London is one of those cities where you find pockets of cultures and nationalities all over. Since 2011, there has been an ever-growing community of Spanish footballers in the south-west of the capital.
Of course, Chelsea have had Spaniards before. Albert Ferrer was the first, and he was joined by Enrique De Lucas in 2002, before Asier Del Horno stopped off for a year in 2005.
The new trend started when Fernando Torres arrived at Chelsea on transfer deadline day almost two years ago, and since then he has been followed through the door by Oriol Romeu, Juan Mata and most recently Cesar Azpilicueta. They are supplemented by support staff Dr Paco Biosca, Dr Eva Carneiro and sports therapist Ivan Ortega.
The four appeared on stage together last month at Stamford Bridge for An Audience With…, responding to questions from and interacting with supporters, all in fluent English that means they need never struggle in conversation with their other team-mates.
The three later arrivals have all credited Torres with helping them to settle, but when he sits down with the official Chelsea website, the striker modestly rejects the notion that the others all look up to him.
‘No, I am not the father figure!’ he laughs. ‘You have all the things you learned in your head that you can use for the good of the team, and that’s what I do here, but I don’t like to be a leader, maybe an example as someone to follow if you like.
‘We are all young still, and friends. I have been playing with Juan in the national team since the Confederations Cup in 2009, and since then we have been friends. I was so happy when he came here, and we have helped Oriol and now Azpi to settle. There are also some staff, I think there are seven of us in total in the dressing room, so it makes it easier for the new guys to have people here helping them.
‘There is no leader who has to talk for the others. Helping each other is a job we should do, it’s not a job Juan has to thank me for.
‘I remember when I first came to Liverpool, Pepe Reina helped with everything and he made it easy for me. When I was Atletico Madrid captain I tried to help everyone. These are the basics in football, you need to create an atmosphere and try to create a group of friends. It’s not easy and it doesn’t always happen but you have to try.
‘It’s what I learned when I was 16 and arrived in Atletico’s dressing room, nobody wanted to talk to me because they were threatened. They called me “El Nino” because nobody knew my name. I didn’t like it and it shouldn’t be like that, but dressing rooms are very complicated with players coming from different parts of the world and with different roles.
‘I was captain in Atletico at 19, playing in the same team as Demetrio Albertini who won three Champions Leagues and Sergi Barjuan from Barcelona, who had won everything, and they were 32, 33.
‘I was a kid as captain, so I wasn’t the real captain, just a kid learning from them. I wore the armband but they were the leaders and I learned a lot from them.
‘It’s not easy to come somewhere new and have to find your place. You might feel someone doesn’t like you or you might need to find new friends, it’s not easy and I don’t like this kind of thing. It’s not easy, so you want to protect the players who are alone.
‘I am quite shy and calm but it’s very difficult to play for and support Atletico Madrid in the same city that Real Madrid is in. They are the biggest club in the world and you quickly learn to fight against the injustices you feel as the smaller team.’
The one injustice Torres currently sees in the Chelsea dressing room is the lack of space afforded him by a certain team-mate. Mata recently admitted to the official club magazine that the former Liverpool man is growing a little exasperated with the playmaker’s messy locker next door. Upon being asked the question, Torres responds with a simple shake of the head. He is clearly not impressed!
‘Juan? Yes. I just want to move my locker,’ he says, as another smile creeps across his face. ‘It’s not so bad because I want him next to me, but I have to be on top of him all the time because it’s a mess. It’s a mess. I don’t know if I can describe it. There are magazines, letters, pictures, clothes, creams, everything, he cannot open the door. If he did it would make a bigger mess.’
Fortunately the pair are linking up better on the field, but also away from the club there is plenty of time spent as a group.
‘We go out to dinner sometimes or meet up at each other’s homes to watch TV shows we all follow,’ Torres confirms. ‘When you’re in a new city you try to be next to people you know, and then after that you make your own friends but we can all join together too.’
It is this united front that has brought us success so far this season, and delivered two trophies at the end of last. Torres readily admits he has had to learn sacrifices for the greater good, but those who see the effort in his performances cannot question his commitment. Last week he received his Golden Boot award for Euro 2012, and explained individual acclaim is not possible without superb teamwork.
‘Football is a team sport and not an individual sport. We win as a team and every individual is better if we are part of the team,’ he stresses. ‘If we win trophies we have the chance to win individual awards because it comes with the team targets.
‘If we win the Champions League, everyone is a better, more recognised player, but if you win an individual award and nothing with your team, it means nothing. You have to win with the team, and for the team.
‘In your life you go through a difficult situation or a very good situation and you have different moods, but you learn things from your experiences.’