Guarin still retains hope of playing for Man United

Fredy Guarin, enjoying his life in China, is willing to stay with Shanghai Greenland Shenhua for an even longer term.

Filmed by Zhou Shenjie. Edited by Zhong Youyang. Translated by Ma Yue. Special thanks to Andy Boreham.

Guarin still retains hope of playing for Man United
Zhou Shengjie / SHINE

Colombian Fredy Guarin, 31, enjoys playing for Shanghai Greenland Shenhua and a colorful life in Shanghai.

The Chinese Super League has just entered a two-month break to give way to the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Shanghai Greenland Shenhua captain Giovanni Moreno is eyeing a spot in the Colombia national team’s final World Cup squad 23 after already being named in a 35-member provisional list. 

His compatriot Fredy Guarin, who represented Colombia at the 2014 World Cup and the 2011 Copa America, has also expressed a desire to join his colleague in the squad for the Russian trip.

Guarin, a 31-year-old midfielder, has scored three goals in 16 appearances for Shenhua in the CSL and Asian Champions League this year. The former Porto and Inter Milan player has become a fans’ favorite since joining the club in 2016. So much so he extended his contract last June, which will keep him at Shenhua until the end of 2019.

Guarin told Shanghai Daily in an exclusive interview that he is willing to stay at the club for even longer, unless he can fulfill his childhood dream to play for English Premier League side Manchester United.

Q: How do you rate your performance this season?

A: I’m satisfied with my performance up till now, which is better than last year. The team has encountered many injury problems recently. Our head coach (Wu Jingui) feels sorry about the situation, but has already made technical adjustments accordingly. All players will conquer the difficulty together.

Guarin still retains hope of playing for Man United
Zhou Shengjie / SHINE

Guarin has scored three goals in 16 appearances for Shenhua in the CSL and AFC this year.

Q: Can you comment respectively on the three Shenhua head coaches (Spaniard Gregorio Manzano, Gus Poyet from Uruguay and local manager Wu Jingui) you have worked with since joining the club two years ago?

A: Manzano was in charge of the team when I first joined and we had a good relation. Poyet’s coaching style did not really fit in line with mine, so our communication was not that smooth. My relation with current manager Wu is very good. He is a knowledgeable manager with an open mind, who is willing to offer help to players at any time, which is very important to us. Also, Wu is a person with strong humanitarian spirit.

Q: How different is it to play football in China compared with in Europe? What improvements can be made here?

A: Yes, there is a big difference. European leagues own world-class football clubs, and the biggest gap is probably the organization of the teams. European clubs can decide formations and adjust players quickly for matches. 

Chinese clubs usually need a longer time. Here, improvements can be made in the making of playing strategies, as well as the mindset of the players. Sometimes my Chinese counterparts do not fully concentrate on the pitch, but it’s good that they are always willing to improve themselves.

Q: How do you communicate with your Chinese teammates? Who do you hang out with most?

A: Language is a problem since you need quick and efficient communication on the pitch. Sometimes I talk to a few of them, who can speak a little English, but in most occasions I use body language, or turn to our interpreter for help. I go out with Sun Shilin and Qin Sheng often, as they can speak a little English, like me.

Guarin still retains hope of playing for Man United

Fredy Guarin (right) of Shanghai Greenland Shenhua challenges Brazilian Alexandre Rodrigues da Silva (center) of Tianjin Quanjian in their 11th-round match during the 2018 Chinese Super Leauge in Tianjin.

Q: What do you do in your leisure time? What are your favorite places and food in Shanghai?

A: I like the varied choice of restaurants, including Italian and Spanish restaurants. My favorite food is steamed dumplings, which I usually get from Din Tai Fung. I don’t really go out often, but I like the Disneyland.

Q: Is there anything you miss about Colombia?

A: I miss the living phenomenon there, including my friends and social contacts. But I will adapt myself to the new environment ─ to make new friends and share more time with them.

Q: Will you go to Russia and watch the World Cup? What teams will you follow?

A: What I want most is to play in the World Cup myself. Colombia is a team with great potential, and it will be a better team this year with enriched player resources compared with the last World Cup. I will also follow Spain, Germany, Argentina and Brazil.

Q: How much longer will you stay in China? Are there any other leagues you want to try?

A: I like China a lot, a country where I feel warmly welcomed. I like my life in Shanghai, so if there is a chance, I will extend my contract. However, since childhood, it has been my dream to play for Manchester United, which is still my dream now.

Q: Have you thought about coaching? What other occupation you would do if you were not a player?

A: I’m not sure if I’m capable of coaching, but I hope I can inspire the younger generation and be a good role model for them. If I were not a footballer, I might have become an entrepreneur, since I regard myself knowledgeable and capable enough in doing business.

Guarin still retains hope of playing for Man United
Zhou Shengjie / SHINE

Guarin shares a light moment with his girlfriend Sara Uribe at their home in the Pudong New Area.

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