Raúl de Tomás (Madrid, 27 years old) seems like a serious and distant guy; even rude. He is just a front, a protection tool. Dressed in the Espanyol tracksuit, a hat hides his hair, which is always firm and well-groomed. “I don’t apply as much hair gel as people think. When I wet it, it’s already hard, so imagine when I put hair gel on it, ”says the Blue and White striker, who offers EL PAÍS to go up to the stands of the Dani Jarque Sports City field. He asks to sit in the sun and does not put any more conditions. Outspoken, good conversationalist, the 9 does not hide his ambition in the run-up to the match against Barcelona: “I have the feeling that he will be one of the most even derbies of recent times. We already showed that we know how to play them. I have the thorn stuck in the match of the first round”.
Ask. How should you call him? RDT or Raúl de Tomás?
Answer. Luis Enrique asked me the same thing on my first day in the national team. He made a joke with my name, if RDT was the brand and Raúl my name. They all laughed and that was their way of getting me into the group. He made things easy for me in the national team dressing room.
P. So, is Luis Enrique close?
r I had asked different people what Luis was like and everyone had told me wonderful things about him. They were not wrong. I think he’s a bit like me. People who don’t know him are prejudiced. We have similar attitudes towards strangers.
P. What do you take care of?
r I have seen the danger of this profession. In the Madrid academy, for example, I was in a bubble in which I didn’t realize things. I had high expectations, many things had been generated in my head that don’t really exist, but I believed them.
P. As which?
r Like you want to play in the first team and be a star.
P. That is wrong?
r If you want all that to happen very soon, yes. You have to think about what football really is. I don’t want to say that Real Madrid isn’t real football. People with a lot of talent play there, who have something different from the others. But there is more below the first team, outside of that bubble I was talking about before. And if you don’t have the maturity to assimilate many things, you can go to hell like I did.
P. What do you mean?
r I am aware that, if I had done things differently, maybe I would have had more opportunities at Madrid. Many times I complained that I wasn’t in the first team and I wasn’t giving 100%. So, he wasn’t professional off the field. He was young and, as often happens with people of that age, he did things that were not correct for a professional athlete.
P. For example.
r Food, rest… Now, over time, I realize that I was the wrong one when at that time I thought the coaches were the ones who were wrong about me. It’s not just about quality. At least it’s not enough for me. And for a long time I thought so. So that’s when you get the slap. When you realize that you have done things that are not right, you do not want to relive them. That’s what makes you change. It is a maturity process that helps you make better decisions in life, but also in the field.
P. How many times have you hit rock bottom?
r Three. The first when I had to leave my neighborhood to go live in the Madrid quarry. He was the only youth squad from Madrid. He was lost and the club realized that if they didn’t get me out of there I was going to end up leaving football. I accepted it and it was an important decision. The second, when I left Madrid. I hired my friend Pablo, who is a personal trainer. It was one of the best decisions I made. Today I practice boxing, I do meditation and I am in perfect physical condition.
r I had never talked about this. I didn’t want to go to Benfica. But there were many interests. Lisbon is very beautiful and Benfica is a great club, but when things don’t go well for you at work, everything looks bad.
P. Do you have the feeling that you have always had to fight everything too much?
r And so I am… I’m running out of hair [se ríe]. I would call it towing. I know that all this has made me stronger. It has even made me enhance everything I have inside.
P. How have your two years at Espanyol been?
r Well, crazy. For me, coming to this club was like being reborn because of what had happened in Lisbon. It was a requited love. I needed to get excited again and they needed someone to give them another air.
P. Is it nice to feel that?
r It’s the host. There are people who can take it badly, I feel more pressure or more responsibility, but if I have something good, it is that I take on the challenge. Sometimes, I even take responsibility for things that are not convenient for me. But I am like that.
P. are you missing a tamudazo? An epic match?
r I hope I have a great game this weekend, but there are very few epic moments and I prefer to be regular. I don’t want to be a spark player.
P. Do you prefer to be the 9 of Espanyol to be a substitute in a Champions team?
r Being the most important piece of a group in a bad dynamic can be very draining mentally. Sometimes I ask myself: Would I rather be in a team with a more balanced dynamic? But it is what touches me. And here I am very well.
P. Everything depends on you?
r Not all. But much of it, yes. I accept it although sometimes it also exhausts me. There is a time when you need those who are by your side to give a little more.
P. What kind of leader is he?
r I don’t always control my emotions and I make mistakes. That is my mistake. But it’s something I’m trying to change. Do not help me. When someone says things wrong he loses his mind. I think a lot about what I do and what I don’t do. Above all, I turn to the bad ones. Sometimes, perhaps, I punish myself too much about things that may not have been such a big deal.
P. Do you go to the psychologist?
r Yes. And to the people who think that going to the psychologist is, in quotes, crazy, we have to tell them that we are in the 21st century. There is no need to be ashamed. There is nothing wrong with being able to speak clearly with someone, in this case a professional. This is a taboo that is beginning to be broken. There are others that are still costing.
P. Homosexuality in football, for example?
r For example. I think it’s all a matter of respect.
P. Have you had a homosexual partner?
r Not that I know of. But it seemed normal to me. It happens in all environments, why won’t it happen in football? But the problem is that not everyone thinks the same as me. This is not an open environment.
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