Without making noise or monopolizing large covers, Peter Chirivella (Rocafort, 1997) has become one of the best midfielders in Ligue 1. The Valencia academy player and former Liverpool player, a club he belonged to for seven years, attends AS daily after winning the Gala Cup with Nantes, where He is going through the best moment of his career as a footballer. “I see myself with the medal and I think that all the sacrifices I have made have been worth it”, he discovers before a summer that is expected to be turbulent: “I have been away from Spain for nine years and I always want to return, but I also have to enjoy the moment I’m living right now”.
Cup Champion in France. Do you believe it already or are you still assimilating it?
No, I still don’t believe it. I think we are not yet aware of what we have done. It had been many years since Nantes had won a title and we have achieved it. We have entered the history of the club and that is what we still have to assimilate.
Much more coming from a season as complicated as last. Antoine Kombouaré arrived to change everything.
Last year was the complete opposite of this one. The coach arrived at the time he had to arrive. I think it was fate. And well, thanks in part to him last season ended very well for us and this season we have followed the same path. It has been amazing. We are not yet aware of what we have achieved.
How did you experience the final and the days before?
Since the Cup quarterfinals, people began to dream a little. And so are we. Every time I went to the city center or went to the supermarket to buy the only thing that was talked about was the Cup. The other day the stadium was literally like playing in Nantes. It was incredible. 80% of the fans were easily from Nantes. It felt like we were playing at home.
Did the scene impress you?
I had been injured for three weeks and I was in doubt until the end. The day before the final he didn’t know if he was going to be able to play because he was in a lot of pain and he wasn’t getting better. That took the pressure off me when preparing for the game mentally because I only thought about being well. I didn’t think about the magnitude of the match and that helped me to be very calm during the match. Since it started, things have been very easy for me.
What did you think when the referee blew the final whistle and won the first title of your career as a footballer?
Many things came to my mind. I left home at the age of 16 to experience moments like this. I have not had an easy race. Things have happened to me that literally happen to one in 500 players. Like not being able to play for Extremadura because the papers arrived late, going back to Liverpool and not being able to play either… All those moments have been rewarded with the Cup title. That was the first thing I thought of.
Think then that all the effort was worth it.
Yes, I see myself with the champion’s medal around my neck and I think that all the sacrifices I’ve made have been worth it. On a football level, winning the Cup with Nantes is the best thing that has ever happened to me. My dream has always been to win titles with the club I’m at, but I didn’t expect to do it so quickly. We’ve gone from the last two years in Liverpool to these two here, I’ve been through everything and you have to enjoy these moments because there aren’t many in football.
He said after the final that he would personally speak with each of his teammates so that none of them go to another club. Do you see the Cup title as the beginning of a great stage in Nantes?
We’ve been playing together every weekend for two years. I am sure that the rivals do not like to play against us because we are a very physical team, it is very difficult to play against us. Hopefully this year’s base will continue next year because we have qualified for the group stage of the Europa League and it would be very nice if we all continue. I think that we can be at the beginning of a good time.
What will you do with the champion medal?
I’m going to wait for the season to end and take it to Valencia. I’m going to frame it and put it in my room, I have quite a few things there.
He renewed until 2026. Are you happy in Nantes?
I am very comfortable here. Last year things did not go well, but still I was very good. I noticed the confidence of the club, of all the coaches I had… There was a moment when I had doubts when it came to renewing, but we were one game away from playing the Europa League and that changed my way of seeing the renewal. For me, taking a step forward is playing in the Europa League. And if it’s with the club I’m at now and where I’m immensely happy, then all the better. I was very confident in winning the final and taking that step forward playing Europe.
Don’t you feel like playing in LaLiga?
Yes of course. I’ve been away from Spain for nine years and I always want to come back, but I also have to enjoy the moment I’m living now. Being an important part of this club and of the coach is something that we players always look for and we have to take advantage of these moments because we don’t know what next year will be like.
How has your transformation as a midfielder been?
In Valencia, and in all Spanish quarries, the midfielders were very robotic. We had to play close, two touches, fast, we were carefree without the ball… At Liverpool I had to change those habits because it is one of the clubs that demands the most physical work from midfielders and that has helped me to adapt very well to France. Nantes is one of the teams that has the least ball, but we do a lot of damage with the little ball we have. I have always been a midfielder who likes to look far away, play with the forwards, and I think that this year we have achieved complicity between the forwards and me, who do a lot of damage to the defences. Although we are in a low block, when we recover the ball we look for those above and do a lot of damage.
With Kombouaré he has played inside, but also as a pivot, closer to the defense. Which position do you like the most?
