Santiago Aragón (Málaga, April 3rd 1968) is an ex professional football player that played for Real Madrid, CD Logroñés and Real Zaragoza. He is currently part of the scouting department for the academy of Real Madrid. Santi accepts the interview to ELXIIDEAL in order to review his professional career as a footballer, explain us how he works at Real Madrid and analyze the current LaLiga season.
Question: The first team you triumphed at was Logroñés in the 89-90 season, where you earned the best historical position on the table of the club (7th), only two points away from qualifying to the UEFA. What memories do you have of your year at the mythical Las Gaunas Stadium?
Santiago Aragón: I have great memories of my year at Logroñés, because that was the first season that I completed in the same team, my first experience at a first division club. Many of my teammates like Barcelona current coach Quique Setién, Manu Sarabia or Antonio Alzamendi helped me a lot on my growth both as a player and as a person. Despite it was not easy for me to become a starter, I ended up having plenty of playing time. The most important thing is that I did not desperate and I had patience to wait for my opportunity, which is a key aspect for every young player. I lived with other young players, and the team always had lunch together at the same restaurant, so we certainly built a strong bond off the field that made us to have an outstanding season, the best one in the Logroñés entire history. All in all, it was a very positive experience for me in the growth of my professional career.
“I have great memories of my year at Logroñés, because that was the first season that I completed in the same team, my first experience at a first division club”
Property of @HistoriaCromos (Twitter).
Question: You certainly had an outstanding year because Real Madrid decided to sign you back the next season (90-91), where you scored your famous goal to Barcelona at the Spanish supercup final from half the field to keeper Zubizarreta in order to beat Barcelona. What was in your mind where you took a shot from half the field that ended up going in?
Santiago Aragón: My year at Logroñés provided me with a lot of experience and helped me to return to Real Madrid. It was a difficult season for us because the club changed the coach, and Madrid is a very demanding club that is always used to be on top of the table. Fortunately, we had that good memory of the Spanish Supercopa title that we won to Barcelona. We picked up a good resut in the first leg, and I was lucky enough to score that goal in the second one. Barcelona played with a very high defensive line at that time, including the goalkeeper, and one of my strengths as a player was my powerful shot, so I decided to try when I saw him a little out of the goal and I was lucky to surprise him and score that goal that every Real Madrid fan always remembers me for.
“I saw him a little out of the goal and I was lucky to surprise him and score that goal that every Real Madrid fan always remembers me for”
Question: After your season at Real Madrid, Zaragoza signed you, where you completed the rest of your career. You were part of the best Zaragoza squad in the history of that club, winning two Spanish Cups and one European Recopa. In this last trophy, you scored a crucial goal against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the semifinal that helped you guys to qualify for the final against Arsenal in Paris that you won thanks to a goal by Nayim in the last minute, also from half field like yours against Barcelona a few years earlier. What means to you to be part of that historical team?
Santiago Aragón: As you well say, I played for Real Zaragoza for the most part of my career, where I stayed for ten years. I felt very comfortable at that club, which is very important for any athlete. We built a very beautiful team, with a system where we all fit in, and it coincided during our best years regarding to our age, experience, and technical quality on the field, which turned out into all the titles we conquered. We were at a very high level to be honest, only one step behind Barcelona and Madrid, but we also beat both of them several times. The moment where we certainly reached the peak was when we won the Recopa with our victory against Arsenal on an epic final, because Nayim score an outstanding goal, very similar to mine, from half field in the last minute. It was a very joyful moment for all of us, we made very happy to a lot of fans, not only Zaragoza´s but also people from Spain that rooted for that team. It was the development of a nice career for me: Real Madrid formed me both as a player and as a person, but I ended up playing for other clubs, as many Real Madrid players end up doing, since they do not succeed at Madrid but they do at other clubs. That is my story and many others.
