught up with the 19-year-old to find out where the hard work was done.
English football can be very physical. Have you had to work on your strength to avoid being knocked off the ball?
Yes, a lot. At the beginning of my career in England, I was young and it’s very different from football in Spain. Players are more physical here, so I push myself more in the gym. I like to think my muscles have developed now and so I’m not so easy to knock off the ball.
What weights do you hit?
We’re lucky at Liverpool because each player has a personal programme, and my coaches have tried to make my chest stronger. I spend a lot of time on the bench press – heavy weights but done very quickly. For my arm muscles, I do 30 or 40 pull-ups a day.
What’s manager Brendan Rodgers like on the training field?
He pays attention to detail. If the team makes mistakes in a game, or he thinks he’s done something wrong tactically, he’ll try to fix it by running through those plays again in training. This way we don’t make the same faults again. He’s like a Spanish manager.
In what way?
He ensures that the players have the ball at almost all times during our training sessions. This is a good tip for anyone – if you’re always touching the ball, your control will improve. It’s not a method you associate with English football training.
Any other good tips to improve ball control?
Make your goals and the pitch smaller and play three against three. The tighter space will force you to think fast under pressure. Possession games are good, too – when one player stands in a circle and tries to win the ball off those passing around him.
Is it tough to train at this time of year in the English climate?
Of course, Liverpool is really cold. It’s always raining. I think that’s why you call it a warm-up [laughs]. But I can’t do anything about the weather – I just wear a big jacket and get on with it.
Are the Liverpool coaches strict about what you eat?
No, I live on my own so I cook what I want and I eat when I want. But you know if you are eating badly. Eating fish after a training session works for me, maybe with a bit of pasta, and then some fruit later at night. A day before the game I’ll eat pasta, so I have energy to burn off during the game.
Do the coaches ask you to speak English on the training field to help communication?
If I speak to the other Spanish boys, I will always speak in my language. But during a game, I’ll speak English.
Can you understand what Jamie Carragher is saying?
[Laughs] I don’t find it easy. But my understanding of him has got better since living in the city for a couple of years. Spending time with Steven Gerrard has helped me understand the local accent – he’s a little easier to understand.
How do you unwind on away trips?
Like most of the guys, I enjoy PlayStation games. No one wants to play José [Enrique] – he’s a huge gamer. Some people are good at video games, but he lives them.
Suso’s killer tip
Rest properly – not sleeping can make you play badly. After training, I just take a big siesta.
Suso was speaking at the launch of Need for Speed Most Wanted, out now for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation®Vita handheld entertainment system, PC, iOS and Android™.