Now a five-time world champion, having added a third MotoGP crown a few short weeks ago to the two he won in 250cc, Spanish motorcycle racer Jorge Lorenzo is as competitive, ambitious, hard-working and naturally talented as they come.
“It’s amazing. It couldn’t have been any tougher or more exciting to win,” Lorenzo told FIFA.com, reflecting on his latest world title triumph in an exclusive interview in which he also spoke of his other great passion, the game of football.
FIFA.com: You had to fight for this title all the way. Does that make it more special than your previous ones?
Jorge Lorenzo: Yes, because it was difficult. We were behind all the way and had to claw back a lot of points, and we only took the championship lead in the very last race. When you’re playing catch-up and you finally achieve your objective, it feels so much more special. The standard in MotoGP is so, so high at the moment with [Valentino] Rossi, [Marc] Marquez, [Dani] Pedrosa and the two Ducati riders [Andrea Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso], who are very good. Beating them gives me a huge amount of satisfaction.
The fans always focus on the riders but behind them there’s a whole team who do their bit to make sure everything works out right. Drawing a comparison with football, could you describe the rider as the striker who scores all the goals for the team?
In terms of the media, the midfielders, defenders and goalkeepers also have very important roles to play for the team. They might not be as important as the star striker but there’s not that much difference. In motorcycling, though, the only person you really see on TV is the rider, which is why people think we’re much more important than the rest of the team, but you do need them for the bike to run properly.
You’re well known for your love of football and for being a Barcelona fan. Do you watch games or do you prefer to play when you get the chance?
I don’t play much during the season because I’m worried about picking up a knee injury. My trainer has sort of banned me from playing, but if we’ve got a long break in between races then we’ll have the odd weekend game with the team.
Are you any good?
(Laughs) I try to hold my own, but it’s not easy because I don’t get to play very often. Sometimes I like to play in defence and others I like to get forward and score goals. It depends on how the team’s looking. I end up taking these matches almost as seriously as the races because I’m very competitive and I want to win, even if it’s just a game.
Luis Enrique saw that teams had got wise to Barça’s tiki-taka and combined their short passing game with a more counter-attacking style.
Are you as competitive when it comes to football as you are on a bike?
Even more so! I get more angry when I lose a match than I do when I lose a race. I have to say, though, that we try to make sure no one gets injured when we play, starting with me. I play in more kickabouts than anyone.
Voting is now under way for the FIFA Ballon d’Or. Who would you vote for if you could, and why?
I haven’t seen a lot of games, but I think it’s been pretty even this year between Cristiano [Ronaldo] and [Lionel] Messi. It’s hard to choose between them. Messi is all natural talent and he's been taking things very seriously lately, as you can see in his physique and the diet he’s following. He could ease off if he wanted to and not train as much, but he wants to carry on being the best. He’s a great example. For a culé like me, Messi is a demigod because he’s given us so much. So I'm going to stick with him, though I also admire how much work and commitment Cristiano puts into getting better every day. He’s spent years looking after himself. You have to admire their ambition. They’re very similar.
Are you like them in any way?
That’s hard to say because they each have their own character. I’d say I’ve got things in common with the two of them, with Messi and Cristiano.
What are your first FIFA World Cup memories?
The World Cup is a must-see event for any football fan and I've watched all the most recent ones. The first one I remember is France 98. I can recall Brazil’s win in 2002 and Italy’s in 2006, and watching Spain win in 2010 was a very intense experience. I watched the Final at home with friends. At the last World Cup we had a race on the day of the Final. We were heading to the airport and we stopped at a restaurant to watch Germany take on Argentina.
How do you manage to follow Barça when the season’s in full swing?
We’ve got a lot of culés in the team and they keep me posted on what’s happening, especially my chief mechanic Ramon Forcada. Then there's the social media, and if they do put a game on the TV at the circuit, then I’ll usually watch it in the hospitality suites.
How do you think Barça are shaping up after their treble win?
It’s difficult to maintain your intensity when you've won the lot, but Luis Enrique is the right man to keep them motivated. He was very ambitious as a player and he had a lot of grit and determination. The [Pep] Guardiola era was pretty much a one-off, but Luis Enrique saw that teams had got wise to Barça’s tiki-taka and combined their short passing game with a more counter-attacking style. They deserve a lot of praise for what they’ve done.