Fernando Morientes is preparing for an ‘exciting’ return to England when he joins up with his Spain teammates for Star Sixes this summer.
The three-time Champions League winner with Real Madrid is the latest recruit to Carles Puyol’s La Rojas line-up for the inaugural six-a-side international football tournament, which will be held at The O2 in London from 13 to 16 July.
Morientes, who had a fine record with Spain netting 27 times in just 47 outings, spent 18 months in England after joining Liverpool from Real Madrid in 2005. And he says he can’t wait to return to play in front of the passionate home support.
“I’m very happy to be playing at Star Sixes,” said the 41-year-old ex-Monaco, Valencia and Marseille forward. “It is a great idea to create a tournament of former players and it will be an opportunity for the fans to see again some former players, to remember the way they played.
“For me, personally, it’s a pleasure not only to play against other national teams but also against old teammates, highly recognised in the world of football. Above everything we will try to enjoy ourselves and the time we’ll spend together at the tournament.”
“It’s very special for me and also playing again with some friends that I haven’t played with in a long time.”
He continued: “I’m sure I have a friend in almost every team. I have played with most of the players in the Spanish team in Valencia or Real Madrid. Puyol for example, I have played with him in Spain National team. It will be a pleasure to face and to meet again other great names in the others teams.
“Star Sixes will be an amazing experience for us and the fact that is in London is even better because that’s a place that constantly breathes football and the fans are passionate.”
On the opening night of Star Sixes, on 13 July, Spain will take on England as Morientes goes head to head with his captain from his time at Liverpool, Steven Gerrard.
Morientes was cup-tied for the Reds’ most memorable night as Gerrard inspired them to a remarkable Champions League final comeback against Milan to lift the trophy in 2005. But the Spaniard did play a part in their triumph the following season.
Again, with Gerrard leading another comeback against West Ham United, Liverpool won the 2006 FA Cup Final on penalties, and Morientes was full of praise for his former skipper.
“He is incredible, one of the best players I’ve played with,” said the striker, who also won the UEFA Super Cup while at Anfield.
“He is a player with strength, extraordinary quality, great medium and long-range passing and is one of the most complete players on the football scene.”
Morientes retired from professional football in 2010 after helping Marseille win the French title, but a brief return to the field followed two years ago with Spanish regional outfit Santa Ana, following spells coaching youth teams of Huracán and former club Real Madrid.
But, he insists, he still keeps fit and with other matches on his agenda before July, he hopes to be fully fit when he represents his country again for the first time in ten years.
“Yes, I still play for fun and exercise every day, and I’ll play in LaLiga and Real Madrid legends game. That’s how I’m preparing for the tournament,” he said.
“We have a good squad with good players. The important thing is to know we are all fit because we all have won titles in our professional career but we are retired now so that’s different.”