With Spain set to kickstart their FIFA World Cup 2022 campaign tomorrow, La Roja captain Sergio Busquets sat down for an extended chat with MARCA, during which he discussed a myriad of topics ranging from his future at FC Barcelona to the possibility of retiring from international football.
Busquets is playing his fourth World Cup and is the only player remaining in the current squad from the team that won the tournament in 2010.
On the prospect of playing his fourth World Cup, Busquets said: “I couldn’t have imagined something like this. I dreamed of being able to play in a World Cup with the national team. I went to South Africa very young, at the age of 21, and it worked out in the best way.
“I had teammates next to me that I used to watch on TV and they were examples for me. Now I’m on the other side, in my fourth World Cup, but the dream is the same.”
When asked if he is still dreaming of winning the World Cup again, the Spain and Barcelona captain replied: “Of course I am! Firstly, because I’m a very positive person. But above all because I believe in the group, in the work the team is doing, in the coach. Why shouldn’t we fight until the end?”
Busquets is the most experienced player in the squad currently which has a lot of talented youngsters. On how it feels to be the senior figure in the dressing room, the 34-year-old said:
“[laughs] I tell many people that when I’m at home I’m with my children and when I come here, and I have to disconnect, it’s even worse. It’s the law of football. Now I’m the most veteran, the captain. The feeling I have is that I belong to a great group that everyone wants to be part of. We are going to give our all to do our best.”
On having to mentor and control young talents like Pedri, Gavi and Nico Williams in the national team camp, Busquets said:
“More to Gavi! A little bit to everyone. That’s the thing about youth. They may be more joking, more absent-minded, but when it comes down to it, they all pitch in and listen to the older ones.”
More to Gavi! A little bit to everyone. That’s the thing about youth. They may be more joking, more absent-minded, but when it comes down to it, they all pitch in and listen to the older ones.”
Talking further about Gavi, Busquets insisted that nobody matches the 18-year-old for intensity, but there are times when he needs to be reigned in by the senior players.
“He’s like that. I am lucky that he is on my team. Nobody beats him for character and intensity. He has some very good things for the team and others that he has to polish. At his age, imagine the things he can add to his repertoire.”
On how he would deal with the 18-year-old if he was an opponent, Busquets said: “Yes, we are different. When you have an opponent like that what you have to do is look for your strongest points and the weaknesses he might have.”
Moving from one Barcelona youngster to another, Busquets talked about Ansu Fati, who has had a hard past couple of years due to injuries but has won a spot in the Spain squad for the World Cup.
I think he is doing very well. Getting on the World Cup list was a boost, a tremendous help. He is not playing at Barça as much as he wanted to. He comes from a long injury and is going through a period of adaptation,” Busquets said.
“He’s ready to play a lot more. Hopefully, he will be at his level, because he is a different player and he can help us a lot.”
On whether Ansu was hurt by the injury issues and the subsequent reduction in his game-time, Busquets said: “He was out of the team dynamic for a long time. Only he really knows what he suffered at that stage. Not being able to help is the worst thing for a player.
“But I’m sure that those difficulties are going to make him stronger. But that is the past, it doesn’t exist anymore, there is only the present and the future. And he is going to help us a lot.”
Busquets also seemed to confirm that this is going to be his last World Cup, which is understandable considering he will be 38 by the time the next tournament comes along.
“Well, it looks like that. In four years’ time, I’ll be old enough. But I’m not thinking about that, only about the illusion I have, to help the national team. I think we can be the solid team of the last championships, very difficult to beat,” he said.
“The national teams suffer against Spain. Hopefully, we can be brilliant to reach our goal. It’s my fourth World Cup, but the excitement is the same as it was in South Africa.”
The midfielder also hinted that retirement from international football was close, saying: “At the moment I have this season left. I’m not going to make a decision now or when the World Cup is over, but as I told you in the interview we did before the European Championship, it’s getting closer and closer
On the criticism that he cops from certain sections of supporters, who claim he has slowed down, Busquets said: “When you’re in the front line, in the permanent spotlight, in the national team, and in Barcelona, it’s the norm. Even more so when you don’t win.
“I’m the first to be very demanding of myself. I have never been a fast player, on the contrary. But I feel very good, otherwise, I wouldn’t be here. What I want is to enjoy myself, and those debates are for those who have to have them.”
There have been a lot of speculations surrounding Busquets’ future, with his contract expiring at the end of the season. Recent reports even suggested that the 34-year-old had offered to leave the club in January itself, but Xavi dismissed the idea.
Responding to those claims, Busquets said that there have been no such discussions, as he said: “I talk a lot with the coach and the president. I like to feel useful, not to be a problem. But that has not been discussed, I did not raise anything in particular.”
Discussing his favourites for the World Cup, the Barcelona and Spain captain said: “Brazil and Argentina are very strong, with great individuals, which is something that helps at certain times. But there are many teams who are in good form. A lot of things affect a World Cup.
But we mustn’t spend too much energy on this. We have to focus on ourselves, on the next game. We have seen in the last few tournaments that there is no point in setting a possible path. What matters is Costa Rica and a group that is quite strong.”