Wednesday 24 January 2018, 19:34

Aimar: There's plenty more I'd like to have achieved

  • Pablo Aimar has officially hung up his boots following emotional final game

  • The 38-year-old recently spoke with about his career

  • ‘I just see getting older as nature taking its course’

On Tuesday 23 January 2018, Pablo Aimar bid farewell to the world of football. He did so on his own terms, playing for the very first time in an official match alongside his brother Andres, for the team where his professional career had started, Estudiantes de Rio Cuarto, and under the watchful eye of one of the coaches who most influenced his career, Marcelo Bielsa.

The records will show that Estudiantes were knocked out of the Copa Argentina following their 0-0 draw against Sportivo Belgrano. However, just this once, the result was not everything for the former River Plate, Valencia, Real Zaragoza and Benfica star.

Aimar departed to a standing ovation after 50 minutes of play. It was a fitting finale, with the 38 year-old playing one last competitive match at the club where he had made his debut aged just 16. Having called time on his playing days, he is now focusing on his new role as the head coach of the Argentina Under-17 national team.

(Yesterday was unforgettable. I had the privilege of saying goodbye in my city, at the club where my football career was born, alongside my brother Andres, in a competitive match, and in front of a full house. Thank you to my family for always being there, to my team-mates, to the coaching staff and to the management.)

A former veteran of two FIFA World Cups™,** and now a member of the FIFA Legends Team, **spoke with the Argentinian playmaker prior to his farewell appearance. So much time has passed since you made your debut in the senior game. How do you feel looking back? Pablo Aimar: I feel good. Obviously all of us would like to be younger than we are. Particularly in the case of ex-footballers: the FIFA Legends, for example. Ask any of us when we would like to be transported back to, and that’s the answer: playing football again, being able to run around and have fun like we did when we were 25 years-old. But I just see it as nature taking its course.

What’s the best thing about being a professional footballer? Playing with a ball! The everyday things, spending time with your team-mates, having fun and laughing for a whole training session. That’s what I miss about being a professional footballer. You maybe take it for granted at the time. As a professional you don’t have to rent a pitch, like I do now with my friends. Instead you get given the best kit, the best boots. I arrived back at my house with four pairs of boots once and a friend said: “Before you wore the same pair for two years. Why have you got four now?” It all comes with doing something you love, something you’re passionate about. And you’re treated like royalty: the hotels you stay in, the kit you train and play in...

And the worst thing? The injuries. When you can’t play because of your body. Seeing your team-mates head out for training and not being able to join them. Or when they’re running out to play and you can only watch on from the sidelines. That’s the worst.

Any footballing ambitions you didn't get to fulfill? Thousands! Loads and loads. I play with the FIFA Legends and I see guys who’ve won the Champions League, whereas I lost in the final. There are World Cup winners! I won one, but only at youth level. They’re all ambitions I never realised.

When we start playing, we all dream of getting to the very top: winning a World Cup for your country. Playing and scoring the winning goal, like Iniesta or Goetze. Doubtless they’ve got unfinished business too. But once you’ve done that, the others, you can let them slide... (laughs)

Let’s talk about the game. According to Pablo Aimar, what does it mean to ‘know football’? I don’t know if anyone can say this, that they ‘know football’. Football has so many variations, and can be so random. I don’t know if anyone can say to you: “This is the way, if we play like this we’ll win.” You can talk about statistics, but I’m not sure that knowing football necessarily means saying that ‘in the 1970 World Cup, X amount of goals were scored’. That’s knowing about the history of football, not knowing football.

You are often mentioned as having been Lionel Messi’s childhood idol. Who were yours? When I was little, I played for Estudiantes de Rio Cuarto and a guy called Jorge Rodriguez wore the No10 shirt for the senior team. I really liked him. In Buenos Aires I admired Gorosito, but then I trained with Francescoli, and well... Being on the same pitch as someone as good as him, who does everything so simply and with so much elegance, you can only enjoy it and it becomes your model. I also played with Ortega. Maradona! Practically every Argentinian who has ever played football shares a common bond when it comes to Diego. His name always comes up.