Sometimes nicknames in football go on forever without even knowing where they come from. Is what happens to Carlos Arroyo (Madrid, 1966), who is known as the ‘Prince of Alcorcón’ and he doesn’t even know who put it on. Stream, an advance to tiki-taka, class midfielder, with technique and vision, with arrival and also goal, is one of the few links in common that Alcorcón and Valencia have, two clubs that meet for the first time in their history in this round of the Copa del Rey.
Carlos Arroyo arrived at Valencia from Alcorcón. Those were troubled times at the Mestalla club. In his first year he spent those of Cain to religiously collect his salary and in his second season he suffered from a Hospital in Madrid the descent to Second Division. But there his history began to be written. Carlos Arroyo is part of the generation of footballers that took Valencia from hell to heaven in the late 80s and during the 90s. From the Second Division to being runners-up in the League and Cup. They only needed to play metal, although they made merits for it. But as Arroyo himself says: “Our work was used by the next generation.”
Carlos Arroyo arrived at the age of 17 and left at 30, about “30 who are not the same as now.” In his 12 seasons in the Valencia first team (“Who was going to tell me when I came from Alcorcón”) he played 373 official matches, a figure that places him in the Top-10 players with the most matches in the club’s history. In them he scored 52 goals: the last against Espanyol, in his farewell to Mestalla and Valencia, a goal that made Valencian fans dream of winning the League in 1996 until the last day. For years Arroyo has been working at the Valencia Academy, where he has been part of the training of kids like Isco, Alcácer, Gayà, Ferran and even Racic. Carlos Arroyo talks about all this with AS. From his origins, his past for Valencia and also the “much” future that he sees in this generation that reminds him so much of his own.
Where does the “Prince of Alcorcón” come from?
The truth, I don’t know. Maybe some journalist. Many people think it is because I am from there, but I was born in Madrid. At Gregorio Marañón and I grew up in Cuatro Vientos.
And how did you get to Alcorcón?
I’d say because of my brother, who is four years older. He went to play there and I went behind. I was 12 years old. Before he had been in neighborhood teams and in the Boadilla del Monte. We went to Alcorcón because we had family there, my grandparents and my uncles, and they knew someone from the club and they called us. My brother, who now lives in Navalcarnero, stopped playing because he was injured and started working at El Corte Inglés.
It is that reaching the elite is very difficult …
And I would tell you that then almost more. There were fewer representatives, less press coverage … it was all more by word of mouth. A president who knew another, a coach who was also a scout for another club … Now everything is more professional. They were dirt fields. The conditions were appalling compared to today. And then the problems to get there. When my father couldn’t take us, we took the subway, which left us three kilometers from the facilities. But I had very good coaches there. In youth we were runners-up in Spain
How did you get to Valencia?
Well, by word of mouth that I was commenting on. Mestre or Buqué had a relative in Alcorcón and he told them to come and see me. I made my debut at the age of 17 in Third. Curiously in that season I played against the Pegaso of Quique Sánchez Flores.
Did you have any more proposals?
When the club found out that Valencia was behind me, someone notified Real Madrid and they gave me a week to train at the Ciudad Deportiva. There I was with the Míchel, Butragueño … The season was over and it was only training. They told me to come back in preseason, that they wanted to see me more, but I made the decision to go to Valencia.
“Real Madrid took me a week to train with the Michel, Butragueño … but I decided to go to Valencia”
Quite a life change.
When they told me that Valencia loved me, I didn’t believe it. He went from Third to a great from Spain. In the Alcorcón they gave me 10,000 pesetas a month and because they wanted to, because I had no contract. And Valencia agreed with my father a compensated amateur contract, which meant that he would train with the first team, but would play with the subsidiary. I was like this for half the league, until in January they began to call me regularly.
But his debut was in September 1984 by the Footballers Strike.
Yes. That was a one-off thing. The club, in quotation marks, forced us to play for the Strike, although I already told you that when you are 17 years old and they tell you that you are going to play in the First Division … you go headlong. That game was at the Mestalla and it turned out very well. We beat Espanyol 5-1. It was a showcase for young people. But the opportunity really came to me in January against Betis. Robert and Subirats were injured and the coach (Roberto Gil) told me that he would travel and play. I scored a goal and we won 1-3. I no longer went down to the Mestalla.
Those were difficult times at the club.
The economic situation was very bad. I called my father worried because there were months that they didn’t pay us. The team suffered and the year of relegation arrived. That was a bad season for me, because I injured my pubis and played with a lot of pain until Di Stéfano told me: “Boy, you can’t go on like this.” I had surgery in Madrid. I was in the hospital for a long time. It wasn’t like now. I remember that they put bags of dirt on my leg for recovery. There I followed the days and saw that we were going to Second. It was overwhelming.
But a year later they rose. You played 33 games.
