Courtesy of Tottenham Hotspur
Do you think you are in the best form of your career?
Yes I am probably in the best form of my career. It’s probably the most I’ve enjoyed my football as well.
Since I burst onto the scene in the last couple of years I’ve been getting doublemarked on the left so it’s been kind of frustrating. Now I’ve been able to come inside with this free role it’s enabled me to enjoy my football, have more space and be able to do more things.
Is this an example of how great players have to evolve?
Definitely. When people become aware of you they try to nullify your threat by stopping the ball getting to you and doubling up on you. You always want to improve your game anyway and this has forced me to do so. It’s been a challenge, I really enjoy doing it and I think I’m seeing the rewards now.
How much is your development down to Andre Villas-Boas?
I think he has to take a bit of credit. We’ve spoken about it before but by actually playing me there and giving me that free role he’s given me the confidence to go out there and do what I’m doing now. I just want to keep doing it and keep learning. Hopefully there’s still more to come.
How has the Head Coach settled in at Spurs?
At Chelsea he didn’t really get given the time to be honest. When a new man comes in you need to give him time.
With us at the start he seemed to be put under a lot of pressure even if he just lost one game. But now I think he has found a lot more stability with Tottenham. He is already showing what a good manager he is and given more time, I’m sure he will show it even more.
We hear he is extremely tactically aware?
However he wants us to play in our next game, that’s how we train all week. So come the weekend we all know exactly what we need to be doing. It feels like we’re one step ahead on the pitch. It was a lot different to what we’ve done in the past. But it’s something you get used to, given time. He has had the total support of the players and that has certainly helped him get his ideas across. We’re all moving forward together.
Where do you see your best position?
Anywhere but left-back [laughs]! I enjoy playing up the left and in the middle now. I even play on the right for Wales sometimes and I enjoy that. I feel very comfortable wherever I play at the moment.
Is that why you changed your shirt from No3 to No11?
I wanted No11 when I first joined but Mido had it! Then every time it became available it was snapped up again. So when Rafael van der Vaart left in the summer I asked the club if I could have it and they said yes. It’s always been my favourite shirt number. Even when I played left-back as a schoolboy I was always No11.
What do you make of people comparing you to Ronaldo?
People can say what they want and have their own opinions. It’s obviously flattering that I am playing well enough to be compared to him. All I can do is keep working hard on my game. How do I think we compare at the moment? He’s 28 and I’m 23, he’s obviously a lot more advanced in his career. I am still young and like to think I am improving every year like he was when he was my age. Hopefully I can keep on improving and one day get to the level he’s at now.
What was it like to miss out on the Champions League last season in such unique circumstances?
Watching Chelsea win the Champions League to knock us out of this season’s tournament was painful. Bayern absolutely dominated the game but when Robben missed his penalty I knew it wasn’t going to be their night and that Chelsea would win. I know it was perfectly legal but it left us feeling a bit cheated.
What do you make of the current Spurs squad?
We’ve made some good signings this season. I think Mousa Dembele has been very good for us, but Hugo Lloris has probably been our best signing.
How do you get the ball to swerve so much from a free-kick?
It’s very difficult to explain. I practise them a lot and I put the mannequin wall just nine yards away instead of 10. It makes a bit easier during games then. Juninho at Lyon was the first player I ever saw hit a free kick like that and I thought ‘Wow, I want to do that.’ Ronaldo then took it on to a new level and hopefully I can develop it even further. It’s difficult to explain it but you have to hit the ball flatter, and then the wind in the air sort of takes over. The main thing is getting it on target because it’s not an easy save for the goalkeeper.