TEN OF THE BEST
Gers hero Nacho Novo shares his Ten of the Best with your club website
THIS season we’ll be re-publishing a much loved programme feature where various former players and staff talk about some of their favourite experiences and tales from football in 10 of the Best.
Today it is Nacho Novo’s turn to reflect on his remarkable career, including scoring that unforgettable penalty in Florence, playing alongside Dado Prso and meeting and taking advice from Real Madrid and Spain legend Emilio Butragueno.
WE CAUGHT UP WITH NACHO FOR HIM TO ANSWER TEN OF THE BEST – SCROLL DOWN TO READ BELOW.
Best Moment At The Club
I have a lot of great memories from my time at Rangers but my best moment at the club has to be the penalty kick in the UEFA Cup semi-final against Fiorentina.
We had enjoyed such a great run in Europe that season but we didn’t want it to stop at the semis, we wanted to get to the final for ourselves and for the fans. When the game went to the penalty shoot-out we knew we had a good chance. As it went on I remember the boys celebrating when Christian Vieri missed Fiorentina’s fourth penalty and I knew then I had an opportunity to put Rangers in the final.
I walked past my team-mates and then up the pitch but I felt relaxed, I wasn’t even thinking about anything. I put the ball on the spot and the referee made me move it slightly and that is when I felt a little bit nervous. I stepped back, put the ball where I wanted to put it past their keeper and it was the best feeling ever running to the fans.
All the other players, the manager and coaches then came over and it was very emotional. Even now I watch footage that fans who were in the stadium have put up on YouTube to see the penalty from different angles and the celebrations. It still gives me shivers when I see the ball go in and it is a moment I will remember for the rest of my life.
Best Defender I Faced In My Career
The best defenders I have faced in my career are Carles Puyol and Sergio Ramos. I came up against Puyol when Rangers played Barcelona in the Champions League but I also played against them when I was in Spain. Puyol is, of course, now retired but he was quick, aggressive and could read the game very well.
He was also a good footballer which you have to be if you are at Barcelona. Ramos, for me, is probably the best defender in the world and you only have to look at what he has won with Real Madrid and Spain.
He, like Puyol, is a winner and he is a leader on the pitch.
Best Player I Played With In My Career
The best player I played with in my career is a tough question to answer because there are a few, including Fabrizio Ravanelli at Dundee, but if I had to pick one it would be Dado Prso.
I loved the passion Dado had for the game but he also had a lot of qualities and I learned a lot from him. We had a good partnership on the pitch, I think in 2004/05 I scored 25 goals and he got 21 so we did well together and I enjoyed it a lot.
Dado was a big character at Rangers and a great person, the fans loved him and I know he loved being in Scotland.
Best Childhood Memories
When I was growing up I would always watch Real Madrid and Rafael Gordillo, who played with Madrid, also played with my dad, Ricardo, at Real Betis. When Madrid came to play Deportivo La Coruna I would go to the team hotel with my dad and I got the chance to go up to meet Emilio Butragueno.
This is one of my best childhood memories because Butragueno was one of the greatest strikers in the world at this time and I remember it very well. He was sitting at a desk in his room and in front of him he had piles of books and he was reading them and writing things down.
I could see straight away this was a very clever guy and when he spoke I listened to everything he said. He would tell me about his career and what I should do to become a good footballer.
He also told me to study and after that I worked hard at school and started to get good grades. Eventually, they started to go down and down again but I met Butragueno a lot of times back then and even when I went to Sporting Gijon after being with Rangers I talked to him.
He has been a big inspiration for me and he was not only a great player, he is a great person as well.
My Best Rangers Goal
I scored a few good goals for Rangers and there are three that stand out as being my favourites.
I enjoyed my finish against Celtic at Parkhead in April 2008 when I put a right foot shot into the far corner of the net although we lost that match 2-1. I also liked my goal against Dundee United at Ibrox before we played in the UEFA Cup final.
The ball went over a defender’s head and I got in behind him and hit a left foot shot into the opposite top corner which was a nice feeling. But my best goal came in the Scottish Cup final in 2009 against Falkirk for a few reasons.
