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Yuri Berchiche: “I am not a back-up.”

Speaking in an exclusive interview with Le Parisien, PSG’s most expensive summer signing (for now), Yuri Berchiche, arrived for €15m from Real Sociedad and will compete with Layvin Kurzawa for the starting left-back spot.

The French do not know you very well. Can you tell us about where you are from?

I am from a small village near Saint-Sebastian, called Zarauz in Basque country. I am born to an Algerian father and a Basque mother. My father emigrated to France when he was 14 due to problems in his country. And my parents met later in Berlin, Germany when on holiday. The Algerian federation tried to contact me to play for the national team, but I declined it because I still have the possibility to play for Spain.

It has been said that when you were 15, you fought with a referee on the field.

That is not true. The truth is, after a heated game with some rows, I threatened the referee. But I did not fight him. For that matter, I have never fought on or off the pitch in my life. Following these problems, the Spanish federation banned me for four months, and I was not able to play in the U-17 World Cup or U-17 Euros. It is true that I was a highly-strung player, and that the punishment was not unfair, but slightly excessive. After this incident and everything I said, I decided to go to Tottenham in the Premier League to change scenery.

Was that the first time you came across Gareth Bale? 

The year I signed at Tottenham was the year he arrived from Southampton. He was playing with the first team, while I was with the reserves. I knew him, but we did not have a particularly special relationship. At the time, he played left-back like me. When he was not with the first team, he played in the reserves. We did come across each other in La Liga. During a game between Real Madrid and Real Sociedad, in the Bernabeu, when I was marking him on a corner. He remembered me and said, “Hey I know you, you’re Yuri!”

Let’s talk a bit about PSG. When did the club first try to recruit you?

The first approach came during the last winter transfer window. Kluivert made an offer for me to join PSG, but I told myself that it was not the best option at the time. I wanted to stay with Real Sociedad to keep improving. To join PSG at the time did not guarantee that, and I wanted to stay to play and help the club qualify for the Europa League.

So, why did you agree to a move this summer?

Because I felt that it was step forward. I always want to outdo myself, and reach my challenging objectives. I feel that I am able to play with world-class players, even if just sharing a dressing room with them is already a dream. Normally, you play with them on the PlayStation!

Did you know Unai Emery before signing in Paris?

Not personally, but I knew about his career path. He called me about a month and half ago, while on vacation in Greece, and I thank him personally for that. He was very convincing. And when you know the coach and sporting director want you, it is an easy decision to make.

Do you consider yourself Layvin Kurzawa’s substitute?

No, I do not see myself as a second choice. I am here to compete with him to help the team. But I also want to learn from Kurzawa, because I consider him one of the best full-backs in the world today.

What do you need to improve to reach PSG’s level?

If I am here, it is because I think that I have the level to do so. But I am more of an attacking player, rather than a defensive player. So I think I still need to improve the defensive side of my game. And I think the coach can help me a lot in this area.

 

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