A true Real Madrid legend that after fifteen seasons at the club has finally become the captain of the team, after the decision of Felipe Reyes to retire. Just a few days after lifting his first trophy, Eurohoops talked with Sergio Llull (Menorca, 1987) about his heroic performance in the Super Cup, the rivalry with Barça, or the return of the public to the arenas. Because, if there is an athlete who perfectly communes with a crowd, that is Sergio Llull.
Eurohoops: First of all, congratulations on the first title of the season, and above all, I congratulate you on the MVP. Do you remember how many selfies you have already taken?
Sergio Llull: Thank you! The selfies must be twenty-one or twenty-two… as many as titles I have with Madrid. I don’t know if I took the first one when I arrived at the ACB because I was very young and a newcomer. I don’t know if I dared to take the selfie. But the next twenty-one, with Pablo [Laso], I think all of them.
EH: As the days go by, how do you feel after everything that happened in the Super Cup?
S.L.: Good, very good. Very happy and very satisfied with the work of each and every one of my teammates. Proud. Now, looking at it coldly, I think we made a very big effort to win that final. In a game that was practically lost, we managed to come back and have that cool head to play the last moments well. We were able to win the first title of the season and it was important for us to start well.
EH: Was it, let’s say, one of the three most special games in your career?
S.L.: Could be. The truth is that I haven’t thought about it, but because of the moment, the situation, that we were playing against Barça… Surely I have had some games statistically better, but at the level of sensations, emotions, I think that it is in the Top3 with Real Madrid, for sure. It would stay very high among the games that I keep in my memory, along with the one of my return after the injury, which was spectacular, and the Euroleague finals won.
EH: There were two things that particularly caught my attention. First of all, the long hug with Pablo Laso after the game.
S.L.: Those are special moments. We have shared many years here, at Real Madrid, and he knows what I have suffered during the last years with injuries and not being 100% fit to enjoy playing basketball. He understood it that way, he came to encourage me and to congratulate me, especially.
EH: The other thing that caught my attention is the number of players -like Patrick Beverley, Ricky Rubio, or Bogdan Bogdanovic- who showed their respect to you. How do you earn that respect?
S.L.: I believe that always playing 100% of intensity. When you play at 100%, you respect all your opponents and try to do your best to win, which in the end is the important thing for me, you earn a little respect from all those players. It is clear that playing well and the titles are the main thing, but seeing those reactions and those messages from such important players, players who are in the NBA, is something that makes me very proud.
— Patrick Beverley (@patbev21) September 12, 2021
EH: Also, you lifted your first title as captain. Has your role changed in the locker room?
S.L.: No, I don’t think so. I wasn’t the first captain, because Felipe was the captain, but in the locker room, I do the same things that I have been doing in recent years. It isn’t something that won’t change me, but I feel excited about it. I’ve been supporting Madrid since I was little and being able to be captain of this club is incredible. I have said it many times: I have learned from the best one, from Felipe, and I will try to follow in his footsteps and do the best I can.
EH: Well, something has changed, and now it’s your turn to do the pre-game motivational talk.
S.L.: Yes, those are technical things that do change. During the Christmas lunch, I will have to sit with the ‘presi’ [Florentino Pérez] and the football captains. And it is true that the motivational talk before playing is now also my task.
EH: I can think of one thing that you could also teach in the locker room: how to say no to the NBA.
S.L.: Well, I think that in the end, that is a personal decision of each one. I have said many times that for me, my dream as a child was to play for Real Madrid and it is something that I continue to fulfill. At the time I decided to stay here instead of taking the step. But it is also respectable and understandable that most players want to play with the best in the NBA, try that experience, earn more money… I don’t know, something different will move each one. Those are very personal decisions and I am not the one to say what others have to do. I made that decision because I am very comfortable here, I am very happy and it is where I want to be.
EH: Last year, Barça was the dominator in Spain after a long time. With the movements you made during the summer, it seems that the forces will be even again.
S.L.: We have enjoyed some very good years winning most of the titles, but it is true that last year Barça knew how to beat us. It is a very physical team, which has been making great signings in recent years. I think this year we are going to make a big step in quality with the signings, especially on a physical level. We are going to improve our defensive level, which is basic to win titles. It is one of the things that we sometimes lacked. That physical power, that aggressiveness in defense, helps, rebounding… These are very important things in any basketball game, but even more so in the finals. We have won the first trophy of the season and we have to keep our feet on the ground, keep working, to fight for others.
EH: Still, it seems that to be to have a really complete squad, this team is missing a shooter.
S.L.: Well, I think we have great shooters and that we have a large squad to face another demanding season with guarantees. People like Rudy [Fernández], [Alberto] Abalde, or Fabien [Causeur] aren’t just specialists, but every one of them can shoot perfectly. I don’t think we have problems there.
EH: This year fans are returning to the stands. How much does a player like Sergio Llull need the fans?
S.L.: I think it is basic, not only for a player like me but for everyone. We need the fans back in the arenas to enjoy basketball again together. In the end, basketball is a sport of emotions, of sensations. If you take away the crowds, you lose that appeal. Whether playing at home, when they encourage you and you have that extra motivation to play, or away, where you get motivated in a full arena that puts pressure on you. It is always better than hearing the bounce of the ball.
EH: I have been told that this year we ranked you 48 in our Euroleague Top 100 players list… Will you take revenge?
S.L.: No, the truth is I won’t. I don’t know who does that kind of ranking [laughs]. No, I guess it must be fine. If they have done it like this, it is because they will have seen all the Euroleague rosters and they will have considered that there are 47 players better than me. The truth is that I don’t know what to tell you because I still haven’t check very well the new signings, so I don’t know too much about the new hires. But hey, we’ll see at the end of the season if that ranking was right or not [laughs again].