Cucurella, raised in the Masia, tanned in the mud | Euro Cup Germany 2024

“You would never sign him, but he always plays.” “He is not afraid or afraid to compete at a high level.” “With him on the field, the team plays better.” “He is tenacious, intelligent and brave.” Mendilibar (Eibar), Bordalás (Getafe), Pochettino (Chelsea) and Jordi Roura (Barcelona). Four phrases and four ways of interpreting football; all, however, surrendered to the same name: Marc Cucurella. In the nuanced Spain of Luis de la Fuente, the Chelsea full-back carves out a niche for himself, capable of interpreting the elegant football of Barça as the vertical of Eibar, the rough of Getafe and the pragmatic of Chelsea. There is, in any case, a common thread in Cucurella’s career. “He was not the typical Barça full-back. In Eibar he started badly and in Getafe and Chelsea too, he has always had a hard time. And he has always worked very hard,” recalls Jordi Roura.

Cucurella was a member of the Espanyol youth team when Barça signed him. “He doesn’t have that refined technical quality that our full-backs usually have,” explains Jordi Roura, former Barça youth football coordinator. “But be careful,” he adds; “When I say he’s not that fine I don’t mean he’s not good. On the contrary, he is very good. “Most of our full-backs are almost wingers.” For Cucurella, however, the Camp Nou door was closed. Ernesto Valverde did not see him as a complement to Jordi Alba. In his place, he chose Miranda, today at Betis.

It turned out that Cucurella didn’t even bother. And, unlike the majority of Barça youth players who seek shelter in a football similar to that played at La Masia, he doubled down: Eibar. “He is neither fast nor strong. Of all those measurements we do, with so many machines we have, it does not fit into any of them. But he is a footballer. He is smart and chooses well,” explained José Luis Mendilibar, Cucurella’s coach at Eibar. Cucurella’s change was not only in the game, but also on the field: he started playing inside.

His evolution in Ipurua did not convince at the Camp Nou. Then, Getafe appeared. “Because of the attitude he has: I knew he was going to arrive. He always wants to improve and learn. He has ambition and is very competitive. I am very proud of his progression. I have a very great affection for him, not only football, but also personal. Very good feeling,” explains José Bordalás. Cucurella was a football and financial success for Getafe: he bought it for 11 million and sold it for 20 million to Brighton.

“At first he went to two places like Eibar and Getafe that were not suitable. However, they were decisive for his career,” explains Roura. One year at Brighton was enough for him to conquer the greats of the Premier. And he convinced none other than Guardiola. In fact, Begiristain, City’s sporting director, was willing to pay 50 million for him. But in the Seagulls offices they wanted more. So, nothing better than Chelsea: 65.3 million to make Cucu the fourth most expensive Spaniard in history.

New team, new problems. Cucurella spent two months in a hotel until she found a house. They broke into him. In addition, he faced family problems that complicated his daily life. Not to mention the dance of coaches that he suffered at Stamford Bridge: Tuchel, Porter, Lampard, Hamberg, Saltor and Pochettino. Last summer, according to the Chelsea coaching staff, he was the fourth full-back. Ahead of him he had Chillwell, Naatsen and Coldwill. He prevailed over all three. “He has earned it hard to be where he is. He did it through sacrifice and effort,” recalls Bordalás.

Without Alba (retired), nor Balde and Gayá (injured), Cucurella also won against Grimaldo on the left side of La Roja. And always with the same formula. “He is a normal boy. And normality is a great compliment in this world of football. He is brave and tenacious. That has been a constant in his life,” concludes Roura. A formula that made him go from La Masia to the mud, until he jumped to Chelsea, his ticket for the Euro 2024.

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