One of the things I enjoy most in my post-playing career is being a TV pundit, as it allows me to stay close to football. I love giving my insights and using my experiences as a player to engage and inform the people at home. I want the viewer to feel like they are there at the game every time I’m on.
One of my main roles is with LaLiga in Spain. The league covers games and produces studio programmes, all in English, that are used by broadcasters all over the world. They reach around 3 billion people every season, so that’s quite a lot of pressure!
The international audiences are so important for football and one of the main reasons why the game has grown so much in the last 20 years. It really is global. In some countries there is a 24/7 TV channel available dedicated just to LaLiga, and it is all produced back in Spain.
One of the most important regions for Spanish football is Asia and the early afternoon kick-offs in recent years have been to accommodate the fans there as they were traditionally always in the evening.
I am also a LaLiga ambassador and often travel to that part of the world to promote the league. In India, where they have an office, a live public screening of the El Classico can attract nearly 20,000 people, which is incredible and demonstrates the passion there is for the game.
All this increased coverage means more former players are needed to provide analysis and commentary. Despite the increased opportunities, it is fiercely competitive because so many want to do this type of work.
If you want to succeed, you can’t just turn up on the day and hope your playing experiences will get you through. You need to do a lot of preparation beforehand to know the players, recent games, stats etc. I have also done all my coaching badges. The fans are very knowledgeable these days, and we are there to add to their understanding.
I’m based in England but with the internet and information so easily accessible these days, I can follow everything that is happening in Spain very easily. To keep up-to-date and informed, I spend a lot of time reading the news, watching football shows, listening to the radio and checking what is happening on social media.
For any really hot topic, I use my network of contacts across the game to get the inside story. At the same time, I have the advantage of observing the outsider perspective from seeing how things are viewed from England.
One of the challenging aspects from living in the UK for the last 20 years is I can mix up the phrases in the two languages. So, I sometimes say a Spanish phrase in English or vice versa, which can sound a bit strange.
For example, I might say rhythm of the game (“ritmo de partido” in Spanish) instead of tempo of the game. One that often gets me is saying caño instead of nutmeg. It must be the excitement I get from seeing a great piece of skill!
My 5 Quick Tips for Players Wanting to Get Involved in the Media
1. Find someone to represent you that will help you build a sustainable and consistent career.
2. They should prepare you, and you shouldn’t feel like it is sink or swim.
3. Do your research for every appearance and stay up to date on the latest news.
4. Use your experience and network to provide valuable insights to the audience.