At the age of 27, Real Madrid and Spain central defender Raul Albiol has forged a career he can be proud of. As well as running out for one of the biggest clubs in world football, he has also won the FIFA World Cup™ and two UEFA EURO titles with his country.
A polished performer on the pitch, the former Valencia youth player is also a force to be reckoned with when it comes to video games, a major passion of his, as he explained in an interview with FIFA.com.
“I was a really good player before, but what with my daughters and family, I only get to play about an hour a day now,” he said with a frown. “I have to say, my game’s not what it was.”
The lure of the console and technology in general is something the Merengue centre-half has found hard to resist since he was a child: “I’ve been a passionate video-game player for as long as I can remember. I used to play Kick Off as a boy and other non-sports games. These days I always play FIFA because it’s the most realistic of the lot.”
Our interview took place on the roof terrace of the Hotel Reina Victoria in Madrid, which is hosting the FIFA Interactive World Cup 2013 Grand Final. Monday was day one of the tournament and Albiol, who whenever he gets on the FIFA13 console usually selects the teams he plays for in real life, was there in person to watch the opening games.
Impressed by what he saw, he said: “These kids can really play. We play a lot in the Spain team because we’re cooped up for a long time in training camps and we share rooms. We organise a few tournaments but the standard’s nowhere near as good as this.”
Naming Jesus Navas as the best gamer in the FIFA World Cup-winning squad, the smiling Albiol then discussed his team selections: “I always put myself in the side. If I don’t pick myself, then who else am I going to put? Sometimes I even send myself up front if my team’s chasing the game!”
Does that mean to say he knows how to make the most of his strong points? “Not exactly," he responded. "I wish I were a bit faster. I’m going to see if I can find a way of improving my performance levels in every area.”
Albiol mocks Real team-mate
Our chat is briefly interrupted when one of the finalists scores a goal through Xabi Alonso, causing a surprised Albiol to joke: “No way! Xabi Alonso never scores!”
Albiol enjoys an especially close gaming relationship with Real Madrid colleagues Sergio Ramos and Gonzalo Higuain.
“Sergio plays FIFA13 but he’s not that good at it,” explained Albiol. “We used to play war games before but I got bored of him trying to be the hero all the time. He’d end up with all the ammunition and weapons and would just shoot at everyone. I told him I’d just sit back and applaud him if that was what he wanted. Gonzalo is the funniest of the lot, but he never beats me.”
As our chat neared its end, Albiol, who knows a thing or two about winning big titles, passed on some valuable advice for the 21 finalists: “They need to enjoy it, stay focused and make the most of every chance they get because there are no 90-minute games here. It’s the one with the coolest head who’ll win the title, and I hope it’s one of the Spanish boys.”