The team quickly rebuilt. There were a lot of young people in the locker room and the fans responded with madness. More people came to see us in Second than in First. Valencia turned to us and we to the club. It’s funny, because at the end of the day we were in Second, but I remember it as a very beautiful year. And look, that generation grew over time and in parallel with the club. When Víctor Espárrago arrived, we returned Valencia to the area where it had to be.
In fact, in the current format you would have played the Champions League for several years.
He said that many times with Fernando and Roberto. In the years of Asparagus or Hiddink we would have played at least four times in the Champions League. We were runners-up in the Cup, the League …
That generation deserved a title.
Honestly yes. But I am very proud of that stage. We were almost the same for many years. We grew as a team. We took Valencia Second to fight for titles. We just lacked that, winning it, although I think our work was taken advantage of by the next generation. But we still have that thorn. How much I remember that Cup final against Deportivo …
For the millenians, what kind of footballer was Carlos Arroyo?
People classified me as a very technical player. I was born with that virtue, because my father had not been an athlete. As a child I spent three and four hours every afternoon hitting a ball against the wall on the street where I lived. But I have always interpreted games well, I anticipated the plays visually … I consider myself a technical, offensive, creative player, I gave assists …
And with a goal. 52 did with Valencia.
Yes, I also liked trying to score goals.
Which one do you keep?
There was one that I scored in Barcelona as soon as I got promoted that made me very excited. We won 0-1 at the Camp Nou and that was the first game that my father saw me live away from home. He came with a friend, I got them two invitations and when I dialed he looked at the stands to see if he could see them … but of course, with 80,000 people, to see who can find them (laughs). I remember another one at the Bernabéu, which was useless because we lost, but I can always say that I scored a goal at the Bernabéu. The most beautiful? I’ll take one that I scored in Seville, which also qualified us for the UEFA Cup. What level was then in UEFA then! There you had three Italian, German, English teams …
Was it tougher football?
And so much. Footballers like me, very technical, were seen as lazy. At that time, the hefty men reigned… There was a left-back for Valladolid, I don’t remember his name, who had me fried. And I was impressed once we went to the Vicente Calderón and it occurred to me to make a hat for Arteche. When I turned around I had the plant on my chest like Xabi Alonso in the World Cup. But there they did not expel anyone: “Get up and go,” the referee told me. At that time they were going to hunt you down and it looked good, people even applauded it … how I would have liked to be born in this generation or in Cruyff’s, who liked me.
“More people came to see us in Second than in First; Valencia turned to us and we to the club”
When you arrived from Alcorcón, did you imagine that you would spend 12 years at Valencia and the rest of your life in the city?
No way! Not at all. I never thought of becoming a professional. I just wanted to play alongside my brother. How could I imagine that he would play 373 games for Valencia (tenth player with the most games in history)!
He never played less than 20 games.
Some more years of title, others less. Many remember me more as a substitute, but all the coaches counted on me. Only my last year with Luis Aragonés did I consider myself the 12th player and yet I scored a goal against Espanyol that made us dream of La Liga until the last day.
He left when he was only 30 years old.
But it is that the 30 years before are not those of now. Then they gave us some beatings that no body could endure for long. The training method influences the length of a footballer’s professional life. Now everything is taken care of more. We had a masseuse and thank you. The physical circuits of Asparagus were outrageous, with bags of 10 kilos. He was the iron sergeant, although a great trainer. Everything changed with Hiddink, who when he told us that we were going to train with the ball we did not believe it. At that time, more than ten years at First was only available to gifted people like (Ricardo) Arias.
He hung up his boots at Villarreal, with which he also rose.
Valencia only wanted to renew me for one year and there they offered me two. It was a nice stage too. But I had to withdraw because I got injured and couldn’t take it anymore. So that the El Madrigal grass was good in the games, we trained in different fields in the province and that finished me off.
And practically since then, linked to the Valencia Academy.
I’ve been around for many years, yes. I had Gayà in cadets, Ferran, Isco, Alcácer… For me it is good that he is betting on young people. It is a natural process. We have also had Racic at the Mestalla and you can see that he is becoming a very good player. All teams, except a couple, have to live off the quarry.
“I understand that in football it is difficult to be patient, but with the kids you have to have it”
In today’s football, can a project like that of your generation grow at Valencia? Before he talked to me about that team of young people that grew over the years until they fought for titles.
I understand that in football it is difficult to have patience, but I firmly believe you have to have it. We were an example. The situation at the club was screwed up and we had to go with the youth squad, which was us: Fenoll, Sixto, Fernando, Quique, Giner … The circumstances arose and there may be a certain similarity, why not?
The last one, because we have been talking for an hour and I have not asked him how he sees the tie between Alcorcón and Valencia.
Today I don’t trust a hair of anyone. The Alcorcón have nothing to lose and the responsibility of the Primera club is maximum. But Valencia has to be superior.
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