This is the playlist of a great and partially forgotten footballer.
These 25 songs were chosen from the catalogue of Spanish Subterfuge records, to celebrate its 25 year anniversary. The chooser: vasque midfielder Gaizka Mendieta.
Yes, the same Gaizka Mendieta who carried the best Valencia team of recent memory to two Champions League Finals, a Copa del Rey and a Super Copa. The one who left Spain for a stint at Lazio that turned out to be a huge money deal and not that good a football decision; the one who returned to Barcelona and then ended his career at Riverside Stadium playing for Middlesbrough. In truth, he was far better commandeering the middle of the field than his recognition might lead one to believe. Mendieta knew how to defend effectively and get balls and crosses through with the accuracy of a darts player. Even though scoring was not his strongest asset –he collected fifty something goals in his seventeen year career– he is still remembered for this unsung beauty:
Now in retirement, Mendieta pays his bills by working for British TV and has become a musician, of sorts. He is in a band called Gasteiz Gang made up of him, music journalist Juan Vitoria, and his daughter Arizona Dylan Vitoria. As they say in an interview, they play “rock from the fifties up until today, all types of music for people to enjoy”.
It is said that one can tell a thing or two about a person by the playlists they keep. And one can overanalyze them too. In this case, if we were to look for keys into Gaizka’s former self as a dependable, fulcrum of a team, something might be there. The choices are, for lack of better words, efficiently rhythmic. Accessible and toe-tapping, the songs reflect clearly a footballing virtue that midfielders strive to master: to know how people move. The midfielder, just as the DJ, has to orchestrate the movements of other will-possessing individuals. If this playlist is any indication of the Vasque’s ability to understand and induce motion, then he was a very competent midfielder; perhaps not the greatest, but certainly remarkable. He is dutifully remembered by specialists and fans, but not necessarily by the masses. Or maybe he is. If not for his fierce transition game during the 1990s and early 2000s in the stadiums of Europe, people will remember Gaizka for his appearance in the lyrics of “Un buen día,” by Los Planetas.