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Wednesday, Sep 18, 2019

La Liga: Charles Pena targets Top 10 finish with Eibar

Charles Pena has started this season well with 12 goals already under his belt and he will be looking to guide his team to a record finish this season.

football Updated: Mar 29, 2019 18:50 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Charles Pena celebrates after scoring for Eibar.
Charles Pena celebrates after scoring for Eibar.(La Liga)
         

Charles Pena has been an integral part of the Eibar squad since joining the club in 2017 from Malaga and he played a major role in taking his team to the ninth position last season. The Brazilian striker has started this season well with 12 goals already under his belt and he will be looking to guide his team to a record finish this season.

Excerpts -

Q: How do you rate your season so far?

A: Very good, but there’s always that bad taste in our mouths because we aren’t getting the rewards that we want away from home. I think that there was a game in which we were winning 0-2 and the opposition managed to get a draw. That is the only negative I’d mention. But I think the team are enjoying ourselves on the pitch, competing very well against all the teams we face.

Q: Salvation is getting closer, despite the fact that LaLiga is crazier than ever this season.

A: I think LaLiga is the most competitive league I’ve ever seen. Nobody can feel that they are already safe, and those at the bottom shouldn’t feel that staying up is beyond them. I think that we have a good amount of points, but we can’t let up, because those below us are also close.

Q: Do you feel that you are strong at Ipurua?

A: At Ipurua we know that -no matter what team visits- we are very strong at home in front of our fans. We have already shown in many matches that we can compete against anybody here at Ipurua.

Q: On a personal level, how are you feeling?

A: Very good. Physically I’m doing very well. I have taken onboard what the coach wanted -something I also did last year, but in the second year you know better what he is asking for. When you know that, things are easier, both for me and for the team. That means understanding my teammates and what they do, both my strike partner and the people playing at the back. We now know, more or less, how to position ourselves, where the ball with go, and we can communicate with just a look.

P: You have twelve goals, your best tally

A: I have equalled my best goal haul, and hopefully I can overtake it.

Q: Which is your favourite goal from this year?

A: Because of the importance of the goal, I think the one against Real Sociedad. We went ahead 0-1, La Real equalised and, in the last minute, maybe the last move of the game, I managed to make it 2-1. That goal was very important because we were not in very good shape in LaLiga, and I think it was a boost for the team. I’ll go with that goal.

Q: How would you commentate that goal?

A: “Joan Jordan crosses. We’re in the final minutes. I get past Theo, I think, I head and the ball goes in.”

Q: Is experience an advantage for strikers when it comes to finishing?

A: It’s not only a plus for the forwards. It’s one for all the players. Experience helps us a lot, with everything. I feel very good and I’m very comfortable at Eibar. When a player feels good, everything on the pitch works out by itself. If the team feel good, everything is easier.

Q: Do you set challenges for yourself?

A: One always sets challenges. This year mine was to get more goals than last year. I’ve already surpassed that figure, so now I want to overtake my best goal tally of all time. I’m close. Hopefully in the next interview with you I can be looking at another challenge, but the important thing is that you work hard in training. That way the games turn out well naturally.

Q: You have twelve goals from single touches. Does this figure define the way you play a little?

A: Yes, perhaps. When I arrived in Pontevedra I played as a striker, then we changed the system and I played on the right, and now I’m an out-and-out striker. I’ve played as a playmaker as well; I like to work from the midfield going forward, and I would not change being a centre forward now. I think that in the box is where I’m strongest. Twelve goals from my first touch… I try to finish right away and things are working out.

Q: Last year Eibar achieved their best finish in LaLiga Santander. Can that be repeated or even improved upon?

A: We have the players for it, but LaLiga is very crazy this year. Those at the bottom are beating the top sides. Madrid and Barça are losing against teams that are fighting for survival. It’s going to be hard, but when we achieve survival we’ll talk about it. By working well, these things happen by themselves.

Q: What is your coach Mendilibar like in person?

A: Mendilibar is like a father to all the players. He tells us everything, but does it face to face. He’s a lovely guy. You can talk about everything with him, because he’s great with that side. He seems tough when you see him on the touchline screaming the way he does, but outside of that he is a father figure to everyone.

Q: What importance do you think he has had in Eibar’s success in recent seasons?

A: A lot. Mendilibar and Eibar are made for each other. He is from here, he knows the club and Eibar is everything for Mendilibar. He is very important.

Q: What is the key to this success you are having?

A: Apart from having Mendilibar as coach, I think the key is the unity at this club. In this squad, this club... there is no difference between players, the kitmen and the cook. We are all very close, we all know each other and I take off my hat to the club in that respect. I think that’s very important. The people who work in the laundry room are also part of the club. We are a family, and that may be the key.

Q: Do you feel like a family?

A: Yes. When we leave the training everyone goes to their own house, everyone has their own life outside the club, but here our unity is very important, and its there.

Q: Your contract ends this year. Will we see a third year for Charles at Eibar?

A: Yes, perhaps. To be honest, nobody has talked to me yet, but last year it was the same situation: The talks happened right at the end of the season. The important thing is to continue working as I have been, and if I stay here then that’s great. If I go to another club, that’s not a problem, but I’m very comfortable here.

Q: What do you have in mind?

A: The first thing is to finish the season well, for the team to achieve its goals and for me to avoid injury. That’s what every player asks for. Then we’ll see. I want to continue playing football, as this is my life. If Eibar speak with my agents then that would be good, as I’m very comfortable here, but if they don’t speak to them then I suppose that some other team will come in for me. If not, then I’m sure Pontevedra would open the door for me.

Q: It’s clear that you want to keep playing

A: Charles is going to be here for a while yet. I still feel very good, I have that desire to go and train, to play. When you have that desire, you can’t stop yet.

Q: What is the secret of this motivation? Is it the same as when you played in Pontevedra?

A: It might be, only 10 years older and with two children. I’m very happy and my family are very happy. When that happens, things work out by themselves.

Q: What has having children given you?

A: It has given me everything. When I was younger I wanted to go out more to party and be with my friends, but my wife and children have settled me down. I have to thank my wife very much for putting up with me, and me playing in LaLiga Santander is thanks to them too.

Q: How do you get on with Sergi Enrich?

A: Sergi is a very intelligent player and it is easy to play with him, because we know what each other wants from training and playing together. Kike is also easy to play with, and also Marc Cardona. Anyone who plays, does so well. And whoever doesn’t play, trains well. You can’t take your eye off the ball for a second, because anyone who comes in off the bench can do just as well as you. Thanks to them, you always need to be performing at a very high level to be playing for this team.

Q: Rubén Peña and Cote are the players who have the most crosses into the box in LaLiga. Does Eibar’s style reflect that a bit?

A: Yes, of course. We play in that way, spending a lot of time in the opposition half. We know each other well. I already know when Cote is going to cross in, and the same with Rubén Peña. That makes it easier, because when you get to a certain position, you know what is going to happen.

Q: Eibar always have a Plan A. As there is no Plan B, is it easier for you to always have the same strategy?

A: Yes, it could be. But I think we also have other things in our game. We execute our Plan A very well, we train for it very well too, and if things go well then we don’t need a Plan B.

First Published: Mar 29, 2019 18:50 IST