Friday, January 26, 2007

By Chris Harris *cortesy of*

Manuel Almunia has enjoyed a front-row view of Julio Baptista's Carling Cup highs - and his lows.

The Spanish goalkeeper watched in horror as 'The Beast' doubled Tottenham's lead on Wednesday night with an own goal and then led the plaudits for Baptista after the Brazilian's second-half double earned Arsenal a draw in the first leg of their Semi Final.

"It was an unbelievable performance," said Almunia. "Julio showed that he is a good player and a good scorer and I'm sure he will show that soon in the Premier League too. He is very strong and mentally strong as well.

"When he started off at Arsenal it wasn't very easy for him. But now he is happy here, starting to train well and is playing better. The only thing is he needs more chances in the league but with the players we have up front it is difficult to take a place in the team."

Baptista, like most foreign imports, needed time to adapt to his new surroundings following a summer loan switch from Real Madrid. Almunia can empathise with the Brazilian after making the same transition from Spanish football to English life when he left Celta Vigo two-and-a-half years ago.

The 29-year-old's nationality made him a natural companion for the Spanish-speaking Baptista when he arrived at Arsenal. But the Brazilian is not only finding his form on the field, he's finding his feet off it too.

"Julio is trying to speak English as soon as possible and he even tries to speak English with me," explained Almunia.

"I'm surprised. In the morning sometimes he comes to me and speaks in English. I say, 'Julio, you can speak Spanish to me'. I understand he wants to learn. He likes the city, the country. He likes to learn languages and is a nice guy."

"I know that Julio wants to stay here because at Madrid he was not very happy. The situation is difficult because Jose [Antonio Reyes] is involved as well but I think Jose is happy in Spain and Julio is happy here so that is it."
i wasn't surpsised the first time i read this article, i always believe that he's a very good football player even when he was still in real madrid. it was very2 unfortunate for him to be a bench-warmer when he was in real madrid, he's so damn talented but he had to fight the first team with other talented footballers as well. but at least in arsenal he's happy and he'd face new challenges with friendly team mates. i love you julio!!please stay at arsenal help arsenal win something!!
signing off,

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