Barcelona taught me everything I know and playing with Stenhousemuir is a whole nou world
(article taken from a Daily Record interview)
Stenny midfielder Carlos Mazana-Martinez used to rub shoulders with Luis Figo and Rivaldo.
The road from Barcelona’s Nou Camp to Stenhousemuir’s Ochilview is one of the dustier, lesser-travelled ones in football.
But Stenny’s Spanish midfielder Carlos Mazana-Martinez is hoping his stint in Scottish football isn’t just a pit stop along the way.
The 26-year-old is in a different world to the one which saw him as a youngster share corridors with superstars such as Luis Figo and Rivaldo at Barca.
The winger played with his hometown club until the age of 12 before a spell with Osasuna and some future Champions League starlets followed.
Martinez used to train alongside superstar Luis Figo.
A subsequent period in Spain’s lower leagues, combined with his studies, shunted Mazana-Martinez on to the back road which led him to Scotland in 2015 in an attempt to improve his English.
And although immediately out of his comfort zone, he believes he has got something to offer the Scottish game.
He said: “I knew nothing about Scottish football before I moved to Scotland but I find the style of play here very different to Spain.
“It can be difficult because the games are very direct but in every match I try to show my quality and play the way I know.
“I like to pass the ball quickly with my team-mates and create opportunities with simple football.
“I have a PE teaching degree but I still have ambition to play football at the highest level I can and I would like to do that in Scotland.
“I’ve seen some matches in the Premiership and I think the quality is high, so it is an ambition of mine to play there if possible.”
Mazana-Martinez was picked up by Barca as an eight-year-old and played in the Catalan giants’ youth set-up for four years.
He was then farmed to one of Barca’s many sister clubs for two years before his family left the region and moved to Navarra in the north of Spain.
The talented youngster was initially chased by Athletic Bilbao but their homegrown rule put a wet blanket on any possible deal. So the teen penned his first professional contract with Osasuna a short while later.
Mazana-Martinez said: “I learned everything I know at Barca .
“We were taught to play in triangles and not to worry about where you have the ball on the pitch as long as you are passing it and creating space.
“It doesn’t matter if you have the ball for five or 10 minutes in defence as the opposition will eventually press and that opens up space in midfield to attack.
“I can remember seeing players like Rivaldo, Figo and Kluivert train but my idol was Marc Overmars.
“I was team-mates with Ronald Koeman’s son and we used to put our heads under the shutters in the stadium to watch them at the Camp Nou.
“We would also sneak into the changing rooms to see where the players were sitting and to look around – it was awesome.
“When I left I really missed it – it was my dream to play for them in the future.”
But Mazana-Martinez also admitted: “I made mistakes at Osasuna. I was training with players like Nacho Monreal, Cesar Azpilicueta and Carlos Vela who have made amazing careers in the Champions League.
“In fact, Carlos Cuellar had just left for Rangers when I joined. I was given a professional deal at 17-years-old and I started to relax because I thought I had done everything I needed to already – even though I was the youngest in the squad.
“After my second season I wasn’t enjoying the football as much and I asked to be loaned out so I could obtain a degree in PE teaching and play part-time.
“I like having a degree but when I think back I should have stayed and tried harder.”
Several seasons in Spain’s third division and Segunda B beckoned during which Mazana-Martinez plied his trade with UD Logrones.
But the now 22-year-old made the decision to head home to Barcelona and continue his studies before moving to Glasgow at 24 in an attempt to improve his English and experience a new culture.
He added: “I knew nothing about Scottish football apart from hearing about Celtic and Rangers.
“I didn’t expect to come here and play in the Scottish leagues, I just wanted to learn more English.
“I made a few friends in my flat’s building and joined their amateur team, Westerlands, in Glasgow for a few months before I got a trial with Stenny and signed for them.”
Stenhousemuir’s assistant boss, Davie Irons, is the man responsible for bringing in the winger for a trial.
He said: “Carlos has huge technical ability. He is very comfortable in possession and you can tell he was raised playing the game a different way.
“The boys were excited when they saw his talent and they all hold him in high regard as a player and as a person.
“He’s been quite unfortunate since he signed with us. He went back to Spain last summer to visit home and missed pre-season, so he’s been in and out the side since he got back in October.
“But when he gets that big opportunity I know he’ll take it.”
Mazana-Martinez, who also works as a chef in Mi Casa next to George Square, added: “I remember my first training session. We did so much running that I was thinking, ‘Where is the ball?’ because in Spain all the technical and physical work is combined.
“But the guys all really welcomed me to the team and helped me out.
“I love Glasgow and I’m happy here just now but one day I think I will go back to Spain. Whether that is for football or for family or anything else, I’m not sure.”
Watch Carlos score one of the best goals seen at Ochilview with his sublime chip of the keeper with the outside of his foot – Warriors TV – Stenhousemuir v Airdrie – Sat 28 Jan 2017