It depends on the context of the match. Here against important rivals we always play with three in the middle, but there are other games that we can dominate more and the coach puts me closer to the defense to dominate with my game. I feel comfortable in both places and it is the first year in which I have felt very comfortable against big teams like PSG, Monaco or Nice in the Cup final. I feel very comfortable being closer to the forwards and I’m enjoying it a lot.
I suppose that in Valencia I had it all. He played in a big club and was close to his loved ones. Why did he go to Liverpool?
I was very comfortable in Valencia, but the club was going through a difficult time with the change of presidency and the academy did not take care of itself as it does now. Liverpool came and I spoke directly with Brendan Rodgers. Seeing that a club of this size had a plan for me and that it was the coach of the first team with whom I spoke motivated me a lot. That was the main reason for the change.
What feeling does it give you to see former teammates and friends like Toni Lato or Carlos Soler play with the Valencia first team?
I look at them with great pride. There are people in Valencia with whom I have played since we were five years old and everything good that happens to them is as if it happened to me. I have a lot of love for them and I am very proud to see them at Valencia.
In the coming weeks there will be a lot of talk about Klopp. How is he in the short distances?
Klopp is as seen on television. He is a person with a lot of charisma that hooks you. He is the coach who made me play the least, but he would put him in the top 2 of the most important in my career so far. I will always be very grateful to him because I learned many things from him both in football and in life.
Did the comparison with Xabi Alonso hurt you?
When you are 15 years old and they tell you the new Xabi Alonso you take it well, but when I went to Liverpool and started playing with the first team I stopped liking it so much. I was a Spanish midfielder who played for Liverpool and my best virtue is hitting the ball. He is already. Everything he did was already Xabi Alonso. I remember a pre-season game against Helsinki in Finland. I played 10 minutes and I played well. No more. Social networks were like the reincarnation of Xabi. They are things that weigh. Youngsters are destined to be compared to legends.
How’s the French?
Well well. I have ease with languages. I like to talk a lot in the locker room, feel connected with my teammates… And for that, language is essential.
He wears the number 5, why?
When I was four or five years old I loved Zidane. He didn’t know why, but he was seen by a different player. My father liked it a lot too and when I joined Valencia number five was available. I picked it up and have worn it pretty much ever since.
This season he faced the PSG of Mbappé, Messi and Neymar. What did he think when he saw them together on the field?
I thought about them having a bad day first and us having our best day of the season. I have a joke with a partner. I’ve played Paris four times and beaten them twice, it doesn’t have to be that difficult either. Normally in a game you have to be focused every second, because against Paris you get even more in your head. You know that at any moment they can hurt you. We were winning 3-0 at home and I have never seen a team winning 3-0 with such fear. You realize the magnitude of the team and the players it has.
What would you say to a Real Madrid fan, who may have Mbappé in his team next season?
Which is very lucky. It will dominate European and world football for years to come. He has absolutely everything and, furthermore, I have colleagues who have been friends of his for years and say that he is a boy with a very well furnished head. That will also play a fundamental role in the many years of his career that remain.
And your former teammates from Valencia?
I would tell them to be careful. Don’t leave him much space because there is no train to stop him.
He has faced Mbappé, Messi and Neymar and has played with Salah, Mané and company. What trident does he keep?
I have not played against Mané and Salah, but I have played with them and I know what they are capable of. In any case, the one I least want to face is Messi. He sees things five seconds before you. In our last match we won 3-1 and then they gave PSG a lot of blows, but if it wasn’t for our goalkeeper, who had the day of his life, Messi could have left with five assists. See things you don’t think possible. You see it and you think: ‘But if that pass doesn’t exist, it doesn’t make sense’.
When you face this type of player, is there time to learn or is there only time to suffer?
No, it’s that even if he tried to learn, we can’t try to do the things that Messi does. It seems that he is not here, but he makes your night very long. It seems that he is walking, it seems that things are not going with him, but he receives the ball and the first thing is that you do not take it away from him and the second thing is that he can give you an assist from anywhere on the field.
What is the roof of Pedro Chirivella?
On a personal level, I want to be the best Pedro Chirivella that I can be. I have a lot of confidence in myself and a lot of room for improvement. When I finish the games I see them to correct mistakes, I like to ask my physical data, improve weekly… I can be much better and I will do everything possible to be the best Pedro Chirivella that I can be. Next year in Europe is an important step for the club. I hope the club has the same ambition as me. From there we will see what happens.
Going to the national team in the not too distant future?
Of course. I am still 24 years old, I have a long career ahead of me and the national team is one of my dreams. I am going to work every day to become an absolute international with Spain. That’s clear to me.