The 2020/21 season was not the best for Fulham. London’s oldest team played in the Premier League and finished 18th, condemning them to relegation to the second category of English football.
With his mind set on doing a good job in the Championship, he signed several footballers. One of them is Paulo Gazzaniga, former Tottenham goalkeeper, who for the last six months was loaned to Elche in LaLiga, which managed to save himself from losing the category.
In an exclusive interview for 90min, we talked with the 29-year-old Argentine goalkeeper about his last months in Spain, the memories of Pochettino’s Tottenham, the competition with Hugo Lloris and Lucas Moura’s agonizing goal against Ajax for the Champions League semi-finals League 2018/19. In addition, he commented on how he saw his compatriot Emiliano Martínez in the Copa América and his illusion to be called up again by Lionel Scaloni for the Argentine team.
How did you end last season at Elche?
When I got the opportunity to go on loan to LaLiga, I didn’t think about it much. Luckily, I was able to play the last games in which we fought not to be relegated and everything went very well.
When you signed with Fulham, you declared that they told you about a project. What attracted you unlike other teams?
I always liked the team. He is in London, he fights to be promoted, also not to be relegated when he is in the Premier. I was attracted from that side, the fact of being able to seek other objectives, different from the ones I had been doing. It is quite an interesting challenge because the pressure is different. We are going to fight to upgrade.
Does the Championship have the differential of being more competitive than other leagues, even compared to the Premier?
The Championship is a very strong league. In the years that I have been playing here in England, we had to face several teams of the category in different competitions and they always fight. He is very strong, very physical, there are players with a lot of quality.
What teammates surprised you at Fulham?
There are many who play well. One of those who surprised me is Ivan Cavaleiro, who is strong, fast, has quality. Then there is Anguissa who is a great player. I still don’t know them very well because it’s all very recent, I’ve been training recently. What I highlight is that it is a nice group and very human.
Gazzaniga was born in the town of Murphy, in the province of Santa Fé, Argentina. He started his career at Gillingham in League Two in 2011 and, because of his good performances, Southampton decided to sign him for four seasons. One of the coaches who led him there was Mauricio Pochettino.
It would not be the last time that the Argentine was led by his compatriot, since at Tottenham he was under his command again. The Santa Fe remained at Spurs from mid-2017 to early 2021, when he was loaned to Elche.
What things did you learn from Hugo Lloris in your time at Tottenham?
With Hugo we are friends because we are still in contact. We form a nice relationship with him as well as with Michel Vorm, with Alfie Whiteman, with Joe Hart. We always get along with the archers and I try to rescue everyone’s things. I am a sponge, I try to learn from everyone. I always saw Hugo calm, serene, he does not play very far ahead, but rather more in the goal.
Being a substitute and waiting for the moment is not for everyone. How do you work mentally from that side?
I was lucky to have Toni Jiménez as goalkeeper coach, who kept my head in my place, he tried to keep me from going off course. With him I learned and he taught me a lot to be psychologically prepared. He was the one who prepared me in Southampton and Tottenham and led me down a path that helped me a lot.
What things did Pochettino mark you as a coach?
He is a very special coach. He has a fairly close relationship with the players, it gives you confidence to express yourself and if he has to say something to you, he will do it.
How did you experience that Lucas Moura goal against Ajax in the Champions semi-finals? From the outside they made you want to enter the field …
If it was lived with so much emotion from the outside, imagine what it was like from inside the field, with your teammates who suffered the same as you. Not only was it me who ran, we all went because for those of us who were there, it was the best thing that had happened to us. Because of how the game was played, it was crazy.
What differences do you find between the Premier League and LaLiga?
The rhythm of the game in England is very intense, very physical, there is a lot of quality and you try to play football well. In Spain there is better quality and good players, but for me the Premier stands out more for the rhythm.
The Argentine team was proclaimed champion of the Copa América on July 10, 2021, which meant the first title as coach of Lionel Scaloni. Upon his arrival in command of the Albiceleste team, in one of his first calls, he called Gazzaniga for a double round of FIFA in 2018. The goalkeeper had minutes against Mexico in a friendly and kept his fence undefeated.
Do you think you can have a chance to be summoned by Scaloni?
If I have continuity and do things well, I know that he is a coach who gives you many chances. My idea is to continue working to be able to be, not in many years because I am already 29, heh. But hopefully I can have a chance.
How did you see ‘Dibujos’ Martínez in the Copa América? Were you surprised by his vehemence on penalties?
I was not surprised because I have been following him, I have known him for several years. I always knew he was an archer and to this day he is the best Argentine. In Arsenal I saw him several games and last season at Aston Villa he broke it, so I was not surprised because I knew about his qualities.
“Emiliano Martínez to this day is the best Argentine goalkeeper.”
– Paulo Gazzaniga.
Like you, ‘Draw’ was not finished in Argentina either. Is training different in Europe?
I don’t know, in Argentina I worked a lot with my dad, who was a goalkeeper. The position has changed a lot in recent years. He always instilled in me the fact of working with my feet and conveyed serenity to me.
When you were a kid, what archer did you look at?
I followed the Premier since I was little and I liked Petr Cech. Thank God I was lucky enough to play against him in several games and I was able to fulfill my dream.
Did you ask for the helmet?
I asked him for several t-shirts and when I knew he was about to retire, I asked him for the helmet. The first few times he dodged me a bit, but last year, when he was near the end of his career, he gave it to me.
A dream that you have in your career?
Playing for the Argentine national team is a dream and being a champion much more. It is what all footballers long for.