Michael Santos emerged as the unlikely hero in his side’s 3-2 victory over Sporting before the international break. Having been left out in the cold for most of the season so far, the Uruguayan, who joined from River Plate (Montevideo) in the summer, is now starting to stake a claim for a place in Juande Ramos’ side after a hard summer of adjustment.
The need for a new ‘number 9’ has become one of the main talking points this season, especially with the injury to last season’s top scorer Charles. However, with arguably the biggest game of the season coming up against Barcelona this Saturday, the coach seemingly has a selection dilemma in the attacking department for the first time this year.
Whether he features or not at the Camp Nou, the Uruguayan hopes to secure his place in the starting line-up in the coming weeks and is determined not to give up on his fledgling La Liga career.
––What did the goal [against Sporting] mean to you?
–It made me very happy. A lot of people know what I have been through since the start, that I found it difficult to settle in. But through working hard and with the same humility as always, opportunities are coming.
–What was the reason behind your exuberant celebration?
–I always celebrate my goals like this. In truth I have found it difficult here and I needed to release some anger.
–What went through your mind when you were told to warm up in the first half of the fixture?
–At the time I wasn’t told much, only that I had to warm up. But as I have warmed up many times before in the first half and not gone on to play, I didn’t really believe that I would get on the pitch. Finally they gave me the opportunity and I tried to take advantage.
–What were the instructions from Juande then?
–He did not give me many instructions, only that I was coming on for Jony and that I had to tell Juanpi to play on the wing.
–Aside from the final result of the encounter against Sporting, was this a good match for Malaga?
–I think we improved throughout and in the end, with the help of the fans, Malaga came out on top.
–Were you expecting the game to be more straight-forward, especially after you took the lead?
–The truth is that the free kick, Sporting’s second, was a great goal. We could do nothing about it. But one of the strengths of this team is that we never give up. We always look for the best results possible.
–Have you received congratulations for the match?
–Yes, my teammates congratulated me and I also received messages from Uruguay from former teammates and many loved ones.
––Are there a lot of differences between the Spanish league and football in South America?
–Yes, they are very different. Here there is more rhythm, the ball travels much faster. We play in the best league in the world. South American football is very different. Everyone who arrives from there finds it difficult, in the same way that I did. I’m grateful for the support of my teammates, who are helping me to move forwards.
–How do you see your current situation in the team, knowing that Juande Ramos is looking for a ‘number nine’?
–The situation is complicated, but I am mentally strong. By always working hard and keeping my mouth shut, opportunities will arrive and I think I have taken advantage this time round.
–Do you think that this goal will put to bed the possibility of your departure in the January window?
–I am mentally strong and I will continue to fight for a place in the team.