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'Believe me, I'm very happy here'

Britain's most expensive player rejects reports of an imminent return to Rome and picks out England's captain as the World Cup star

Saturday January 26, 2002
The Guardian

"It's normal, completely normal. That's what the press does: looks for a story or creates a story." Juan Sebastian Veron is trying to draw a line under the recent flood of stories suggesting he might leave Old Trafford and return to Lazio at the end of the season, less than a year after joining Manchester United as the English game's most expensive player.
"Maybe it's because I've learnt the hard way," he continues. "This talk of Lazio, the reason I don't see it as important is because it's not true. Maybe Lazio are interested in my return but I've said this clearly: I'm happy here, very happy. Things might work out spectacularly well or less well for me but that doesn't change the way I see the institution, the team, English football and the English people who have really treated me well."

All the same he did speak to the Italian press about his strong feelings for Lazio? "Yes, yes, but if you read the content of the interview it's very different from the headline that was blown up, which said I wanted to return to Lazio. That is just not the case. Lazio want me back and so there's a certain sector of the press playing around with that, but that's all it is: a media game in which I am very much in the margins."

Perhaps incited by this apparent show of disloyalty, United's fans have been less than charitable to their 27-year-old midfielder. During the victory over Blackburn last weekend there were signs that some in the Old Trafford crowd were losing a bit of faith in their Little Witch. United may have recovered from their pre-Christmas wobble with nine victories on the trot but Veron has not been at his best. On Tuesday, though, when the run ended at home to Liverpool, he showed signs of a recovery.

"I returned to what I'm used to expecting from myself," he says of the match. "Physically I'm getting there; I've had a few little problems. Nothing important enough to influence my performance but I hope I am now getting back to what we're more used to seeing."

Veron may not be leaving this summer but his manager is - something which was thought to be having a destabilising effect on the United players. Veron, however, says they are "too engrossed in the different championships" to consider Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement. "Maybe when the season's end approaches some nostalgia will set in, at least among the players who know him best. But I'm kind of new, I don't have a sense of his departure."

Veron's £28.1m arrival was so drenched in superstardom that the idea of him as the new kid on the block seems strange. "I am, I am, of course I am," he insists. "Apart from Van Nistelrooy, Blanc and me most of the others have been around for years. Well, and now Diego [Forlan, the Uruguayan striker United signed last week]. But the group that came up from the youth teams together - Beckham, Giggs, I think Butt, the Neville brothers - naturally they know each other incredibly well."

But Veron maintains he gets on well with all of them, including David Beckham, with whom the tabloids have suggested there may be no love lost. "Look, and this is the absolute truth, I have a very good relationship with David, very good. He has been really helpful to me in several situations, which says a lot about him as a person. He is a great person.

"For example, at times when he's not played and I've played in his position, or vice versa, we've always talked about it. That isn't necessarily the case, you know; it can happen that you're on the bench and someone else is playing instead and you might sulk a bit. But I swear he has surprised me with his attitude. In football terms I think what he represents both for Manchester and for England speaks for itself. I'm not just dishing out compliments here, I think he is one of the main figures, if not the figure, in English football and I think he could be at the World Cup as well."

Driving in Veron's muddy jeep from United's Carrington training complex towards his home in the Manchester suburbs - an ultra-modern sound system booming out Argentinian cumbias - talk turns to the fraught economic situation in Argentina, and a comparison of toddlers' sleeping habits. "Fortunately I've never been one to sleep late," he says, before admitting happily that Iara (2) and Deian (1) often sleep until nine in the morning.

At home their mother, Florencia - Veron's childhood sweetheart and partner - is preparing milanesas , Argentinian breaded steaks, while the kids watch cartoons on a flat-screen TV, lounging on white sofas in this exquisitely chic yet palatial old house. Hundreds of framed action shots of Veron line the walls, as men climb up and down scaffolding outside replacing the window frames. Florencia says the blinds she has ordered are taking forever to arrive. This is hardly a scene to suggest the imminent departure of the family back to Italy.

Veron describes his daily life as "normal, very normal. It's taken about four months to get everything sorted, our home, our stuff. And we play a lot of matches, so I haven't got much free time. Plus it's a weird year because of the World Cup, so there's even more games coming up. I hope next year will be quieter; I'd like to travel around England a bit. But for now there's just the odd meal out, trying to get to know the city.

"In Italy we had to concentrate with the team before games, spend the night away, so I really spent more time at the concentrarion than at home. I'm really enjoying being at home more, hanging out with the kids."

Argentina are 4-1 favourites to win the World Cup and Veron is a crucial piece in the manager Marcelo Bielsa's masterplan. Bielsa is an admirer of English football and Veron, too, stresses his respect for the mindset of footballers here.

"They have an enviable attitude of never giving up," he says. "A game's not over until the ref says so. In other places maybe you're losing and you think 'this can't be saved' but here players believe they can always turn it around, as we saw on Tuesday night." He grins ruefully. "It's very useful experience for me."

So Veron is cautious about that "deadly" Group F, in which England and Argentina will meet at the Sapporo dome on June 7. "We're going to have to work a lot harder than other countries," he says. "But I believe we'll go through and, if we all arrive in good shape, we can do great things. The English have a very good side, though, young players with lots of experience nevertheless and an excellent manager who handles all the star players well, gets the best out of them."

Sven-Goran Eriksson brought Veron over to Europe for the first time when he was manager of Sampdoria in 1996 and signed him again for Lazio three years later. The Argentinian admits Eriksson was a father figure to him in those days but does not think this will provide any particular advantage when it comes to the World Cup clash.

"World Cup games are very special. There's no such thing as knowing or not knowing someone. I do think it will be strange facing several team-mates and a manager I know well but I don't know about it being an advantage."

Presumably he will be offering his fellow countrymen some advice, though? How, for instance, would he tell them to deal with Beckham? "I'm afraid if I tell you that, you will write it, he will read it and then he'll have time to change his game", Veron says, then bursts out laughing.

"Players like Beckham you can't prepare for. They are unpredictable, like Figo or Zidane, players who with one move can change the entire course of the game. They can complicate things for the opposition a lot. The only thing you can do is watch out. We will have to be very, very careful."

For now, though, Veron's mind is occupied by this lunchtime's FA Cup tie at Middlesbrough. He says he was aware of the traditions of the Cup before but that he really understood it only when he played in United's last-gasp 3-2 victory over Aston Villa in the third round.

"It's not the same to be told as to live through something," he says. "The atmosphere was amazing. When we scored the second goal there was a pitch invasion but, what's more, everyone went back to their seats afterwards. Can you imagine if that happened in Argentina? You'd never get them off the turf again."
 

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Thats because JSV can't sure if Crag. already make the decision.

I know some fans in OT, they all reckon JSVs deal is one of the worst transfer this year, if the condition continues, we can except a sooner back.

Trust me, no good host, no good guest!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I don't know what Manchester United fans you talk to, but I think you've been reading too many newspapers. Juan Veron needs time to settle into the English game and I suspect he will soon come into his own, because he is a class player. Mendieta is in a similar position at your club. You will regret selling him...
 
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