Holla South Africans…
With the English Premiership approaching an end, I have decided to take some time off my busy schedule to write to South African football fans.
Throughout my career, I have played football in some of the top leagues in Europe but being able to experience football in England was always something that appealed to me and I am thoroughly enjoying being an Everton player.
This is one of the most popular Leagues around the world, so last summer I was incredibly excited to take up a new challenge and discover a different country, a new league and a great club, which Everton is.
I love the style of football in the Premier League and how it compares to La Liga in Spain, Ligue 1 in France and Serie A in Italy – all leagues I have had the opportunity to play in over the course of my career.
In the position that I play in, I have to focus on marking, positioning, and winning my personal duels, both on the ground and in the air, and I’m enjoying it.
Today’s full-backs are also increasingly expected to attack, and I am happy to be contributing positively to the team in this way too.
With the help and support of my teammates, I have provided four assists so far this season. I like the way we play with crosses, which have quickly become an important aspect of my game.
At my previous club, Barcelona, I never crossed the ball as much as I do here. Crossing the ball is not Barca’s style because there are no tall players in the box.
But in England it’s a big part of the game and I’m enjoying getting forward and providing deliveries into the box from wide areas.
I’ve also had some success from dead-ball situations since joining Everton, scoring direct from free-kicks in the games against Watford and Burnley. It’s a responsibility I have relished.
In two years at Barca I didn’t take any direct free-kicks but when you have Lionel Messi on the pitch, it’s only natural he should be the player to take all set-pieces because, for me, Messi is without any competition the best player in the world.
Certainly, the best I have played with – and the best I have seen. He is in a class all of his own. I love the passion people have for the game here in England and you have something similar in South Africa.
I got to experience that myself last year when I was part of the Barcelona squad that played Mamelodi Sundowns in Johannesburg.
It was a short trip but you could see how passionate the people are – they love football. It was my first time in the country and it was an amazing experience.
The fans were so loud, so crazy and the sound of the vuvuzelas reminded me of the World Cup in 2010. That passion is what makes this game so special.
That passion is never more evident than at Goodison Park, Everton’s home stadium, which is a special place to play football. I love the intimacy, with the fans sitting so close to the pitch.
When I take a throw-in, a corner or a free-kick they are always supporting me. They are our 12th man, always there for us, and I know they will be there in our remaining home matches, willing us on just like they have been doing all season.
We have some big fixtures to look forward to over the coming months, with Arsenal and Manchester United both still to visit Goodison Park, and we owe it to our fans to finish the season strongly.
Next month, one of my teammates will be writing to you.