MANUEL PABLO GARCÍA DÍAZ

Squad Number 07/08: 2
Date of Birth: 25 January, 1976
Nationality: Spain (international from 2000 until now)
Contract: 1998 - 2009
Transfer: ca. €1,3 million (200 mln ptas) (1998)
Previous Clubs: Las Palmas (1996-1998)
Buy-out Clause: ca. €96,1 million (15.000 million pesetas)
Height: 176 cm
Weight: 80 kg
Position: Defender (right)

Real Madrid and Italian giants Internazionale and AC Milan have at different times shown a keen interest in signing right defender MANUEL PABLO of Deportivo. But his massive buy-out clause (of more than €96 million) kept one of the world's best right backs at Deportivo as president Lendoiro simply mentioned he was "not for sale". After the awful injury he suffered in 2001, it took him some years to regain his form. But in the season 2007/2008 he much resembled the player he was almost ten years earlier. Being one of Deportivo’s captains nowadays, he could remain an important figure in the next season.

PACKAGE-DEAL WITH 'TURU' FLORES
The Canarian player was only 22-years old when he joined Deportivo in the summer of 1998. He was signed together with Argentinean striker ‘Turu’ Flores but more or less was considered a ‘bonus’ in this package deal. Deportivo already had Spanish international player Armando at the right back spot where also 20-year old Lionel Scaloni could play. But Manuel Pablo would have his opportunities in the season 1998/1999, the first of Javier Irureta at the club.

Manolo made his debut in the Primera División on 15 November, 1998 in the 2-2 draw at home against Alavés. Until early March 1999 he participated in four other matches but the curious thing was that none of these matches were won. This ‘curse’ was changed around when in the next six matches where he participated the team obtained three wins and three draws. Deportivo shared fourth place with Celta de Vigo and had the Champions League in sight, but remained without a win in the final three matches of the season. Still, the team returned to Europe by qualifying for the UEFA Cup tournament.

That summer of 1999, Armando moved on a free transfer to Real Mallorca and Irureta put his faith in Manuel Pablo. And this confidence was repaid quickly. Deportivo would have a defence consisting of Romero-Donato-Naybet-Manuel Pablo from that season on and on 21 November 1999 conquered the first spot in the Primera División. It’s well-known that Deportivo never gave away this first spot that season 1999/2000 and finished as champions. Manuel Pablo missed just one match and after goalkeeper Songo’o was Deportivo’s most used player. Deportivo qualified for the Champions League for the first time in its history and Manuel Pablo’s performances were rewarded with a debut for Spain on 16 August, 2000 in Germany. He would form part of the Spanish squad for the next 12 months and play most matches.

The season 2000/2001 saw Deportivo being the only team able to follow Real Madrid in Spain. In Europe, the team survived two groups of four and were eliminated by Leeds United in the Quarter Finals. Much of the results were based on Deportivo’s excellent defence. During the season a rumour emerged about AC Milan being interested in signing Manuel Pablo and midfielder Emerson for about €40 million. During that season Manuel Pablo scored his first goal for the team: a rocket during the 0-3 win at Racing de Santander. The only match he missed was one because of suspension. During Deportivo’s 2-1 loss at Zaragoza he insulted the referee and afterwards was suspended by the Spanish FA for one match.

THE INJURY
It was during the summer of 2001 that Manuel Pablo was at his finest moment. Especially Real Madrid offered serious amounts of money as they were not satisfied with their own right defender Michel Salgado. Lendoiro revealed that during a telephone conversation with Madrid’s Jorge Valdano he pointed to Manuel Pablo’s buy-out clause of €90 million and made a ‘gesture’ by lowering the asking price to €55 million. It seems that Real Madrid never made a higher bid than €30 million. Later Lendoiro revealed that Internazionale had made an offer of €42 million while AS Roma and Juventus also were related to the defender. Manuel Pablo himself stayed calm despite the interest and didn’t seem wanting to force a way out, like Flávio Conceição had done one year earlier. “I will wait and see what happens. But I’m very happy in La Coruña as here I became the player I am now. I am very grateful”.