“I felt very comfortable at that club, which is very important for any athlete. We built a very beautiful team, with a system where we all fit in, and it coincided during our best years regarding to our age, experience, and technical quality on the field, which turned out into all the titles we conquered”
Question: You retired at the 2002-2003 season with Zaragoza going up to the first division. The current Zaragoza are also fighting to return to la liga at the moment, but they are going through a bad run after the return of the competition. Do you still believe in tis team´s possibilities to go up this year?
Santiago Aragón: Zaragoza have gone through a lot of things this year: they have had postponed games, and they overcame them; they suffered important players injuries like Dwamena´s, who had to retire temporally for heart issues, and they overcame it; they also suffered the problem we have also faced with this global pandemic… I believe that they team was at their best moment when football was stopped, they were at the exact level to go up. However, they have returned with doubts from the break. It is also true that football now has nothing to do with the one a few months back, as they are now playing at empty stadiums. They have not got used to it, they were very efficient at home before and now they have lost most of their games, When a team gets into a negative run like this one, you do not see them with the required strength to overcome it. There are still two games left, and they can´t throw away their hard work throughout the entire season. They have to get through it, they will go up if they manage to win these two games, otherwise they will have to play the playoffs, which is a completely whole different thing, way harder to win on those. I see Zaragoza with lack of confidence right now.
“They can´t throw away their hard work throughout the entire season”
Question: Regarding to your current position at Real Madrid, ¿What do you exactly look for on a player in order to recommend him for a club like Real Madrid?
Santiago Aragón: It depends on the position: if we choose a midfielder as an example, which is the position I played, the aspect I looked for the most is his quality, his capacity to being able to develop his football, the domain of both legs, his physical strength, knowing how to read what the play demands, and most of all, being a well-balanced guy, seeing that he has a good behavior on and off the field. This way, we also try to get some information on his life out of football, because he is going to represent a club like Real Madrid, even though he is going to play for the academy teams. All this helps him out to become a be a better player.
“It depends on the position, but we look for guys that are well-balanced and have a proper behavior on and off the field”
Property of @HistoriaCromos (Twitter).
Question: The first team has returned the right way after the break, getting to top of the table against Barcelona. What do you think it has been the key for Zidane´s squad to come back so strong that they still remain unbeaten?
Santiago Aragón: Taking into account this exceptional situation, where all teams have just had individual trainings at home for three months, I believe that Real Madrid have adapted themselves better than Barcelona to this situation. Apart from that, I personally think that we have a larger roster than they do. We have adapted better, and the team has found the security to face every game. We have sometimes not been so brilliant, but we have certainly been very effective, very solid defensively, well balanced. We have known how to read the games, when to go for them or when to focus on defense, and we have also known how to suffer when things were not going our way. Overall, I believe that the team has shown a strong security, and the reflect is on those 9 out of 9 wins that we have so far.
“I believe that Real Madrid have adapted themselves better than Barcelona to this situation”
Question: What is your opinion on the VAR? Has this tool changed radically the current football from the one you played?
Santiago Aragón: It has changed it a lot regarding to the football I played back in the 90s. The VAR has come to help, I believe that the percentage of right calls is bigger than the mistake ones, taking into account that it is very difficult to be a referee. The only thing that I see is that they should have a more clear protocol. I also think that the slow motion cameras do not help at all because they sometimes over exaggerate the action. Sometimes a live tackle is not the same as seeing it on slow motion. Sometimes the action looks more serious than what it is, but again, the VAR is a very helpful tool and the right calls percentage is superior to the error ones.
“The VAR protocol should be more clear”
Question: Wrapping up… Do you have on your mind developing a career as a coach?
Answer: That is a desire I have always had, but I like academy football better than the professional, it is more natural. Elite football has modernized too much, there are too many interests on it. Like I said, it is a desire for me, but right now I am very happy with my position at Real Madrid, coaching is a goal in the long term.
“I like academy football better than the professional, it is more natural”
Guillermo: Thank you so much for being with us today Santi, it has been a pleasure.
Santi: Thanks for inviting me, Guillermo.
ELXIIDEAL staff gives him our official new T-Shirt that you can all get by contacting us through our social network profiles. Until next time.