Francisco Ginella is still an LAFC player, he was told up front by LAFC coach Steve Cherundolo that his minutes would drop with the arrivals of Gareth Bale and Sebas Méndez, in search of an opportunity he would return to his native Uruguay, on loan, to play for Nacional.
While Ginella may have missed out on the Gareth Bale and Giorgio Chiellini experience, he only had a handful of training sessions with them, upon arriving at Nacional, Ginella got a chance to play alongside another legend, Uruguay's all-time leading scorer Luis Suarez.
In a sit down with Bolavip, Ginella spoke about what he wants to get out of his move to Nacional and his memories of playing in Major League Soccer, which he thinks is a great steppingstone for young players.
Bolavip: How does it feel to be back in Uruguayan soccer after a two-year spell in MLS? And how did it all come about to get you from LAFC to Nacional?
Francisco Ginella: Everything kind of moved fast, it was near the end of the summer transfer window, in two or three days I was sent on loan for one year, and when this loan deal is done, I am scheduled to return to LAFC.
BV: What are you searching for in this loan move to Nacional?
FG: Well even though I was playing consistently at LAFC, I would start some games, come off the bench in others. I wanted to get more continuity, the reality was that the coaches were very up front with me, that it would be difficult for me to get the string of games that I wanted, and I understood, the team was flying high.
LAFC won the Western conference (they also won the Supporters Shield), the reality is that there is a group of players at LAFC that are very very good. Then the head coach of Nacional wanted me to join the club and looking at that outlook I thought it best to come to Nacional.
Playing with Luis Suarez
BV: While you have missed out on the Bale and Chiellini express you signed with Nacional and have Luis Suarez as an unexpected teammate, what is it like playing with him?
FG: I think I had great luck that in one month I was able to share a locker room with three great players, they are three players that are among the elite of this sport. I was able to train a bit more with Chiellini and learn from such a top talent. I watched Chiellini and how he positioned himself defensively, how he would find spaces under pressure.
When I got here and in a few days Luis Suarez was announced it really moved the needle. To many Suarez is one of the best strikers of his generation, here in Uruguay to many of us Suarez is a childhood idol, for his career and for what he has done as a Uruguayan playing abroad. To play with a guy who when I was growing up with my friends we’d say, “Am Luis Suarez” or “today am going to score like Luis Suarez”, it hits you, now after two months he is one of us and it’s normal. I want to learn from him, how he moves, ask him questions, he played 15 years abroad.
BV: Do you think MLS prepared you to play with a player like Luis Suarez?
FG: Yeah, I think MLS helped, I played with Carlos Vela who is the Mexican Luis Suarez, let’s say, and to play against great players like Gonzalo Higuaín and Blaise Matuidi. I think the fact that Luis Suarez is Uruguayan it gives it a more emotional touch. I truly value playing with him.
How it’s like playing in MLS
BV: In Uruguay and in most of Latin America the press is divided on MLS, the younger generation see it as a destination, for others it’s a soccer graveyard. What was your experience like?
FG: Yes, my experience was very positive, I saw a huge growth in the league while I was there. MLS always brings players of better quality. Each year there are more younger players going to MLS because they see it as a league that can prepare you for Europe. The league has sold a huge number of players to Europe in recent years.
It is a very difficult league, very physical league, lots of back-and-forth play, it makes a huge difference to play at home than on the road, the climate changes, the turf changes, there is altitude, and each team has their style of play, I really think MLS has grown a lot.
The difference I see between MLS and South America is that here in South America we are tighter on defending, in MLS there is more open space. In MLS you see goals that you wouldn’t see in South America, and I think that is due to the fact that in MLS the speed of the game is so much faster, and I think some players find it hard to cope playing at that speed for 90 minutes and we see some sloppy goals.
BV: You played under two coaches in MLS very different in regard to their careers, Steve Cherundolo is starting his time as a first team coach, while Bob Bradley was a veteran national team coach, what did you think about each one?
FG: With both of them I had a great relationship, they didn’t speak Spanish, so I got to practice my English with them. Bob was a bit more aggressive in his style, always thinking forward, which at times hurt us when it came time to get back and track back to defend. We’d score a lot of goals under Bob but gave up too much, I think.
With Steve, he wanted us to play aggressive but to play a bit more defensive minded, he stressed a lot defending in the box, he wanted us to get the ball higher up the field but if we had situations at the back to be very aware of defending. At times this season when we played away, we’d let the opposing team have the ball and stayed compact in defense, we knew that our attacking players could get the job done when we’d attack.
BV: Where do you see yourself this time in one year?
FG: Well right now my mind is on winning the league with Nacional, I am not thinking too far ahead. Soccer is constantly changing. We will see where we are at in one year, but my clear goal is to assert myself with Nacional.