What’s his background?
Nolito had to wait to reach the top, making his professional debut for fourth-division Atlético Sanluqueño in 2004, after an ill-fated spell at Valencia. He arrived at Barcelona in 2008 but made just two first-team appearances under Josep Guardiola, spending most of his time with the reserves. Nolito moved to Benfica in summer 2011, heading back to Spain for a loan spell at Granada in 2013. The following season he linked up with Luis Enrique at Celta and it was with the Vigo club that he truly realised his potential, scoring 39 Liga goals in 100 outings.
What has changed since he left Barcelona?
His physique has improved immeasurably – something Nolito attributes to kicking a habit of scoffing pastries and sandwiches – and he has become quicker and sharper. He is also more experienced and wiser, having never played top-flight football before heading to Catalonia. With the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimović, Lionel Messi, David Villa and Thierry Henry ahead of him back then, he had little hope of a regular spot, but he has proved himself one of the top strikers in the Liga.
What kind of player is he?
Nicknamed ‘The Bullet’ by Barça B’s coaches, Nolito is fast and incisive, effective cutting in from either wing or playing centrally and taking on responsibility. He also has a deft touch and plenty of imagination, and worked up a special understanding with Fabián Orellana and Iago Aspas while with Celta.
What does he say about Guardiola?
“I’m very fortunate that it was he who handed me my debut at Barcelona. I know him a little; I was with him for a short while whenever he got me to train with the first team or included me in the playing squad. I think that Pep Guardiola is one of the best managers in the world. He knows a lot about the game and he’s going to help me progress as a player. I’m sure he’ll get the best out of me.”
Did you know?
Nolito worked as a butcher in his home town when he was 15. He also turned down a move to the Premier League not that long ago “because it’s cold, it rains a lot and the food’s bad”. But, perhaps armed with knowledge of Manchester’s growing culinary scene and the fact that average annual rainfall there is comparable to that of Barcelona, he has evidently had second thoughts.
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