Miguel Pérez Cuesta, Michu, has made a sensational start to his Premier League career with Swansea. The Welsh club snapped up the Oviedo-born midfielder from Rayo Vallecano for a bargain two million euros after he ended last season as the highest-scoring non-striker in La Liga. Michu is currently tied as top scorer in the English top flight with Manchester United’s Robin van Persie.
On December 25, Vicente del Bosque handed Michu the best Christmas present he could have hoped for: “[Celta forward] Iago Aspas and Michu will appear against Uruguay,” the Spain coach said. In just two years, Michu has gone from being a regular substitute at Celta to the national team. On Christmas Eve, in an interview with EL PAÍS, he had played down any hope of a call-up: “Just to be able to train with them for a day... But I can’t really see it.”
Question. Do you ever think your success could be fleeting?
Answer. For sure. I said to myself: ‘Miguel, this will come to an end and you have to keep doing what you’re doing: training, resting, being professional.’ It’s all happened very fast. My last start for Celta was on a January 2. I played 20 or 30 minutes for four or five months. My contract ended and I thought to myself, ‘what now?’”
Q. Have you found the perfect fit for the passion you play with in the Premier League?
A. It’s one of my characteristics. I live for soccer; it’s my passion, my job and what makes me happy.
Q. How do you feel physically after such end-to-end games?
A. With less energy than in Spain. I may be right or wrong but because of how hard it was to get here I always go to the locker room saying ‘I’ve had it.”
People don’t try to cheat the referee and your teammates and coach will tell you it’s not okay"
Q. What does the hand-to-ear goal celebration mean?
A. I identify with the fans that come to cheer us on, those that lose their voices shouting. It’s like I’m celebrating with them.
Q. What’s Premier League soccer with Swansea like?
A. We’re a team that tries to play good soccer no matter the stadium, a philosophy that came from [ex-coach] Roberto Martínez. It’s less tactical, with more space, and more physical than in Spain. You don’t have to wait until the second half here for a game to open up and that is good for me. In order to read the games I listen to the coach. [Michael] Laudrup gives you a lot to chew over with videos. I look at the goalkeepers to see which is their good leg to I can try to find the weaker side when I shoot. They are little details that help a lot during games.
Q. Which defender has impressed you most?
A. [Vincent] Kompany of City and [Fabricio] Coloccini of Newcastle. But I look more at attacking players. [Marouane] Fellaini is incredible, he can create something out of nothing and scores goals. Luis Suárez is a phenomenon. I also watch La Liga a lot. [Radamel] Falcao is a beast.
Q. But penalty areas in the Premier League are tougher...
A. Yes, but people don’t try to cheat the referee and even your teammates and coach will tell you it’s not okay to do it. If you get tripped, you go down, but you don’t try and force a penalty in a one-on-one. The physical aspect is hard as well. A lot of players live in the gym; some of the central defenders here are monsters.
Q. Do you think you’re more of a striker or an attacking midfielder?
A. I prefer to play behind a striker, but I’ll play wherever I’m put. I’ll play in goal if I have to. I can surprise people coming into the box. When you play behind a striker they don’t know whether to mark you with a defender or a midfielder.
Q. Does Laudrup still pass the ball without looking in training games?
A. Yes, you think you know what he’s going to do but he moves his ankle, looks the other way and lifts the ball over the defense. He’s still very skillful.
Q. What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you in Wales?
A. When I landed, the person who was supposed to pick me up forgot and I ended up staying with the handyman and his mom because the hotel wouldn’t take a booking at 3am.