Gaizka Mendieta on Lionel Messi, mistakes, legendary kitmen and the future

WEST BROMWICH, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 26:  Gaizka Mendieta of Middlesbrough in action during the Barclays Premiership match bettween West Bromwich Albion and Middlesbrough at the Hawthorns on February 26, 2006 in West Bromwich, England  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Gaizka Mendieta
Image: Gaizka Mendieta finished his career at Middlesbrough after spells at Valencia, Lazio and Barcelona

"I’ve been there, we’ve been through it, we’ve all made mistakes."

It's twelve years since Gaizka Mendieta played his last game of professional football. Three countries, two Champions League finals and one World Cup were some of the highlights, but it's life after football that occupies his mind now, for himself and other professionals.

Along with Stylian Petrov and Emile Heskey, he is embarking on a project, Player 4 Player, that will look to help professional footballers with the transition into retirement. It's something personal for the former Middlesbrough midfielder.

On retirement

"I've been there, we've been through it, we've made mistakes. When it comes to investments, I've lost money through bad decisions in property. I've seen teammates lose millions and if they had been helped by someone properly, from the right perspective who understands that business then it could've been different for them.

Mendieta takes on Arsenal and Ashley Cole in 2001
Image: Mendieta takes on Arsenal and Ashley Cole in 2001

"If someone professional had looked at the contracts I might not have invested in certain things after I retired. There are many situations where footballers are losing lots of money. During their careers and losing it faster after they finish.

"So many footballers are going bankrupt four or five years after retiring from the game. When we think about footballers, we only think about those who make millions. Some only make a million. We are looking at a maximum of ten years where you make a lot of money. If a professional has a 15-year career, their peak is five to seven years. During those years they may suffer any kind of problems such as addiction, so we are hoping to help and support them through that."

Also See:

On agents

"We've seen a lot in commissions being lost along the way with agents and intermediaries earning money where they shouldn't rather than the players. In that sense we have a reputation throughout the game that can change that.

"Agents take care of things like contracts and sponsorships, but they don't normally invest time on middle and long-term planning, which is what we want to help with.

"We won't act as agents, but we want to compliment them for the players benefit. We've spoken to agents and we're not taking players from anyone. We want players to be comfortable with the whole picture.

"Regardless of your career there's always things that can be done better. My dad was a professional player and was my agent until I became professional. There's many things I would've done differently, especially how I left Valencia. It was very rushed."

Mendieta left Valenica to join Lazio in 2001
Image: Mendieta left Valenica to join Lazio in 2001

La Liga: Sevilla surprise package, Messi's last season?

"It could be a very open title race. Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and I'd put Sevilla up there this season. Barcelona and Real Madrid are still the favourites for me. Because of the transfer market, we're going to see a lot more younger players given chances this season and I think those four teams are the main candidates.

Lionel Messi's contract at Barcelona expires in the summer of 2021
Image: Lionel Messi's contract at Barcelona expires in the summer of 2021

"I thought Messi would leave. It was clear from his circle that was what they wanted. I feel two ways about it. On one side I'd like to see him spend his whole career at Barcelona, but on the other side I'm curious about him playing for a different club and competition. I have no doubt he'd be fantastic but as a former Barcelona player I'm happy he stayed and having him in La Liga is great for the fans. In the back of my mind I know a move is likely in the future so let's enjoy him while it lasts."

Football or music?

Since retiring, Mendieta has found a career in music as a DJ, once appearing at festival Bennicasim. Like football, coronavirus has hit the live music industry, so what has he missed more?

"Tough one! I miss both…I'll go with football but it's hard. With football you have the TV work, going to the stadium, the atmosphere, I miss playing football also. So I think on the scale football brings a lot more to my life and with many different aspects. But I miss them both!"

Espaneta - a Valencia legend

On October 14, legendary Valencia kit man Bernardo Espana, better known as Espaneta, passed away at the age of 82. Mendieta shared many years in the dressing room with one of Valencia's most loved characters inside the club.

"Kit men don't get the recognition they deserve, they go beyond the dressing room. He was a legend within the club, he helped so many players, the first and last person you'd see every day.

"He helped with all kinds of problems and was always there for you. The hours he put in with the boots, clothes, everything. Heroes like that don't get the recognition the deserve, but if you know them you love them.

"People like him love the club. That's why they become kit men. They feel close to the club and you could see by the response on social media from people like Juan Mata and David Villa what he meant."

On the future

"The target is to be more involved in a football organisation. To get into management you need to start as part of the staff, to get a job as a manager with no coaching experience is difficult.

"If not coaching, I've done my qualifications to be a director of football. I'm prepared for it at an organisation or a club, that's the idea and that's the target."

LAST CHANCE To Land The £1m!

LAST CHANCE To Land The £1m!

You read correctly. The £1m Super 6 jackpot is up for grabs for one last time this weekend. Play for free, entries by 3pm Saturday.

Around Sky