Years have gone by since he last made the back of the net bulge, but Fernando Morientes charming smile remains.
Among the deadliest strikers in the world in his heyday, the charming Spaniard played for a host of top European clubs, including Real Madrid, Monaco and Valencia.
Looking lean and in good shape, the 40-year-old, having retired in 2010 before making a short-lived comeback in in 2015, is now fully focused on his current ambassadorial role for the La Liga that has brought him to India.
It is a league he is well versed with, having racked up over 300 appearances in a sparkling career that saw him win the league twice with his much loved Real Madrid.
At the launch of La Liga in India on Thursday, Morientes spoke exclusively to thestatesman.com in New Delhi.
Asked if there is any reason to doubt his loyalty to the Los Blancos he so famously plundered goals for, he exclaims with a grin, “Once a Madridista, always a Madridista. The winning mentality is enforced at the club from day one and stays with you for life.”
Seeing them winning titles again in Europe has gladdened him to no end, but does he see a place for himself in the all-conquering current Real Madrid side?
“Yes, of course! And that too as the centre-forward of the side. We would create quite a bang no?” quips Morientes, who was the top-scorer in the 2003-04 Champions League season for Monaco.
His managerial career didn’t quite take off as planned after he hung up his boots for good, but Morientes admits he is intrigued by the concept of a move to the ISL.
“If a concrete offer would come my way, sure why not? India is a fascinating country, and I would love to manage here. I love football, and so does India. It would be a great match.”
On being asked on who his favourite player is in the Real Madrid and Spanish national team, it is not surprising to hear the name Alvaro Morata.
Similarly built to Morientes, the deceptively strong Morata just scored a winner for Real Madrid in the Champions League against Sporting Lisbon on Wednesday night.
“I like him very much. It would be easy to say Cristiano Ronaldo who is near perfect, but Morata is a player after my own heart. Same position, similar playing styles and he is of course, Spanish!”
While Morientes is a La Liga ambassador, his obvious remarks about the strengths of the Spanish League compared to the other European leagues is expected. His logic, however, is unarguable.
“Players like David Silva, Nolito, Hector Bellerin are all going out of Spain because they weren’t getting enough chances. That statistic alone tells you all that you need to know about the strength of the League. When such brilliant players pack their bags to go overseas, you know the La Liga is doing something alright,” Morientes signs off.