It seemed that the season 2001/2002 would be as the ones before. Deportivo reconquered Europe and finished second in the Liga again. Crown on the season was the Copa del Rey which was won in the Bernabéu stadium against Real Madrid. But the season had started in a very different way, especially for Manuel Pablo. It was 30 September, 2001: Deportivo were 0-1 down against Celta de Vigo in Riazor when both Manuel Pablo and Giovanella went for the ball. It was a harsh, but fair, dual which unfortunately ended which shocking images. Manuel Pablo stared in disbelief to his crushed leg which indicated the end of a promising career. Quickly it rained telegrams, carts, e-mails, phone-calls and visits to the player who received support from all over the world. Goals and wins of Deportivo in the weeks after were dedicated to the player. Molina even entered the pitch against FC Barcelona wearing the number 2 shirt of the defender. Several weeks later Manuel Pablo called the support ‘incredible’.

Some small compensation was that Manuel Pablo, together with Valerón and Diego Tristán, was nominated for UEFA’s Team of the Year 2001. It was his personal dream to still be picked for Spain’s team playing the World Cup 2002, especially as he had become a starting player before his injury. But that dream wouldn’t come true, by far. Only one year later, on 9 September, 2002 he returned to the team of Deportivo during the Copa win at Correalejo (1-2). He made his Liga return on 6 October, 2002 as he was brought by Irureta during the dying minutes of a 0-2 home loss against Racing de Santander. He would play another 90 minutes one month later against Racing de Ferrol in the Copa del Rey, but it was evident that the pre-2001 player hadn’t returned yet.

In the remaining part of the season, Manuel Pablo was presented several opportunities to gain back his old form and he would play 10 Liga matches that season. The Copa del Rey was his tournament. He started all matches in the final three rounds of the team which led to the Semi-Finals. His contributions in the matches against Murcia can be considered vital as he prepared Duscher’s goal in the home match (1-0) and scored Depor’s third in a crazy 4-3 loss in the away match, just enough to have Deportivo qualified. Manuel Pablo’s rocket from about thirty meters he dedicated to his mother who had died one year ago. The fact that the squad players felt an enormous joy for his goal was clearly seen in the celebrations. It was not until early April 2003, more than 1,5 years after his injury, that he started his first Liga match against Real Sociedad.

RETURN TO THE SPANISH TEAM
It seemed that Manuel Pablo was regaining his old form and at Málaga he played his 100th match in the Primera División. Even rumours went around that he could be close to a return to the Spanish national team. But it wasn’t only good news that second part of the season. He made two fatal mistakes which may have cost Deportivo the title in the home less against Valencia (1-2). After his second mistake Irureta took him off and brought Scaloni, but Riazor gave him a standing ovation. “It was a bad night”, he admitted. “I never have experienced something similar, but things like this happen”. Manuel Pablo even said that he couldn’t catch sleep that night. It led to praise of coach Irureta who said that “admitting such a mistake in front of the cameras shows what kind of person Manuel Pablo is”.

Manuel Pablo and Deportivo were looking forward to the season 2003/2004. But regaining his position wasn’t as easy as might have been expected. Héctor had been doing very well at the right side while Scaloni also played their on occasions. As a result, these three players more or less ‘rotated’ the right back position. This made Manuel Pablo the seventeenth player of the squad with Liga minutes. Manuel Pablo didn’t play the first Champions League and Liga matches that year but was given a chance against Albacete in Riazor (3-0). It convinced Irureta and Manuel Pablo would play in eight out of the nine matches after it. He suffered a setback though and Irureta wisely decided to take it easy with him for the remaining part of the season. He was, together with Molina, taken off at half-time during the 8-3 loss at Monaco with the scoring being 5-2 at that time.

