How many kilometers are necessary to recover from the sentimental breakup with the (football) love of your life? Víctor Sánchez, now a midfielder for Girona FC, thought that he needed at least 18,000. Or what is the same, go to the other side of the world. In the summer of 2020, after eight and a half seasons, assuming the captaincy and dreaming of retiring wearing the blue and white jersey, he had to leave RCD Espanyol Barcelona despite himself after the club’s relegation. And that’s when he decided to go to Australia. There he had the idea of lowering the competitive demands a little, getting to know another football, living with his wife and his two children, the experience of moving to another country, improving his English. At Western United in Melbourne, where he became a permanent fixture, he achieved a great first year, but his destiny would be cut short again, this time by the pandemic. Last summer, at the age of 34, he saw himself without a team for the first time after 15 seasons as a professional. “In June 2021 they locked us up until August almost without leaving the house. At least I was going to train and lead a more or less normal life, but for my family it meant missing out on the whole experience for which we had left. So we decided to go back”, he comments.
Sánchez landed in September loaded with suitcases at El Prat airport, with the transfer market already closed. There was, therefore, no possibility of joining a club until January 2022. At home the news did not sit too badly because the little ones, he says, were excited to have him around for more time and above all to be able to spend time together, finally , every weekend. But since he never contemplated retirement – although this scenario does not scare him, he assures – he immediately went to work and discovered two things: that the training routine of the unemployed footballer is not so different from that of the one with a contract and that he was not alone in the fight to return to play in the elite.
The player born in Rubí and based in Sant Cugat, about 20 minutes from the Catalan capital, decided not to get up too late, exercise hard, return home, eat well, rest and start again the next day. Every morning, from Monday to Friday, and with strict discipline, he went to l’Hospitalet de Llobregat (Barcelona) to train under the orders of Javi Carrión, a former parakeet physical trainer, and in the company of old acquaintances who, for one reason or another , were in the same situation: the ex-espanyolistas Marc Navarro and Víctor Álvarez and the azulgrana youth squad Carlas Planas, unemployed since his departure from the Cypriot league last summer. Without cameras or journalists or groups of fans at the door, they all recreated a kind of sense of group that not only allowed them to perform exercises on the field of play, but especially to wrap themselves up in moments when the most difficult thing is “to be in the right head.” Sanchez thinks. “What the footballer needs is to play, to compete. And more at ages like Marc’s, at 26, where a break like this can suddenly stop your progression.
Thus, struggling not to lose faith or form, the weeks passed until Christmas, with the winter market just around the corner. The best hopes of the man who started his career back in 2007, under the orders of Pep Guardiola in the Blaugrana subsidiary and in the company of world champions such as Pedro or Busquets, were fulfilled in the form of a call from Girona FC. Of his companions, he was the only one who found an interesting destination or offer.
Motivation for promotion
Arriving at the LaLiga SmartBank team was like returning to the summer of 2020. Despite the fact that at that time he chose to go to a minor league like the Australian one, in part to release all the tension experienced in his last year as an Espanyol player, there was an offer that made him hesitate. “Girona already made me an offer then. The truth is that former teammates like Stuani had told me about the wonders of the club. They told me that they work very well here. That’s why when the opportunity arose again, I didn’t hesitate.”
After overcoming some inconvenience that stopped his participation in the first few weeks, the midfielder experienced his return at the end of March with a victory against the current leader of the competition, UD Almería. The good tone with which he entered an already broken match, of comings and goings, served to confirm his good feelings in training. Despite the inactivity, and “the lack of a preseason that really gives you gas for the whole year,” he stresses, he was ready to compete. Something also perceived by his coach, who in three of the following four games handed over ownership to a footballer who again, just a month later, had to stop again due to a hamstring injury.
The experienced player knows that this circumstance is just one more stone on the often bumpy road that every professional has to travel. His objective is to be ready for the last and transcendental competition duel that must serve Girona to tie one of the positions –from third to sixth place– that give access to the Play-off. After all the difficulties that he has had to overcome on a personal level in recent times, Sánchez believes that he has more than deserved success at the end of the season. Just like his current club, which he faces with great hopes the possibility of accessing a promotion promotion again that the last two seasons ended dramatically, with two defeats in the crucial game. “We have the mentality and the qualities to achieve it. I have never experienced a promotion [a LaLiga Santander] and it would be one of the most special things in my career. I want to enjoy the two, three years that I have left to the fullest”.