Happy Birthday to… Pau Lopez

Pau Lopez, the former Roma goalkeeper who now plies his trade with Marseille, celebrates his 29th birthday today. He hinted at his commitment to the French club in a statement some months ago, expressing his intention to see out his contract till 2026 at the very least. “I would only leave if the president, Pablo Longoria, asked me to,” he said, according to calcionews24.com.

Born in Girona, a city enjoying its heyday thanks to its football club becoming one of the greats in Spain, Lopez’s career has ventured across four different leagues. He has played in La Liga, with Espanyol and Real Betis; had a stint in the Premier League with Tottenham, although most of his time there was spent on the bench; and played in Serie A where he made 53 appearances across two years. His current tenure in Ligue 1 with Marseille also links him with a piece of Italy, in the form of Rino Gattuso, the Italian coach of Marseille.

In an interview with Spanish daily, As, Lopez admitted he willingly took a pay cut to move to Roma from Tottenham in 2019, seeing it as a boost for his career. “Many players do the same but it doesn’t always come to light. I did it because I wanted to come to Italy and I knew it was the best thing for my career. I believe moving to Roma is a step up,” he said in the interview.

During his unveiling at Roma, the club’s sporting director at the time, Gianluca Petrachi, praised Lopez’s mental strength and bravery. Much was expected from Lopez considering the amount Roma had invested in him, the highest for a goalkeeper in the club’s recent history. Petrachi was quoted as saying, “Goalkeeping in a town like Rome is very delicate for any keeper, but in Rome it can be even more challenging. The pressure is huge and the keeper who makes a mistake must have personality, sometimes even great keepers have struggled. I was impressed by his personality and courage.”

Despite some blunders during his tenure, including a high-profile mistake in the 2019-20 Roma derby, Lopez remained unfazed by the criticism. When asked by La Gazzetta Sport about the infamous error, he downplayed its significance: “I did not dwell on it because for me it was a mistake like any other. I know that for people, the derby is a different game, but as far as I’m concerned, it makes no difference.”

Lopez played less in his second season with Roma, hampered by physical problems, but he was highly praised for his brilliant performances, especially his penalty save against Ajax in the Europa League. Still, it was not enough to secure another season with the club.

As often happens at Roma, a change in management led to a new face in goal. The appointment of Jose Mourinho resulted in the arrival of Rui Patricio, and Lopez was loaned out to Marseille before being sold to the club permanently.

Before his departure from Italy, he left a heartfelt message. “I spent two intense seasons at this magnificent club, where I had the opportunity to defend the goal at Roma: the truth is, it was an honour and a pleasure. I would like to thank my teammates, the club, and the fans for their love and support. Now I understand why this club is so special,” he said.

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