Things were different several months later when Scaloni’s injury gave Manuel Pablo a starting position in the legendary 4-1 win against AC Milan in the Quarter Finals of the Champions League. In this match he possibly gave his best performance since his injury and he also started both Semi Final matches against FC Porto. The Riazor match against the Portuguese team, led by coach Mourinho, finished quite differently with a 0-1 score and Manuel Pablo receiving three smacks in his face in the first fifteen minutes. One day after that match he declared: “It seemed that they all were after me and even now I feel the pain". Deportivo's doctor, Cesar Cobian, confirmed that stitches were necessary to stop his knee bleeding. In April 2004 he finally made his come-back for Spain during a friendly against Italy (1-1). Especially after Michel Salgado went out injured off the Spain squad preparing the EURO 2004 tournament it was expected that Manuel Pablo would take his place. But instead Capdevila was added to the squad and Puyol was moved to the right side.

The season 2004/2005, the final one of Javier Irureta at the club, was the definite return of Manuel Pablo on a personal level but also the downfall of the team. He started 30 out of 38 Liga matches (he suffered some minor injuries) and became Depor’s fourth player with Liga minutes. Manuel Pablo was Depor’s captain during a 0-1 victory at Real Madrid. But this victory was one of the few highlights that season. In the Copa there was a quick exit against Elche, in the Champions League not a single goal was scored and on the transfer market rumours remained rumours. Manuel Pablo was quite honest about the subject when he said that “some players are having their final season at the club and they need replacement by younger players. It is normal that a team is reinforced from time to time. That’s life, and the club will have to take this responsibility. It is clear that the squad isn't the one of the previous year. Every mistake is a goal conceded, we can’t achieve great things now. The only solution to this is to keep working and wait to see if this reality changes for us." These results didn’t come and Deportivo finished the season on a disappointing eighth spot and with the departure of Javier Irureta. The Basque coach had some nice words about Manuel Pablo as he included his name when asked about the players who had impressed him most on a personal level during his 7-year stay in La Coruña.

A DIFFICULT TIME UNDER CAPARRÓS
It hadn’t been Manuel Pablo’s best season though despite he had returned to the starting line-up. Many claimed that Héctor’s difficult relationship with Irureta was a cause of Manuel Pablo playing most minutes with Scaloni mainly being used in midfield. With the arrival of new coach Caparrós there were rumours about new signings for the right side, but in the end all Héctor, Scaloni and Manuel Pablo started the season 2005/2006. Overall, there weren’t many signings those years and Caparrós aimed at getting the most out of the players who had been around for a while. These especially included Sergio, Duscher, Manuel Pablo, Diego Tristán and Víctor Sánchez who hadn’t displayed their best form in the years before. As before, Héctor was considered second choice by Caparrós too and so Manuel Pablo didn’t have much rivalry at the right side. As a consequence, he missed just seven Liga matches and became Deportivo’s sixth players with Liga minutes. His only setback was an muscle injury which kept him sidelined in November 2005. But as soon as he was recovered from this, and although Héctor had replaced him very well, the Canarian player immediately returned to the team when he was declared fit again.

Overall, the 2005/2006 season was quite mediocre to Deportivo including Manuel Pablo. The team was fourth on 7 January 2006 after having beaten Bilbao at San Mamés although the displays hadn’t been that spectacular. The team was effective and every player knew what to do, and ‘luck’ seemed to be with Caparrós’ men. Disputed penalty and card decisions were many times in the favour of the Galicians although the squad still contained enough qualities to finish (in theory) among the first six this season. It would be a different story though. From the four matches after the Bilbao win just one point was obtained and playmaker Valerón suffered an important injury which would sideline him for almost two years. It had been precisely Manuel Pablo who given the decisive pass when Valerón scored the first goal in the Mallorca match (2-2). But the injury of Valerón overshadowed this and within a month the hopes of returning to the Champions League had faded away while qualification for the UEFA Cup now also would be a difficult task. Deportivo stumbled to the end of the season and missed playing the Copa del Rey final after an unnecessary exit against Espanyol.

