Testicles, wine and hugs: The Premier League’s most famous interpreter

A certain mystique surrounded Marcelo Bielsa during his time at Leeds. From his radical methods and tactics to his inscrutable personality, the Argentine has been among the most fascinating managers in the Premier League in recent years.

El Loco was one of the few coaches in the history of England’s elite to use an interpreter, maintaining a healthy distance between himself and the media, which enhanced his enigmatic appeal.

That was also the case with Mauricio Pochettino, one of Bielsa’s most famous alumni, when he arrived at Southampton in January 2013. The choice of the southerners’ management to replace Nigel Adkins following his controversial sacking came as a surprise to many. Moreover, the specialist’s poor command of English was a significant problem. And he needed help.

David Salas, a translator who had been living in London for a decade, came to the club with good references and got the job. A plus for his candidacy was that he had good football knowledge, having voiced TV material for the Champions League and assisting more than one Spanish-speaking player and manager during interviews and press conferences.

“If I’m honest, I didn’t have any experience of translating live for a big club, on a regular basis. But I was progressing in the job and meeting amazing people and clubs and visiting great stadiums. It was really interesting. From the beginning they treated me like one of them and that was nice,” says Salas, who was born in Spain but spent part of his childhood in the US.

“Mauricio made it very easy for me. He was very down-to-earth, very approachable and very nice. He always hugged me before a game, asked me how I was, how my family was… He was just a very nice person.”

Communication is a vital part of football and there is chemistry between the coach and the translator. So Salas is always by his side at his media appearances both at home and away.

And without wanting it, David gained popularity as a “shadow” of one of the managers in the Premier League.

“I’m not the most sociable person, but I found it very easy for me to be in front of the camera lenses and in front of the recording devices of the journalists. I enjoyed the challenge – says the translator. – It was quite surreal. After a match, I went with a friend to beer in the pub and when they showed me on TV, everyone was like, ‘Oh, there’s David!’ I’m not going to lie, it felt good.”

Pochettino quickly disproved the naysayers and managed to save Southampton from relegation with impressive wins over Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea. His English is improving day by day, but he still doesn’t want to risk making a silly mistake under pressure or having his words misinterpreted. Separately – he trusts Salas unconditionally and wants to have him around.

Germany before the semi-final with England on "Dele Alpi" in Turin: standing - Berthold, Ilgner, Kohler, Föhler, Buchwald, Augenthaler squatting - Ton, Hessler, Breme, Klinsmann, Matheus.

“He didn’t feel confident enough at first. I think he knew exactly what was being said and how to answer it, but sometimes journalists ask difficult questions or try to get a certain answer out. He said to me, ‘I need you for another season.'” And It’s been a very good year for Southampton so I’m happy I was there to experience it.”

The manager of the “Saints” earns respect for his humanity and enthusiasm, and the people around him feel respected and valued.

So Salas is often invited to dinner after matches, and among his fondest memories is an evening out with Pochettino and Michael Owen, where they joked over a glass of red wine about the former England striker’s penalty against Argentina at the World Cup in 2002

In an otherwise successful period for the club, the resignation of Southampton director Nicola Cortese is about to blow things up. St. Mary’s is abuzz with speculation, and one of them is that Pochettino will leave the club with the boss. Salas is acutely aware that the Argentine can be “slipped” when he faces the press and their cross-examination.

“I remember Mauricio looking me in the eye and saying directly, ‘Try to translate my words one-to-one with what I’m saying.’ it was a difficult moment and there was huge media interest.”

Salas successfully overcomes this obstacle and does the same every time Southampton are in crisis. Regardless of the results, Pochettino’s comments are always measured and persuasive. The Argentine is aware of the importance of getting the right messages across to supporters.

“What I liked about Mauricio was that he always followed etiquette, didn’t get fired up and didn’t raise his voice. Even when he was pressed with difficult questions, he always kept his composure. Poch knows how to deal with the media, and that made it easier my job because there was no room for misunderstanding.”

The direct approach of the Argentine sometimes turns out to be quite funny.

Like the case of Dejan Lovren’s injury in a sensitive area of ​​the body. Reporters ask how the Croatian is doing and Pochettino says he was “stepped on the balls”. And Salas has to translate word for word. Isn’t that the deal? He does, and the hall erupts in laughter. “It was a strange moment, but everyone was falling out of their chairs,” recalls the translator.

Southampton have flourished under Pochettino, playing excellent football en route to an eighth-placed finish in his first full season. This did not go unnoticed by the London Tottenham, and in the spring of 2014 he moved to the capital, bringing the “Spurs” to the next level in their development.

Although the transfer put an end to the cooperation between the manager and the translator, their friendship remained forever.

“I’m so happy for Mauricio. I can’t help but wish him even more success. It’s really remarkable how far he’s come. He’s surrounded by good people and trusts his team blindly. They’re like family to him. It amazes me how close-knit this community is and how I was accepted quickly, coming from an outside world,” says Salas, who after England went briefly to New York and returned to Spain, where he is to this day. “The passion of the fans in the UK is huge. Personally, I consider myself a fan of the Saints. I was very sad when the team lost and often went to watch them, blending in with the crowd. I still keep in touch with some people at the club.”


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