Friday, December 10, 2010
Despite persistent rumors that he will once again be going out on-loan this winter, forward Jozy Altidore insists that he is perfectly content to stay at Villarreal through the end of the season.
Fans will remember that Altidore's first season on the Iberian Peninsula was marred by a disastrous mid-season loan to Xerez where the American did not play a single minute. The following year the young striker was loaned to then-Premier League club Hull City which ended with mixed results.
Now with the winter transfer window approaching, talk has surfaced that the 21 year old may be headed to Turkish club Bursapor, Bari of Serie A or Kaiserslautern in Germany. However, the man himself is making it clear that those are just made-up rumors and that he wants to stay with the Yellow Submarine.
"Right now I want to stay here at Villarreal," Altidore recently told YA. "You never know in soccer but I am happy to be playing here and to continue learning and improving. I'm not going to be a player who moves every six months. Now come this summer, things might change but for now, I want to be here."
Altidore is in midst of his third season overseas where he has seen most of his playing time come in Europa League and also Spanish Copa del Rey games where he scored twice against Polideportivo Ejido helping Villarreal advance to the round of 16 which was a boost of confidence.
"All in all this fall has been a positive experience," he continued. "It's been good. I've been training really hard and I think I've done alright when I've played. I just need to keep working hard because there is a lot of competition to play up front on this team which is good."
The man Altidore is tasked with trying to impress is Villarreal head coach Juan Carlos Garrido. The two met each other two years ago when Altidore first arrived to the club while Garrido was coaching Villarreal B. When former head coach Manuel Pellegrini would not include Altidore on his 18 man roster for a match, the New Jersey native would train with Garrido's squad.
Now that he is playing full-time under the former reserve team boss, Altidore understands why Garrido is one of Spain's most acclaimed coaches.
"He's a good coach," Altidore said of Garrido. "He's very strict and tough but that suits us. He coaches to try to win every game. I also love the style he has us playing which is a pass-and-move type of play. It was a bit of adjustment for me after my year in England but I like playing in it. Also he gets along with everyone on the team."
Off the field, the adjustment back to Villarreal appears to be going very smoothly for the US international. He explains that the difference between the fall of 2008 and the fall of 2010 is almost night-and-day.
"It's been a world of difference this time around," said Altidore. "I was so young when I first came here. It was tough and personally it was very hard since everything was so new and I didn't know the language. It's totally different this time. It's a good group of guys and I really feel like a part of the team."
While the ‘galacticos' at Real Madrid and the Ballon D'Or finalists at Barcelona garner the majority of the headlines in Spain, Villarreal have quietly become a third player in the title chase with 30 points through 14 matches and currently sit in third place position in the La Liga standings.
Altidore is quick to point out that the success of the Yellow Submarine is due to a bond that the players share.
"We're a close team," he said of his teammates. "This isn't a squad with a bunch of players who were just bought but a squad where guys have been playing together now for six or seven years. Also we have young players who have come up through the youth squads and they know how to play in the system."
One of his teammates, American-born Giuseppe Rossi, is having perhaps his finest season as a professional which is all the more significant after a summer where Rossi was excluded off the Italian World Cup roster and also saw his father pass away.
While Rossi is generally disliked by US fans for his decision of choosing the Azzurri over the Stars and Stripes, Altidore maintains a solid friendship with Rossi and is glad to see his teammate experiencing such success.
"I know he's not the most popular guy for US fans because of his decision, but for me, seeing him have the success he's having is like a victory," he said of Rossi. "He worked hard and he deserves it. I'm happy for him. While a lot of players are resting and not working, Giuseppe is still out there trying to outwork everyone. It's a testament to him to not giving up and sticking things out when things looked bad for him."
Another compatriot that Altidore took pride in seeing perform on the big stage was New York Red Bulls forward Juan Agudelo who scored his first US national team goal last month in a friendly versus South Africa.
"I am nothing but happy and excited for Juan, but I think right now the best thing to do would be to not get too excited and leave him alone and allow him to continue to develop," he discussed. "He has all the tools to be a great player, but like a lot of us, there is still a ways to go and a lot to learn."
In the aftermath of that South Africa match, some fans took it upon themselves to label Agudelo as the future of US Soccer and refer to Altidore as a has-been.
Instead of getting irritated by such assertions that Agudelo had usurped his place up front for Bob Bradley and that his national team career was over, Altidore is approaching the whole thing with veteran-like sense of humor.
"I just turned 21 and I'm all washed up!" he joked. "I guess it's all over and that I need to go out and buy a cane!"
Altidore and Villarreal return to action on Saturday when they travel to the southern outskirts of Madrid to take on Getafe.