At the age of 5, already settled in Oviedo, I started to play football. I spent the rest of my childhood in Asturias, having fun and feeling more and more attracted by this sport that would eventually become my life’s passion.
I joined the Real Oviedo Academy when I was 12. Being there, apart from making very good friends, I enjoyed football every single day and I started my training as a footballer and as a person. Besides, I was lucky to score plenty of goals, over 100 in the last two seasons I think!
Oviedo, the city where I was raised, was also the first one to see me playing football. I had already played for La Fresneda and Juventud Estadio before joining the Real Oviedo Academy, which was a great step for me by then: I was becoming part of the club where all the kids in those years wanted to play.
Nevertheless, I didn’t spend much time in El Requexón. In 2003, at the age of 15, I was called by the Real Madrid Academy. I remember my time in Real Oviedo with a lot of affection and I’m very grateful to them. I’ve been supporting the club ever since; today, I not only follow the team from distance but I’m a shareholder as well
Real Madrid knocked at my door when I was 15 years old. I played four seasons for the club’s academy. I made my debut as a professional player with Castilla in the Second Division, soon after turning 18.
So, I carried on with my football career far from home, in Madrid. After playing for different age categories (“cadete” and “juvenil”), we won the 2005-2006 League and the Champions Cup with the Juvenil A División de Honor. Those were my first ‘big’ trophies; for me in those years it was like winning the Champions League! After that I skipped Real Madrid C and went straight to play for Castilla. In the 2006-2007 season I played in the Second Division alongside an excellent generation of footballers (De la Red, Javi García, Bueno, Adán, Borja Valero, Negredo or Granero). I had just turned 18.
I finished that season with 10 goals, in the second place of my team only behind Negredo, but we were relegated. We didn’t have much experience in the category and we realised how important it is. Later on, before turning 20, an opportunity arose to join the first team of another big club: Valencia CF. In Madrid I became more mature (also because I was far from home) and a much better footballer in many senses thanks to the advice of the managers I had each season, something that have helped me throughout all these years. It was a crucial stage in my football career.
I signed for Valencia in 2007. I spent four fantastic years there. I won my first title as a professional player: the Copa del Rey in 2008. Besides, I made my debut with Spain while playing for Valencia. I keep great memories of my time in the club!
I signed for Valencia CF before the 2007-2008 season. The start was not very consistent but after Ronald Koeman’s arrival I played more regularly, which is always very important for the development of a young player. I made my debut in the Champions League against Chelsea in December 2007, in Stamford Bridge. Back in September I had played my first minutes in la Liga, against Almería. That season, though, the Copa del Rey was definitely the most special competition I took part in, for we lifted the trophy in April 2008 and I was one of the goalscorers (a header!) in the final against Getafe.
Since 2009-2010 I wore the number 10 at the back, following Angulo’s departure. That same number 10 of Kempes or Fernando Gómez, the historic Valencia captain. I was very proud of that. During those years in Valencia I was lucky to share the dressing room with great Spanish footballers (Cañizares, Albelda, Baraja, Marchena, Iván Helguera, Angulo, Morientes, Vicente, Joaquín, Villa, Silva…). We fought every year to make the gap with Real Madrid and Barcelona smaller. With Valencia, I scored 46 goals and gave 52 assists. My memories of the club, the city and the Valencia supporters are amazing… Even the ‘Peña Valencianista Juan Mata’ (my fans club in Valencia) is still active!
My first year in London was wonderful. We won the Champions League and the FA Cup. In 2013 we added the Europa League. I was named Player of the Year by the fans, twice in a row. I scored 33 goals and gave 58 assists in 135 games with the blue shirt.
Life in England was smooth since the day I arrived. I scored in every debut I made: in the Premier League against Norwich, in the Champions League against Bayer Leverkusen and in the FA Cup against Portsmouth. The last two competitions were going to be very important that season. In fact, I can say they are two of the most memorable moments of my career.
Firstly, in the FA Cup 2012, I had the chance to play for the first time in such a legendary stadium as Wembley: the semifinals against Tottenham and the final against Liverpool. The latter brought me a double joy because we won the title and I was named ‘Man of the Match’. It was my first trophy with Chelsea!
But the best was yet to come. After the group stage and all the thrilling of the knockout rounds, we made it to the Champions League final. We were looking for something almost impossible: beating Bayern Munich in their own stadium. Well, we were suffering most of the game (it was meant to be that way), but we won in the penalty shootout. It was our destiny… I will never forget that corner kick that I took to the first post and Didier headed to the net with the strength of thousands of fans… We had won the first Champions League in the history of the club, and all that in my first 12 months!
The Chelsea fans named me Player of the Year in my debut season in the Premier League, which made me really happy. No other Chelsea player had won such award in his first year since Ruud Gullit. It was the icing of the cake after a few months that had been a bit hectic, where we had a change in the management, with Di Matteo replacing Villas-Boas. I feel very grateful to both because both of them had faith in me at all times.