When April 2006 came to its end and there were five matches left, Manuel Pablo still believed in qualifying for the UEFA Cup: “We are still full of illusion and we keep on fighting for an European spot. They key will be to maintain some regularity and to achieve two or three consecutive victories”. The result was that Deportivo won just one out of their seven final matches of the season and even missed out on Intertoto football. There was one remarkable match in those weeks for Manuel Pablo: at Cádiz (1-1) he replaced Héctor after twenty minutes, caused an indirect free-kick at seven meters of Deportivo’s goal (a much disputed decision) which led to Cádiz’ equalizer and later was sent-off for receiving two yellow cards (his second was for protesting).

Manuel Pablo’s consistent performances, but never spectacular, meant that after five years since his injury he hadn’t returned to be the player he was. He was a good squad player at Deportivo, a team finishing mid-table in Spain, and that was about it. He did his defensive work quite well but always had many troubles with the more technical types. He kept on assisting the team when attacking, but his decisive passes were scarce. As every summer there were speculations about many players leaving but that rumours didn’t include the Canarian defender (30 years of age). In fact, in June he didn’t believe in a reconstruction of the squad: "Here the people always talk about changes at the end of the season. But at the end of the day we are always the same ones, only two or three players leaves. The only thing that matters is what you have in your contract”. But the signing of players like Arbeloa and Barragán meant that after two consecutive seasons having a starting place, Manuel Pablo would have to fight again for a place in the team.

The preparations for the season 2006/2007 weren’t exactly smooth as players like ‘Toro’ Acuña, Lionel Scaloni and Diego Tristán were forced out of the club. Manuel Pablo, as captain, expressed his concerns in the media about their treatment and early August even said that the squad was “totally confused” after a training session was postponed, apparently because of a huge row between Caparrós and Scaloni. The transition had as a consequence that there were just a few players left who had worked for several years with Irureta: Manuel Pablo, Capdevila, Jorge Andrade, Sergio, Duscher and Valerón. When the season started, youngsters Barragán and Arbeloa had been placed above Manuel Pablo in the ranking for right defender. Barragán started the first eight Liga matches and Arbeloa wouldn’t miss a single Liga match when in January 2007 he was sold to Liverpool. Manuel Pablo only made his debut on 15 October 2006 during the break of the match at Irureta’s Betis Sevilla (1-1) when Barragán had a lot of troubles. Manuel Pablo played the two Copa matches against Racing de Santander when he was marvellous in the first leg but caused a penalty in the return match. The lack of playing more matches led to speculation in the media about Betis being after him, something which ‘flattered’ the defender.

Only at the end of November was he given another chance at Osasuna, but this match was a “disaster” according to Manuel Pablo and the team lost 4-1. Deportivo had been fifth at the end of October but eight matches later were fifteenth and suffered a humiliating 4-0 defeat at Sevilla and just three points away from relegation. Manuel Pablo can’t be blamed for that but he was part of the starting team losing 0-2 against Bilbao and 4-0 in Sevilla. He also had played the final thirty minutes of the 4-0 loss against Valencia. It were the most difficult weeks of Deportivo since returning to the Primera División in 1991. Caparrós had transformed the team into a fighting machine in which aggressiveness and the long-ball game had been key words. At the start of the season this had been successful, but slowly the results couldn’t compensate the critics anymore. Manuel Pablo stressed that he didn’t think the ‘direct style’ to be suitable to Deportivo. He also more or less criticized a much rephrased quote of Caparrós that ‘to play in the same Liga as Real Madrid next year is our target’. That is, not being relegated. Manuel Pablo said that “it’s like giving up (the fight for more) too early”. He also commented on his personal situation as having played his fifth Liga match had as a consequence that he couldn’t finish the season at another Spanish team. “It’s one of the reasons why the only thing that matters me is Deportivo”.

