Fernando Morientes is a three-time UEFA Champions League winner with Real Madrid, and was crowned the competition's top scorer during the 2003-'04 season. On Monday, however, the former Real, Liverpool, and Monaco man took an unfamiliar seat for the second leg of Bayern Munich and Real Madrid's semifinal clash...the couch. Amidst warm temperatures and sunny skies, Fernando Morientes, Heineken, and a few lucky writers-yours truly included-chilled on the roof deck of Toshi's Living and Room and Penthouse in the Flatiron district of New York City. We were invited to check out how Heineken, sponsors of Europe's greatest club competition since 2005, planned to bring the American fan interaction to the next level for the match between Bayern Munich and Real Madrid.
Heineken's #ShareTheSofa campaign started last fall in Europe, with UCL legends Hernan Crespo, Ruud van Nistlerooy, and Roberto Di Matteo among those who were invited to #ShareTheSofa with viewers and fans, and interact via Twitter. Fans were able to reach out to the stars by tweeting to @Heineken to have their questions answered. This week marked the first time the interaction would take place in the United States, as fans were able to talk with Morientes by tweeting to @Heineken_US during the semifinal decider between Bayern and Real. The match on Tuesday may have fell short of expectations, with Real's 4-0 drubbing of the German champions in Bavaria, but that didn't take away from the banter between Morientes and stateside soccer fans. I sat down on the sofa with Morientes to talk about his best European nights, the growing Spanish influence on the game, and all things soccer.
Interview by Adam Silvers (@silversurfer103)
What was it like playing with Zidane, Beckham, Roberto Carlos, and Raul?
At the time it just felt like something you do daily as your routine, because they were my teammates. As time goes by, you realize you’ve played with some of the greatest in the history of football.
You’ve won the Champions League three times, what was the first one like with Real Madrid?
To me, that first one in 1998 was the most special one. Madrid hadn’t won the title in 32 years, and the atmosphere with the fans in Madrid, the way they welcomed us, it was definitely the most special one.
Who is the best player in the world right now?
You played in an all-Spanish Champions League final against Valencia. What would it be like for Atleti to play Real? Not just an all-Spanish final, but a Madrid derby?
It would be exceptional. Let’s just say the rivalry between the two teams in Madrid is something special. But I would say at a European level it would be great news, in terms of Spanish football. We’ve been doing really great in the past few years, and that’s just a sign of how Spanish football has been dominating lately.
You couldn’t play because you were cup-tied, but what was that night like in Istanbul at the 2005 Champions League final?
It was definitely a dramatic comeback. I watched it from the stands, and I remember how exceptional it was. It was probably one of the most dramatic finals I’ve ever watched. The way we [Liverpool] came back and won on penalties, especially against as excellent a team as AC Milan.
What are European nights like in Liverpool at Anfield?
It’s definitely something special. Not only in the Premier League, but especially on those European nights. The atmosphere. The fans, the way they’re behind the team, the way they’re devoted to the team, is one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen in the world of football. It’s absolutely fantastic.
You’ve played in Spain, England, and France. What are some of the differences in those countries, both on and off the pitch?
I would say the English and the Spanish leagues are the ones that, on the world spectrum, get a lot of coverage. And they probably are the biggest leagues in the world. Usually the French system exports players to the main leagues around Europe. I would say among the main differences, the English Premier League, I had to deal with a lot of physicality of the game. That was something you have to get used to, and in Spain usually the most talented players go to the Spanish league.
What are your expectations for the #ShareTheSofa campaign, and who is your Champions League winner?
I think everyone wanted this semifinal, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, as the final. Obviously I want Real Madrid to win it, but we also have to respect Chelsea and Atletico Madrid, who’ve done an unbelievable job to be there. We shall see.