As a player at Real Madrid, Michel Salgado has accumulated a very impressive trophy cabinet, which includes two UEFA Champions League medals, an Intercontinental Cup, a UEFA Super Cup, four Spanish league titles and three Spanish Super Cups.
Yet with his time at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu coming to an end, Salgado opted for an eyebrow-raising move. Instead of choosing to see out his playing days in his homeland or opt for a lucrative move outside of Europe, the former Spain international chose to sign for Blackburn Rovers, one of the founder members of the Football League in England, known for their battling style of football under Sam Allardyce.
The veteran English manager had previously signed Ivan Campo and Fernando Hierro during his successful tenure at Bolton Wanderers and was delighted when he attracted Salgado to Ewood Park. The Spaniard has been a big success in east Lancashire, with their fans taking him to their hearts: "He came from Real Madrid. He didn't cost us a quid!" goes the cheery chant from the terraces.
Yet the admiration is mutual. Salgado is loving his time in England, a place he believes is the 'cradle of the game,' as FIFA.com found out recently.
FIFA.com: When a lot of players choose to leave a country towards the end of their careers, they opt for the Middle East where the climate is beautiful, so why England?
Michel Salgado: I wanted to try the Premier League. I had the chance to come here to Blackburn Rovers and have tried to learn more about the English game. There is an impression in Spain of the Premier League, which I have too – and that’s a love for it. I felt that I had more football to play at the top level. I had the chance to sign for two years with Blackburn and it is a big challenge at my age.
Has the move proved to be the right one for you and the family?
I think it has been the perfect move. Like you said, it is not only about me but it is about the family. We are living in a great place in Manchester with a great school for the children. They are learning English, which I think is very important, and for me it is the same. I’m living a new experience. When you are 34 and you have played at Real Madrid for ten years, have lived a lot of experiences, been lucky and won everything, you need a new challenge. Looking back over the last year, I think it has been the right move.
When you arrived in England you said that it wasn’t about the weather, it was about the football, so which parts of the English culture and lifestyle have you particularly enjoyed?
To be honest I am enjoying everything. I am really lucky because the private lives of players in England are really good, unlike in Spain. I am also enjoying the football side. It is different but I am learning, which sounds weird at my age, but it is really good for me – for the future as well as for now. With the food it is not like the past, I think you can now eat what you like in England, as there are a greater choice of restaurants and so on. Maybe the worst part is the weather but I am from the north west of Spain so I am used to the rain! We are really happy here and it was a surprise for me.
In England it is pure football, physical football, football for men. I’m living a great new experience where we have to battle for every point that we earn.