The following season (2012-2013) we worked with a new manager. Benítez replaced Di Matteo in November 2012. With Rafa I got my best offensive stats of my career so far: 20 goals and 35 assists in 64 games including all competitions. Once again I was named Player of the Year by the Chelsea fans, and once again I felt very proud and grateful. Moreover, I was included in the Premier League Best XI and we lifted another continental trophy: the Europa League. I have very nice memories of the final and especially of another corner kick that I took, this time with Ivanovic’s header to win the game and the title. It was my third and last trophy as a Chelsea player.
At the end of January 2014, after a few complicated months, I was starting a new stage of my career, in Manchester United. I was leaving behind 33 goals and 58 assists in 135 games with Chelsea, and something more important: a great bunch of memories and friends for all my life.
‘Welcome to one of the greatest clubs in the world’. My move to the Red Devils took place in January 2014. I was the club’s record signing at that time. I connected with the fans very soon. Nowadays I keep enjoying every aspect of belonging to this club, and I keep enjoying football in such a legendary scenery as Old Trafford. I had the chance to win four trophies and get a standing ovation from Old Trafford in the last home game that I will never forget.
When I arrived here, at the beginning of 2014, the club was immersed in a changing process following the retirement of a legend, Sir Alex Ferguson. Obviously, everybody knew such process was not going to be easy. The first few months were not easy from a general perspective, but thanks to the help of my team-mates and my manager at that time, David Moyes, my integration in the club’s culture was quick. I made my debut with a win against Cardiff and I received the affection of this fantastic crowd very soon (I was chosen Player of the Month in February 2014). I started to realise how big this club is when I saw how many fans we have all over the world. I will never forget my first goal with the United shirt, in Old Trafford against Aston Villa. After my first season, we started to work with Louis Van Gaal.
I experienced my first pre-season tour with the club in the United States and I must say that the impact of the club everywhere we go is absolutely amazing. In the 2014-2015 season we qualified for the Champions League, the main goal then. Also, I was involved in a very emotional moment, our victory in Anfield Road against Liverpool, when I scored two goals, one of which was awarded the club’s Goal of the Season. That game, and everything that came the days afterwards, is something I’ll never forget. In my years as ‘Red Devil’ we have celebrated an FA Cup, a Europa League, a Community Shield and an EFL Cup together and I have continued to renew my commitment to a special club, unique in the world, until the summer of 2022, when I ended to an unforgettable stage that I keep very fondly with the farewell ovation I received in my last game at Old Trafford.
En septiembre de 2022 fiché por el Galatasaray. Desde el primer momento sentí el calor de la afición del equipo más laureado de Turquía. In September 2022 I signed for Galatasaray. From the first moment I felt the warmth of the fans of the most successful team in Turkey. Istanbul is a city that breathes football and the club’s sports project convinced me to start a new stage with all the enthusiasm in the world.
After playing in all the lower categories of the National Team, I made my debut with the Absolute in March 2009. Since then I have played more than 40 times with Spain and have won a World Cup (2010) and a European Championship (2012).
I have been lucky to be part of the best moments in the history of the national team of Spain. My career as an international player started in the Copa del Atlántico with the Under-16, when I was playing for Real Oviedo, and then I went through all the youth categories and I spent extraordinary moments. I consider myself very privileged. I’ve always had excellent footballers by my side. In 2006, with the Under-19, we became Champions of Europe in Poland. It was a very special tournament for me because I was named the Best Player. I also participated in the 2007 Under-20 World Cup in Canada and the qualifiers for the 2009 Under-21 Euro Cup (I couldn’t play the final stage because I was with the first team in the Confederations Cup in South Africa). The main success with the youth categories was the 2011 Under-21 Euro Cup: with Luis Milla as a manager we did a brilliant tournament and beat Switzerland 0-2 in the final. One year later I took part in the Olympic Games in London. The outcome was not as expected, but the experience of being an Olympic sportsman will remain forever!
Thanks to Vicente del Bosque’s confidence I made my way to Spain’s first team when I was still 20. My relationship with ‘la Roja’ started on the 28th of March 2009, replacing David Villa in a game against Turkey at the Bernabéu (my first call-up had been before, in November 2008, but I didn’t get to play any minute). After playing the Confederations Cup in South Africa in the summer of 2009, and scoring my first goal (September 2009, against Estonia), one of the best moments of my career (if not the best one) arrived: the World Cup in South Africa, where we became World Champions for the first time in the history of Spain. Surrounded by fantastic footballers, and thanks to Iniesta’s goal, we touched the sky!
Luckily, that was not the end. In 2012 we achieved something amazing, something no other team had done before: being able to win Euro Cup, World Cup and Euro Cup in a row. The tournament took place in Poland and Ukraine and, once again, destiny had a present for me. I jumped onto the pitch in the last few minutes of the final and almost with my first touch I scored that historic 4-0 after an assist by Fernando Torres. Another day to keep in my list of unforgettable memories!
Later on I also played the Confederations Cup (2013) and the World Cup in Brazil (2014). I have scored 11 goals with the national team so far; I hope there are still many games and important tournaments to play with Spain.