The start of the year 2007 would be different though. Real Madrid were beaten 2-0 in an astonishing match and at the end of February, after a 0-1 win at Real Sociedad, the team had been undefeated in eight consecutive Liga matches and relegation was eight points away. In fact, sixth spot was at six points and the team had another opportunity to make up for the miserable end of 2006. Manuel Pablo had started in six of those eight matches and also started the two Copa matches against Mallorca. At the island it was his cross to Taborda which contributed to the 1-2 victory. Still, his offensive additions remained limited compared to the years before. Early February Manuel Pablo had an important role in calming down another crisis at the club. The club had been quite late with the January salary payments and this led to comments by Juanma and Duscher in the press. Manuel Pablo described the situation as ‘nothing unusual’ because “this has happened here before and also occurs at other clubs. Everything has been exaggerated”. After a muscle injury which kept him out for two weeks, Manuel Pablo returned to the team which lost against Betis (0-1) and Atlético (2-0). From then one the defender disappeared again from the team as Caparrós decided to use Coloccini as right defender for the remaining part of the season. Manuel Pablo played during the 0-0 draw at Racing de Santander (because Coloccini was suspended) and the final forty-five minutes of the season at Espanyol with nothing at stake.

Manuel Pablo also started the return leg of the Semi Finals against Sevilla; a match which was lost 2-0 after the 0-3 defeat in the first leg. This was Depor’s third consecutive defeat against Sevilla that season (the Liga match in Andalucía was lost 4-0) and the fourth would also be lost some weeks later (1-2). The Copa exit caused from frank remarks of the defender: "To see this huge difference between the two teams is something that kills you. These days, the teams at the top are much better than us. What we have to do is to improve in order to reduce the distances. Some years ago, we were at the top too, and I don't understand how we were able to go down so quickly. We have to improve in everything, and we must do it, because we can't allow this huge differences between the Primera clubs."

When the season was over, captain Manuel Pablo seemed to have lost his place again after two consecutive seasons of starting places (2004-2006). He had been Deportivo’s fifteenth player with Liga minutes and was clearly bypassed by players like Coloccini and Arbeloa who, for different reasons, didn’t play full seasons. Manuel Pablo’s agent spoke on the Galician local radio and said that the patience of the defender now was ‘over’ and that he would search for an exit. Manuel Pablo spoke to sportspaper AS and admitted that “this has been my toughest season at Deportivo. From the start I wasn’t first choice neither second”. When asked about a departure from Deportivo, he said: “My thoughts are now to make a come-back during the pre-season and to consider the situation. I don’t want to become third or fourth option again. If that’s the case, I would prefer to move to another place. But first I would like to see how complicated the situation will be. I spent many years at Las Palmas before I moved to Deportivo and I didn’t think twice about it. If it’s necessary, I will do the same now”.

In another interview, Manuel Pablo was asked to look back at his time at Deportivo which had started nine years before. “When I arrived, Deportivo were fighting for titles and it was the right time to come. I signed a contract until 2005 which was later extended by the club for two more years. During those years Real Madrid made a serious offer but Lendoiro didn’t want to sell me. I don’t think that I lost an opportunity with it to grow as a player because in La Coruña I feel very loved. So, I didn’t make a big deal about it. It was the same year in which I suffered that serious injury. Now I have forgotten that totally but I was lucky to recover well. A lot of people wondered if I would ever be the same player again. I believed in myself, although it was difficult to find the proper rhythm again”.

RETURN TO THE BEST DAYS
It became ‘now or never’ for Manuel Pablo under new coach Lotina. And the Basque coach was quick with announcing his confidence in him and Barragán, a praise which was returned by the defender. “Lotina is a nice guy. He has explained his concepts to us and he has assured us that he wants to play good football. That's something that any player would be thankful for”. The curious thing was that Manuel Pablo played the pre-season as left defender because of Capdevila’s departure and the fact that Filipe’s loan deal was over. Although the Brazilian returned later that summer and an extensive search for a left defender emerged, Lotina quickly announced that it would take a lot to convince him to sign a new defender and that Manuel Pablo could be a good choice to cover the spot. The Canarian defender indicated his willingness: “I am prepared to play wherever Lotina needs me. Besides, it isn’t a big change because it’s the same role as usual but on the other side. One just has to get used to it and my first season at Las Palmas I played as left defender”.

