One of the world’s biggest cities, London attracts huge numbers of visitors month after month and caters for every imaginable taste.
One man who knows very well what the British capital has to offer is Gaizka Mendieta, the ex-midfielder who performed with distinction for Valencia between 1993 and 2001 and wound his career down with English club Middlesbrough.
“London is very similar to New York and has so much to offer. It’s a city that never stops,” said Mendieta, who is celebrating his 40th birthday and divides his time between media work and DJ-ing in nightclubs and at festivals.
A member of the Spain side that appeared at the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™, the former Valencia captain is well qualified to talk about London’s charms, having lived in the city since retiring from football in 2008.
“I enjoy the culture, the respect people have for players and the variety you get here,” he told FIFA.com. “I like the fact that you can have a good time here with just three euros in your pocket and that you can also spend three thousand in a night no problem,” he added, showing his inside knowledge of the city’s nightlife.
Preferring vinyl to the latest technology, the ex-international has a penchant for classic soul and modern indie music, his days of being a heavy metal lover now a thing of the past: “I’ve gone a bit soft as I’ve got older,” he joked.
“I’ve always collected vinyl,” he went on to say. “Music is my passion and London is the perfect place for me. Whenever I came here I always tried to buy some records. I’ve had more free time since I retired and I DJ whenever my schedule allows. I just love it.”
For a veteran of a 15-year career in professional football and two UEFA Champions League finals and a FIFA World Cup, performing in front of large crowds ought not to present much of a problem. As Mendieta acknowledged, however, the decision to swap football for the turntable exposed him to new type of pressure.
“My first gig was at the Festival Internacional de Benicassim (FIB),” he said. “I was invited there by a friend and it was like making your debut in a World Cup Final at the Maracana. There were thousands of people there. It was amazing, a unique experience. I’ve never done anything like it since.”
Explaining the rush that his new profession gives him, Mendieta said: “I can’t describe that feeling you get when you don’t know how people are going to react to the music you play. It’s in your hands to some extent but there has to be a connection with the audience too. When you’re up there on the stage, all on your own, you really see how things are.”
Not surprisingly, the pop-picking midfield legend is invariably recognised by the people he plays for, as he explained: “You hear some people say: ‘Is that Mendieta, the footballer?’. It’s strange, but in London you get these small and very exclusive clubs that like to protect their image and don’t want me to play there because they think I’ll start attracting football fans.
“It’s weird, but like I said before, London’s got a little bit of everything. And in that respect, you’re just another face, for better or worse.”
Asked to name the best players on the planet as well as three essential records, Mendieta hesitated in answering the first question but had no doubt about the second: “Anything by Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground, any Motown song and anything by My Bloody Valentine.”
Acknowledging the passion that binds music and football, the midfield maestro turned DJ rounded off by describing his dream gig: “The pinnacle when you’re a player is the World Cup, and I think the ultimate for me today would be to play at the Rhythm Festival or Lollapalooza in the USA.”