Though currently enjoying life in the German Bundesliga, Vicente Sanchez took a somewhat circuitous route to European football. For many years, the Uruguayan forward plied his trade in Mexico, dazzling crowds with a mix of pace, jinking runs and sidesteps that drew comparisons with the great wingers of old. After several fruitful seasons there with Deportivo Toluca, the 27-year-old decided to take on a new challenge last January with a move to Germany's Schalke 04, where he has since been busy fighting for a regular first-team place and silverware on different fronts.
As engaging and witty as ever, the Celeste stalwart tells FIFA.com about his first six months in Europe and shares his thoughts on the Uruguay national side as they do battle for a place at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.
FIFA.com: Vicente, what are your thoughts on your first few
months in Europe?
Vicente Sanchez: Things have been going well. If I'm honest it's been something of a learning curve, but I'm happy with my decision to come over here. Maybe things could have been better if I'd played more games and secured a place in the starting eleven, but up to now I've had no regrets about coming to Schalke.
Having earned your spurs in the Uruguayan and Mexican
leagues, did you find moving to the Bundesliga a big step
On the football side of things, not really. Over here, there's a more physical and faster brand of football where every game is a battle, especially for players with a similar style to myself. However, you do notice the difference in the quality of the football from back home.
Playing in the UEFA Champions League must have been a great
Yes, of course, because it gives you the chance to pit yourself against the best players in the world. It's a measure of your level as a footballer and that's always an important experience in terms of improving as a pro. We didn't do too badly at all in the tournament, and it was more out of bad luck than anything else that we didn't go further.
Schalke were knocked at the quarter-final stage by
Barcelona in a closely fought contest. Was that disappointing?
Yes, we were obviously far from happy in the dressing room afterwards, although I think we were very unlucky and didn't deserve to lose. I didn't get as much time on the field as I would have liked, but my team-mates really gave it their all.
You also fell just short in the Bundesliga, finishing third
behind Bayern Munich and Werder Bremen...
Yes, Bayern proved impossible to beat in the league, they were just unstoppable from the very start. We gave it our best shot, but it was just beyond us. Next year I think we can do better.
How have you adapted to life in Germany, not to mention
learning a new language?
I haven't had too much difficulty adapting to the country. I feel comfortable here, and the people have treated me well. I got here in winter so there was a bit of a change there. The language is another story altogether. I've barely mastered a few words up to now, it's not easy. The thing is, I don't understand what they say in the newspapers, so I don't care if they criticise me (laughs).
How do you understand the coach's orders?
Sometimes I don't get what he's saying - he'll tell me to go right and I'll go left (laughs). However, a lot of players in the dressing room speak Spanish, and the previous coaching assistant (Nestor Jevtic) also did, so there's no major problem on that count. This has helped me settle into the team.
With so many players from the Americas in the squad, do you
listen to Latin American music in the dressing room?
(Laughs) No, we don't go that far. It would be great but I don't think they'd let us.
What are your plans for the future? Do you think you will
stay at Schalke or would you like to move to another European
I've signed a three-year deal here and I like to fulfil my contracts, so for now I see my future at Schalke. Having said that, when I got here I was told I would start games and up to now I've not played as much as I'd like to. But I hope that this will be resolved next season and that I can continue playing here, because so far I'm happy living in Germany.
Nailing down a starting place would be important for
gaining a foothold in the Uruguay team as well...
Yes, of course, mainly because there is stiff competition for places among the forwards. We have the advantage of having a number of talented strikers in the Uruguay team with differing styles of play. (Diego) Forlan and (Sebastian) Abreu tend to be penalty-box predators, while others like myself tend to come from deeper. The problem is that there are a lot of us, and not enough places to go around (laughs). But I agree, it's important to be playing for my club so the [national team] coach sees that I'm performing well and keeps me in mind for selection.
How do you rate Uruguay's chances of qualifying for
South Africa 2010?
We have a good chance. I think we've played some good matches and we're up there striving for that prize. The South American qualifying zone is getting harder to call. Brazil and Argentina no longer have things their own way, and other teams like Paraguay and Colombia have been going well. That's why I think Uruguay have a great chance of making it to the World Cup, and playing at it would be a dream come true for me.