When the season actually started at home against Almería, at the final moment Lotina switched again and placed Manuel Pablo as right defender with inexperienced Rodri at the left. It wasn’t that only this didn’t work out, because the whole team was a disaster and lost 0-3. The next four matches Manuel Pablo did play at the left with Barragán at the right but the results of the team were mixed. Manuel Pablo’s cross from the left to Taborda earned Deportivo their first goal of season at Valladolid (2-2) and the win against Betis was convincing (1-0), with Manuel Pablo playing his 200th match in the Primera División. His performance against Betis earned praise from Lotina: “He did very well. He knows his responsibilities and that’s why he’s the captain. He is playing in a different role without complaining and he is doing a good job”. But the new positivism quickly turned into a negative atmosphere. Results are vital in the world of football and Deportivo didn’t get them, despite the fact that the (young) team played some good football. The team only managed to win twice in the next thirteen matches and when the New Year arrived, Deportivo were second-from-bottom.

There has been much talking about the ‘miracle’ that happened after matchday 20, when Deportivo suffered a late 1-0 defeat at Almería after having lost narrowly at Villarreal (3-4) despite having taken the lead twice. Out of the final eighteen matches, Deportivo took thirty-five points and qualified for Intertoto football. Manuel Pablo was a rock in the five-men-defence together with Luis Filipe at the left wing and the trio Coloccini/Lopo/Pablo Amo in the centre. Without a doubt the defensive stability was one of the reasons for Deportivo’s come-back. The team had leaked thirty-two goals in the first twenty matches of the season (1,6 goal per match) but in the final eighteen matches only leaked fifteen goals (0,83 per match).

Manuel Pablo started all the matches he played (thirty-four in total) and became Deportivo’s second player in Liga minutes, only after Coloccini (who played all available minutes). In the month of September he was still Depor’s left defender, but after Barragán was taken off the team before the Espanyol match and Filipe entered the team at the left side, Manuel Pablo returned to his natural position. Even during those difficult months the Canarian defender was one of the highlights. He played marvellous during a sensational 0-1 win at Sevilla and Lotina quickly claimed his confidence in Filipe and him when he denied interest in an Argentinean left defender: “They are showing a tremendous level, and for €3 million you won't find anything better, neither here nor in Argentina”.

The defender admitted that he wasn’t the same anymore compared to the year before: “Last year was difficult for me because I didn’t count for the coach. I kept training well and I was always trying to compete, but the coach simply didn’t trust me”. He also talked about being captain: “When you are the captain, the partners are with you and that makes you feel like an important person. My team mates make me feel important”. Manuel Pablo also took his responsibility when he was asked about the lack of an agreement about prize money: “We’ll see about that later. The players never have had a problem with the club and the issue of last year was very much exaggerated. The same situation happened some years ago when the club lived through its best moment”.

During the season, people were even relating Spain’s participation at Euro 2008 to Manuel Pablo. Spain lacked a right defender but the Deportivo player said that “I think that I still need to do some more to earn a place in the Spanish team. I don’t think that I’m not allowed to return, but it won’t be easy as its a solid Group of players”. At this club, he returned to be the left defender once when Luis Filipe picked up a one-match suspension. But the fact that right defender Barragán scored an own goal during that match at Bilbao only made it more easy for Manuel Pablo to reclaim his spot when Luís Filipe returned from his ban. Barragán hadn’t impressed during the four starting placed he had during the start of the season and never threatened the starting place of the Canarian defender. Only when Manuel Pablo missed two matches because of injury in surrounding the New Year (Chapi replaced him when he sustained the injury against Zaragoza) and when he was suspended for the Osasuna away match did Barragán get another chance. Deportivo B defender Laure started the fourth match of Manuel Pablo’s absence: the 4-3 defeat at Villarreal.

