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Guardiola, Zidane and Figo – How Gaizka Mendieta learned from his idols

5:26 PM GMT+8 22/02/2019
Kily González, Mendieta, Zahovic Valencia 2000
The former Valencia midfielder man says the desire to best La Liga's greatest stars was the key to his transformation into a world-class midfielder

Former Valencia midfielder Gaizka Mendieta says the challenge to surpass his idols was the secret to his success in La Liga.

The ex Spain international was one of the league’s stars during an eight-year career with Los Ches in 1990’s, leading the club to a Copa del Rey title and two UEFA Champions League finals.

The Bilbao-born midfielder came through the club’s youth ranks and faced a battle to break into the side at right-back before settling in his natural position and going on to be one of the club’s all-time greats.

“When I joined Valencia, obviously, I wasn’t the player I became,” Medieta told official La Liga sponsor, Clear Men.

“I knew my chances were small. Even if I played a few minutes, I had to be at my best. Also, I wasn’t playing in my natural position.

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“I had a lot of challenges, but for me, it was that. It was a pure challenge. As a sportsman, I like challenges.”

And Mendieta drew on the inspiration of his idols to overcome the task, insisting it was the desire to reach their level that helped his transformation into one of the world’s best.

“I always looked up to people like [Pep] Guardiola, [Zinedine] Zidane, [Luis] Figo, [Fernando] Redondo,” he said.

“I looked up to them like idols to learn from. Then you become friends, teammates.

“So, it’s quite a strange process, but it’s the way you get through. It’s like from idolising these players to wanting to be better than them.”

Steve McManaman is an official LaLiga ambassador and was speaking courtesy of Clear Men, official global partner of LaLiga.