First shirt, childhood idols, most impressive opponent, best atmosphere... Olympique de Marseille goalkeeper Pau López sat down for a chat about anything and everything!
Pau, what is your first memory of football?
"I remember my first games with the team from my village, where I was born and raised. I played with my friends and at that age. The most important thing was to have fun and play together. Everyone dreamed of becoming a professional player, but for me it was never an obsession."
Have you always been a goalkeeper?
"I started playing in goal because my father was a goalkeeper. But as a kid I stopped playing football for a while and switched to basketball to follow my best friends. I just wanted to have fun, whatever the sport. Then I came back to football, of course."
'My first shirt? A David Beckham jersey'
What was your first football shirt?
"I remember a family trip to London. In a souvenir shop, I saw a David Beckham Manchester United shirt. My brother told me that Beckham was going to sign for Real Madrid that summer (2003) and I asked my parents if they could buy me that Beckham shirt. It was the souvenir I wanted to take back from our trip."
Did you have an idol?
"I didn't really have an idol when I was young. But as I trained at Espanyol, I watched a lot of the first team goalkeepers. At the time, there was Carlos Kameni, the Argentine Cristian Alvarez, and Kiko Casilla too. Since I dreamed of keeping goal for Espanyol, I focused on them. I watched the players in front of me, but I never had a great idol like some people do."
Do you remember your first time in a stadium?
"It's hard! I think it must have been at the Olympic Stadium in Barcelona, in Montjuïc, just after I joined the Espanyol youth academy. The club offered us tickets and I went with my parents."
When you turn on the TV to watch a match, what do you pay attention to?
"To be honest, I don't watch much football when I'm at home. I love to play but I don't watch many games, especially since I have children, I don't have much time. But of course, when I am in front of a match, I pay attention to the goalkeepers, to the decisions they make, to their positioning, to the saves they make to see if it can be useful for my own game."
'The Orange Vélodrome is a magical stadium'
Who is the most impressive player you have faced?
"Kylian Mbappé! He is at such a high level... He is above everyone in France. When I was playing in Spain, it was the same with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, who were really playing at a very, very high level."
What is your favourite move on the pitch?
"What I like is to have fun, to enjoy myself. And you enjoy it the most when you manage to play at your best. When you get to the top flight, there's a risk of losing the passion you had as a child, but you have to enjoy every day, every training session, every match, because at the end of the day, it's always about football. Of course it's more complicated in the first division because there is a lot more pressure, it's your job and there are the emotions of the fans around you, but when you manage to enjoy it, you realise how lucky you are."
What is the best atmosphere you have ever experienced?
"The one at the Orange Vélodrome! It's amazing. I've played at clubs known for the passion of their fans, like Bétis and Roma, but at OM it's different. The stadium really pushes you, it makes a lot of noise during most of the match. It's a magical stadium."