But despite the fact that he had returned to be Deportivo’s right defender and his performances were excellent, Manuel Pablo wasn’t untouched by the situation his club was in during the first part of the season 2007/2008. “This is the most complicated situation I’ve experienced at the club since my arrival in 1998. But we remain calm and look forward to the next game and try to forget what we did before. We can’t be satisfied with the first half of the season we’ve played so far. At the same time this can’t just continue at for sure it will change. We all think that we are going to save ourselves without a problem. However, if we go down, and I don’t have a problem with playing in Segunda. But that isn’t in my mind”.

It became clear that Lotina’s football favored Manuel Pablo. “This football is good for side players going forward and so it’s easy that we can perform well and be noticed. Before we practiced more direct football and we participated less. It’s always to appreciate the way we play now. I feel fine with it and it gives confidence. Lotina looks like Irureta on the concepts related to football. He gives you confidence and freedom, and you risk more, you show yourself as you really are. If not, you merely spend the time trying to fulfill your job. Caparrós is always over you, correcting you. With Jabo I achieved everything, but I like the way to work of Lotina”.

And Manuel Pablo defended coach Lotina in public when Depor’s boss was heavily criticized. “Last year people weren’t v very satisfied although our results were better. We won matches, but a lot of whistling was heard. The fans in Riazor were desperate with what we showed. This year, despite the worse results, they seem more happy. And we all feel more identified with this new style of us. If you ask the players, we all want to practice good football”. One incident displayed the attitude and devotion of a player like Manuel Pablo, and others, that season. When the team played Caparrós’ team in Bilbao, several players started the game with gastrointestinal problems, apparently a virus derived from the food ingested the night before. It was reported that some players were vomiting at half-time. Striker Xisco had to be replaced at the end of the first half and Manuel Pablo had to leave the pitch during the first half for a toilet visit. He explained later: "I wasn't fine during the game. I tried to resist and see if the situation would pass, but there was a moment in which I couldn't resist and I told the coach I was needing to go out. Later I talked with the fourth referee and I went to the dressing room. When I came back, I was feeling fine but I had some new problems after half-time”.

There were some more troubled situations that season, for example when Manuel Pablo was one of the four team representatives (Sergio, Valerón and Coloccini were the others) who mid-January commented on the fight between Aouate and Munúa. But there we also joking, like the bet (for a dinner) between Filipe and Manuel Pablo about who would score first that season. After several efforts had hit the woodwork, Filipe did so during the home match against Bilbao. But especially after some nice words Filipe had said about the Canarian defender some weeks before, the veteran player wouldn’t have mattered. Filipe was asked about Deportivo were going to stop Robinho, when he replied: “I only wonder how someone is going to pass by Manuel Pablo. He’s phenomenal and it needs a two-against-one situation to do so”. Lotina called Manuel Pablo the ‘funniest guy’ in Deportivo’s dressing room.

In 2008, Manuel Pablo will start his eleventh season at the club. And he’s as motivated as before. “On a personal level, I would like to win another Copa del Rey with Deportivo. Or a return to the national team. Also, playing in Europe is one of the most beautiful things as it gives prestige and would be sensational for the young players of this team”. During the season 2007/2008, Manuel Pablo became Depor’s fifth player with most Liga matches behind his name below Fran, Mauro Silva, Donato and Sergio. And with five assists he was Deportivo’s best-providing player, just as Guardado. But at the same time, the defender will be thirty-three when his contract expires in June 2009 and he has expressed his wish to return playing for Las Palmas one day. All indicates that the season 2008/2009 will be Manuel Pablo’s final one at Deportivo. However, in his current form everything seems possible.
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