Nico Melamed (Castelldefels, Barcelona, 2001) shows the Argentine roots in his game. As he acknowledges in an interview with EFE, he has “that impudence, mischief and movement of the ball from one side to the other”, while ensuring that, despite being closely followed from the land of his family, he feel spanish.
This is a very special season for Melamed. Seated in the first team of Espanyol, the club gave him the number ’21’ of Dani Jarque, which he received with “enormous pride” while being aware of the “responsibility” he carries on his back. He also carries it in the Spanish under-21 team, with which he hopes to debut in his second call.
– His grandfather, Felipe Ribaudo, was a great footballer. What did you know about him as a player?
– I did not get to know my grandfather, although they have always spoken highly of him, that he had characteristics very similar to mine; he played extreme. , is my reference. He played for Estudiantes de la Plata with whom he was world champion against Manchester United… for me the goal is to achieve half of his achievements.
Felipe Ribaudo was a four-time champion with Estudiantes de La Plata. In the 1968 Libertadores final, he scored a goal against Palmeiras at the Centenario. He left very young. He died in 1998, at the age of 58 … pic.twitter.com/He8zwviGos
– SportsCenter (@SC_ESPN) August 16, 2019
– And what are your first football memories?
– I come from a very athletic family. My parents work in a gym and they take great care of me in that sense. In the beginning, I remember going after the coach chasing him, putting the cones on my head and barely hitting the ball.
– He talks about how they take great care of him on a physical level; he looks strong despite being still in development.
– I have always taken good care of myself, it is something key in football.
– His parents are Argentine, he was born where Messi lived for many years, but he is a footballer and Espanyol fan. It must have been difficult not being a fan of Leo.
– Well of course. Leo plays in my position, my parents have been fans of him at times and I have paid attention to him a lot, but my main reference has always been my grandfather and I am going to try to get half of his steps.
– Despite being born in Spain, in his game he keeps something of Argentine football, right?
– Yes, that cheekiness, mischief, the movement of the ball from one side to the other … is very characteristic there, but I feel Spanish and very happy to be here.
– You were a ball boy for Espanyol, what memories do you have of it?
– I really liked getting behind the goal because it was where the teams finished and that way I could give the goalkeepers balls. I remember that in my time it was Kiko Casilla and it was a very beautiful experience.
– His mother said a few months ago that his only fault is that he is messy. Do you share it?
– (laughs). Well mothers always say that, that’s always an excuse. I’ve always been orderly. In that interview that word can be crossed out, because I have already corrected it (laughs).
– What about the field? What are its flaws yet to be polished?
– As you say, I am still very young and I have room for improvement. I’ve always been an attacking player, very offensive, and I think I could improve defensively.
– Speaking of offense, in cadets he cheated to be the top scorer in a tournament … Tell it.
– (laughs). That’s how it is. He had high competition with Ansu and with a boy who is now at Atlético de Madrid. I remember that he beat him or he beat me by a goal and in the last game, which at that time my coach was David Fernández, among the whole team we decided that each goal we scored we would go to the referee and he would score it for me (laughs). If I scored two goals in that game, they counted me as five.
– And he got it?
– Yes, yes (laughs). I took the top scorer.
– Talk about Ansu Fati. His breakthrough into the elite was meteoric. Did you come?
– Yes, it has always been a high rivalry between Barça and Espanyol and between Ansu and me. You could see, he was a differential player who every time he received the ball he threw up and he did not care about anything. And so it has been seen.
– Now he returns to the U21 with morale through the roof after beating the leader, Real Madrid. What does it mean for you?
– A very great joy. It is the fruit of the work that has been going on for a long time and that we have been doing day by day with humility and ambition, and that is how it turned out this weekend. The ball went in, we beat a great team because our great work paid off.
– It seems that that was lacking in the previous games, the goal.
– Maybe that little bit of luck was missing, right? But we had been working a lot and with that little bit of luck we ended up getting in.
– The Second Division helped you to settle in the first team and play in the First. How has that change been?
– It was a very complicated category, it took us a lot to get promoted and be league champions, but a club like Espanyol cannot be in the Second Division. In First you can see the quality of some footballers, but in Second it is much equal to the competitiveness that all the players put into it.
– This season he wears a historic number at the club, Dani Jarque’s 21. Was it your request or did the club give it to you?
– Well, look, I remember I was here in the previous concentration and the club told me the last day of the market and it was a huge pride; an incredible honor for what it entails and the enormous responsibility of representing the club and Dani Jarque. A maximum happiness.
– And he has almost made it his own, because in the U21 he also wears it.
– It is a very beautiful number, very special and I will continue with it.
– You recently renewed, but in the elite, time passes quickly, do you talk about renewal with Espanyol again?
– I renewed last year and I am very well at Espanyol and I will continue to do so to achieve more challenges.
– You have already been called up in the lower categories and are now part of the new U21 cycle, but in Argentina they have always been very aware of your steps, have you received any interest from Argentina?
– I have that dual nationality because my family is Argentine, but I have always come here in the lower categories, I have always been very comfortable and I will continue to be.
– This will be his first full season in the elite. With what objectives would you be satisfied?
– From the beginning of the season I set myself to surpass my Second Division records, in order to know that it has been a great season.