I went on as a substitute at the start of the second half for Boydy and 20 seconds in we got a throw in in front of the Main Stand at Hampden.
Sasa threw it to me and I just hit the ball first time from 25 yards and it dipped in. It was my first touch so to score what proved to be the only goal in a Scottish Cup final was brilliant.
Best Stadium I Played In
The best stadium I have played in, taking Ibrox out of it, is the Bernabeu in Madrid.
I’ve played in the Nou Camp in Barcelona which is a bit older but the Bernabeu is new and modern, very luxurious, it is just incredible. I have to say though that when Ibrox is full the atmosphere is better than the Bernabeu and I hope the club can get back to that again.
When the stadium is full you can’t beat it. I just hope that one day, when the club is back at the top, another tier can be added
to the stadium because that would be unbelievable.
I have been fortunate to play in Old Firm games at Ibrox and they are all special and if Ibrox had a capacity of 70,000 you could fill it for these games or big European matches. Hopefully this can happen one day and I can be there to see it.
Best Memory From Playing Celtic
As I said in my last answer being involved in Old Firm games is something you never forget and my best memory from playing against Celtic was actually going to Parkhead for the first time as a Rangers player in February 2005.
We won 2-0 and Gregor Vignal scored with a long-range shot which went through Rab Douglas and into the net. I then scored with a lob (right) in front of the Rangers fans which was amazing. This might sound strange but as much as I love Ibrox I also loved going to Celtic Park and playing in Old Firm games.
In these matches you can hear every Celtic fan slaughtering you and it made you even more determined to beat them. When you score you run over to that small corner of the stadium to the Rangers fans and they are going mental, it’s special. You then walk back to the halfway line and the Celtic fans are sitting quiet. I used to just smile and that upset them even more, so it was good fun!
They are without doubt the best matches I ever played in.
Best Advice For A Young Player
As a footballer you have to be honest, enthusiastic and hardworking, that’s the best advice I could give to a young player. If you do this you can be successful, not just in football but in life and that’s what happened to me.
When I was young we didn’t have computers, I would just go around to my neighbours with a football and try to get people to play.
From the moment I got up in the morning all I wanted to do was play football with my friends. I would get in trouble sometimes for smashing windows with a ball but I didn’t do this to be mischievous or to get into trouble, I did it because I loved the game and I wanted to get better.
I love football as much as I did when I was a kid.
Best Thing About A Former Player
Being a Rangers fan I enjoy going to watch the team play and to be in the stands meeting the supporters, that is the best thing about being a former player.
They always say lovely things to you and I love speaking to them and seeing the passion they have for the club. When I am 90, if I get to 90, I am sure I will come back to Ibrox and people will still recognise me, that does not always happen.
In Spain you could be a great player for a club but five years later no one will remember you, that is why I love it here in Scotland. I have never been a big fanatic of a team and my situation was a little bit harder because my family all support Betis who my dad played for.
I’ve already told him I don’t like their colours – green and white – so when I am home I make sure he wears his Rangers strip! We have a good laugh about that and all my family are Bluenoses now.
Best Team I Played Against
The best teams I have played against are Barcelona and Real Madrid.
When I was at Sporting Gijon we came up against them a couple of times and the passing, movement and the speed was just incredible. At the end of the 2010/11 season we did manage to go to Madrid and win 1-0 which effectively gave the title to Barca. In that match I came up against Angel di Maria and he was like a rabbit moving in and out, so fast and what a player. Ronaldo is also unbelievable, for me the best in the world because he can do everything.
He can score free-kicks, headers and his speed is scary. I remember playing him and I told him I was going to break his knees, joking of course, and we both laughed. At one point in the game he moved into the middle of the pitch with nowhere to go and he did about 20 lightning quick stepovers and he was away.
The next time I thought ‘I’m going to smash him’ and I have the photo in my house of the tackle (left). It was a bad one but after the match I was speaking to him and we had a laugh about it. He’s a great guy, a really nice person and, of course, he’s an incredible footballer.