Pablo Fornals (Castellón, 1996) he attends to AS fresh from his usual hairdresser in London, where the owners, of Turkish origin, have been telling him about Galatasaray, Besiktas and Fernarbahce. There Fornals became handsome, perhaps because he expects to appear in many photos this Wednesday. Smiling, of course. With a cup, the one from the Conference League. West Ham and Fiorentina meet tomorrow in Prague in the final of the Conference League. Only one Spanish footballer has the possibility of lifting the title: Pablo Fornals. The man from Castellón, after experiencing his most difficult year since he arrived in the Premier four years ago, exudes enthusiasm.
Not for the moment. What I have is desire to travel to Prague and that the time for the final arrives. I think the work week we’ve had since the Premier ended has been good for us. The concentration in Portugal was positive and after the days of rest that the coach has given us have helped us to recharge our batteries.
What does a footballer do in the days before playing in a European final?
Mine have been quite calm, really. On Saturday I took advantage of it to fly to Spain to see my family, be with my parents and give my son one last hug.
Will they accompany you in Prague?
They won’t be able to be If we win the title, imagine how excited I’ll be to go home to see them and celebrate with them.
Speaking of family,what happened in the stands of AZ Alkmaar?
Well, I couldn’t tell you because I didn’t see it live. I know the same as you, because what my colleagues told me is what was seen on television. I didn’t have any relatives there and I also had to pass the anti-doping test, so everything caught me in the locker room. So I know what everyone, local fans entered the stands where relatives of some of my teammates were and tried to attack them. Luckily they were controlled.
West Ham played their last final in 2006 (FA Cup) and their last European one dates back to 1999 (Intertoto). A lot of time has passed.
The club is tremendously excited. This final is seen as a milestone. And more after the season in the Premier, which has been very difficult. Perhaps because of this suffering, the fans and the players face this final with enthusiasm and freshness.
Why this double face of West Ham in the Premier and Europe?
Well, the Premier is never easy. It is a very complicated tournament. Perhaps it can be attributed to the fact that thanks to reaching Europe so far, the legs have been loaded. There have been rotations, but not so many and the season has been long for some. But, in the end, we managed to stay in the Premier and in Europe we are in the final.
Now the Conference looks favorably, but have they had a surplus at some point this season?
No. I think not. On the contrary. I would tell you that it was good for us even for self-esteem. This competition has allowed us to feel throughout the year that we had the opportunity to do something beautiful. After each draw that we had, we saw that we could continue passing rounds and that illusion has kept us all very much alive.
What does this final mean for West Ham?
A lot. It is the award for an effort that the club has been making for years to consolidate and grow. Large investments are being made in the markets and this final, hopefully also the title, supports that project. For West Ham it is important to be in that first row, because it helps them grow as a club and that great players, like those who have come this year, want to continue coming.
What does the final against Fiorentina tell you?
A match in which everyone has their weapons. Despite the fact that we play in completely different leagues, I think that West Ham and Fiorentina have a similar style, a football with quick transitions, with many people arriving in the area, strong pressure, waiting for the opponent’s mistake… Within the differences, there are similarities.
What is the password?
The one of any ending. Try not to make a mistake and let the opposite do it. That is why it is very difficult to see attractive matches in a final, because your priority is not to make mistakes.
And how do you get there?
I think good. Very good, really. I feel fit and on a roll. In the last five or six games I have scored several goals and I am happy with how I am ending the season. At least I think I’m making it difficult for the coach… or easy for him to choose me in the eleven.
He has been fighting for months to be in the eleven…
That is. Never give up.
His celebration, with tears, after scoring against Bournemouth It said a lot about how difficult the year was for you.
This is my fourth season here. In the first I played a lot. But this year, perhaps to my detriment and also to the merit of my partner, who has been in great shape for a large part of the year, because in the end I didn’t have the minutes that I had before. But I always have ambition and I insist, I never gave up. It hasn’t been an easy season, but when you stop to watch it cold, life doesn’t revolve around you and if your partner is doing well, all you can do is push for when it’s your turn. And it has gone well for me, because in recent weeks I have recovered sensations.
How has he changed in these four years at West Ham?
In a lot, because four years is a long time. I arrived here after playing a Euro Cup with the Sub21. I have played many games, many minutes in the Premier League. That is something that I will always take with me, being able to say that I did not return after six months. I’ve had my moments, I’ve been a father here, I’m getting married while I’m here… for me this experience in West Ham is very positive.
I understand that you say the “six months” to emphasize how difficult it is to adapt to the Premier…
Completely. For players who are not physically so prodigious, as is my case, who have other virtues and are not looked at for our physical qualities, it is not easy to adapt. There are many precedents of players who don’t work or who don’t have the opportunities that I have had. I was lucky to have them and take advantage of them.
And how does a player who is more talented than physical adapt to the Premier League?
I could not tell you. If I had the key, I would share it for everyone who wanted to come. But it’s difficult. You have to find your moment, have an ideal coach, each person has their way of being, of training… there is no magic formula. Every person is a world.
What is David Moyes like?
He is a coach who has clear ideas, who knows what he wants from his teams and who has tried to transmit it with us in these three and a half years. And there we are, in a final.
Have you noticed a change in your day-to-day life as a footballer?
Of course I notice. I’m not the same player who played as a playmaker or midfielder at Málaga or Villarreal. Among other things because I haven’t played in that position for three years. This alternation of positions has been good for me to improve, because I have had to demand more from myself and adapt. The change is obvious, because West Ham does not play to have the ball as Villarreal did.
You have one year left on your contract, are you clear about your future beyond the final?
Well, I have this year left on my contract and I’m waiting for the club to decide or say something. But I understand that, today, it is not time to talk about it, we are focused on the final and when it happens, we will talk.