“Football is a sport where you want everything ‘here and now’

Luis Jesus Rioja González (born October 16, 1993 in Seville) is a Spanish footballer known as Luis Rioja, is the star of Deportivo Alavés. But he is also an ordinary man, far from empty answers, and with closeness and simplicity as distinctive features. The Andalusian winger, who will occupy the left flank of the attack on Sunday, will Alavés before Barcelona, to Mundo Deportivo hours before visiting Montjuïc.

The season back to the first division for you and Alavés. What is your assessment, both individual and collective, of the course so far?

Collectively, I think we’ve managed to translate the coach’s idea to the pitch. We do things well and deserve a few more points than we have, but in this sport the one who deserves doesn’t always win. The team is doing well and never gives up a game. This is the essence of this Alaves. Individually, with some ups and downs, but it is normal in this category. I think overall, individually and collectively, it’s something we should be happy about.

What kind of team is this Alavés?

We all play together, never giving up the ball. We’re a deep team, we try to play a lot on a big scale and send a lot of crosses into the box. Defensively we are an experienced team in battle, and we put the lines together well.

Will Alavés be able to stay awake?

Yes of course. I have no doubt. The team is mentally aware of what category it is and we have achieved a very good mix between youth and veterans.

“This Alavés team is doing well and never gives up a game.”

What does Alavés mean in Luis Rioja’s life?

That’s pretty much. I also have a lot of affection for Almeria, which was my first professional challenge and allowed me to make a leap, but in Alavés I matured as a person and as a footballer. I found my investigation on a personal and athletic level, and this gives me happiness. For me and my family, Alavés will always be remembered as something very fun.

Mendizorosa is not just a playground.

No of course not. We know how important our fans are. It’s more than 80% of what this club is. He always supports us and now we are in a good moment, where we are able to give back a little of what he gives us on a daily basis.

What kind of player is Luis Rioja?

A player who sacrificed defensively, offensively a player who loves verticality, space intrusion, quick and individual transitions. In short, the player deployed.

And Luis Garcia Plaza? What kind of trainer are you?

A very demanding one. He likes things that are done well, and that we go to the limit. Also, the thing I really like about him is that he believes in error. Human error is always present in football, and he is well aware of that. He doesn’t care if an individual mistake is made because it’s inevitable. What is not allowed is relaxation and non-commitment.

Of all the coaches you’ve been through throughout your career, which three coaches will you highlight and why?

To Luis García Plaza, so he can put me (laughs). There is someone very special, Fernando Estevez (in Marbella). I didn’t want to play on the left wing and it made me see that I could perform there. Then I would also like to highlight Javier Calleja, who gave me full confidence in my first year at Alavés despite the fact that I was not feeling well and it was difficult for me to join the team.


Luis Rioja, during a match with Alavés

Juan Manuel Serrano RC / Getty

She played one season at Real Madrid C (2013-2014). Among your teammates, who made it to the elite?

A lot. In this team were Gonzalo Melero, Mariano Díaz and Álvaro Medran, to name a few. We had a great team, and more could have arrived.

At the age of 25, she had not yet played in the first or second divisions. Do you feel that sometimes you don’t have patience with some players?

Totally. Football is a sport in which you want everything “here and now”. Two bad games and there is already criticism. When a club invests in a young player, if the first year does not work, they are looking for a loan. Sometimes we forget that footballers are people and we have to go through an adaptation process.

“Sometimes we forget that footballers are human beings”

Fortunately, the mental aspect is becoming more and more present in football.

Yes of course. I, for example, when I arrived in Almeria felt excessively relieved from day one. Eleven months later, I arrived in Vitoria and it was difficult for me to adapt. There, you mentally sink, and you may need the help of professionals. A lot of progress has been made in this area and I think there is still a lot of room for improvement. If the work on the mental side is done well, it is very noticeable in the field.

In Barcelona there is a footballer who has experienced the opposite of what he is, a player who exploded at the age of 16: Lamine Yamal. How do you know it?

I think he’s a great footballer. He has a lot of quality and being already at Barcelona and in the national team still has room for improvement. It’s a huge player project. He was born with this talent, and it must be taken care of.

You have a contract with Alaves until June 2025. What will happen after that date?

I don’t know, really. I feel very comfortable here and I’ll be in Alavés for as long as they want me to because I think I should Give back a little of what they gave me. What I want now is to stay in the category and prepare for next season in the First Division.

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