Ayoze Pérez

Ayoze Pérez: Inspired By Family

“The camera loves me!” jokes Ayoze Pérez as some of his team-mates stroll past, chuckling at the Spaniard’s photoshoot for LCFCQ on their way through.
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At this point, when the interview took place last summer, he’s only known them for a matter of days. He’s perched on the edge of a large grey chair on the veranda of Hôtel Royal, the team’s base for their week-long pre-season training camp in Évian-les-Bains. 

At lunch and dinner time, his spot at the table in south-east France never changes, and neither does the company. Christian Fuchs and Eldin Jakupović are the two most senior players on the table; some of the Club’s youth contingent – also on their first pre-season trip – sits alongside Pérez.

They are all at different stages of their footballing journey. While Fuchs and Jakupović have acquired a vast amount of knowledge throughout their varied careers, the youngsters are just beginning to forge their way into the professional aspect of the sport. 

Pérez, meanwhile, sits somewhere in between. He has already moved from his homeland to pursue his quest for success. Since his chat with LCFCQ, he has netted seven Premier League goals for the Foxes, and has already scored a hat-trick in the highest tier of English football.

His journey began two decades ago in María Jiménez, Santa Cruz – a city located in the north-east of Tenerife. For Pérez, his life outside the island’s capital would see him envisage a career as a professional.

It’s been a long way, but since those times where most of the time you spend it with friends in the street playing football, doing what you love, it then becomes something different

Ayoze Pérez LCFCQ

“Everything started quite early for me,” he says. “I started playing football when I was five years old. Since then, I always had the dream and the belief to be able to get to where I am right now.

“It’s been a long way, but since those times where most of the time you spend it with friends in the street playing football, doing what you love, it then becomes something different. 

“I still know some of my friends, too. It’s been a long time, but we’re still friends. Some of them I have a close relationship with, but some of the others, I’m not as close to. But they’ve been part of my life, they’ve been part of my ideas.  

“They were important for me. It means a lot to have those kinds of friends when you are young and to be able to spend so many hours together playing in the street.” 

His source of inspiration is friends and family, most notably his nephew Yarey, who also has a passion for football. He wants to follow in the footsteps of his uncle. 

“My nephew is 10 years-old, and he reminds me of myself when I was younger,” adds Pérez. “He’s trying to follow my steps, and in this case, I’m proud to see him enjoy, from close up, the life and the dream that came true for me. 

“In his mind, he would love to make it true as well. I see him every month or two. He will come over with his family and spend a couple of weeks with me. The most important thing in life is having my family close to me.” 

Growing up in the Canary Islands, football dominated Pérez’s routine. 

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Ayoze Pérez
Ayoze Pérez

Ayoze spoke to LCFCQ during the pre-season trip to Évian-les-Bains.

“I was close to the capital and I spent most of my life living there, playing for some different teams in the sun,” he explains. “I lived close to the beach, so I used to spend a lot of days there. That’s where I spent most of my time.

“I used to watch a lot of football, too. I used to spend the whole weekend watching football, whatever league it was – the Spanish league or the Premier League – I’d watch anything. I was one of those fans that watched a lot of football, and after that, I’m one of those players now.”

As Pérez watched on from his sofa, he idolised one player in particular – Zlatan Ibrahimović. Known for his charisma, undoubted talent and bullish attitude, he drew the Spaniard in. While he has never faced the Swede on the pitch, he recollected a specific moment at Old Trafford in November 2017 that made him realise how far he had come in such a short space of time.

“It might sound a bit strange, because he’s much taller than me and he’s different in terms of how he plays, but he was one of those players that I couldn’t wait to see play,” says Pérez. “Everything about him was amazing for me.

“When you are young, you change, and you have a couple of idols. David Villa is also one of those players. Those are the types of players I used to watch, and I loved to see them play. I imagined if I could do something similar like them one.  

“A couple of seasons ago, me and Zlatan were both on the bench, so we spent a couple of minutes warming up in the corner. To be honest, it was something great for me. I spent so many years watching him play and having him as an idol. He was next to me, and it made me think how things have changed so quickly in that moment.” 

There are a lot of talents in the squad. We’ve got a great manager and the most important thing is that we’ve got the ambition to keep growing as a club.

Ayoze Pérez LCFCQ

That was around three-and-a-half years into his Newcastle United career. By that time, he had already scored winners against Tottenham Hotspur – on two occasions – and Liverpool, and had experienced relegation from the Premier League and promotion back to it.  

“I expected it to be tough,” Pérez says. “The first year was the most difficult, but I managed to adapt, with the help of my brother, Samuel, to the lifestyle, to the football and to the Premier League. 

“I took the right decision about coming to England but I didn’t know much English at first. I had to learn when I arrived in Newcastle. I had a teacher for one hour every day from Monday to Friday.

“That was the way to learn and in five or six months, I was able to speak a little bit. The most important thing was to understand English when people speak it, and sometimes that’s the hardest part. I started as soon as I came to England. 

“Newcastle was a great experience and it’s a great city. People are very passionate for football. You can smell it there. The five years that I spent there, I was very young, and to be able to live through a situation like that was very good for me. I gained a lot of experience and enjoyed a lot of good moments. It makes you grow up as a person and as a footballer.” 

The decisive goals for Newcastle against Tottenham stick out in Ayoze’s mind. Both strikes came at White Hart Lane, which had been the home of the North London outfit since the turn of the 20th century.

For a player in his early 20s, scoring against a side in the hunt for a top-four finish was a big deal. 

“That was a great feeling,” Pérez says. “It was against Spurs away from home and that was such a great feeling. It was my first start and we won that game, which meant a lot. I scored a header and it was a great feeling. I will never forget that. 

“It was our ninth league game of the season and it was around 60 minutes or so. We were 1-0 down at half-time and came back to win 2-1. The season after, I scored again at their stadium. In both games, we won 2-1. That one, I came off the bench and scored in the 92nd minute.” 

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Ayoze Pérez
Ayoze Pérez

The Spaniard has quickly settled into life with his team-mates.

He’s also bagged a couple of goals against Leicester City, too, settling both of Newcastle’s previous two visits to King Power Stadium before the 2019/20 campaign. In April 2018, he first set up his side’s opener before doubling the lead with a fine lob. Last season, meanwhile, his excellent headed effort again earned all three points for the visiting side. 

Both goals have already come up in conversation with his City team-mates, as the striker explains: “Kasper [Schmeichel] told me not to chip him again, otherwise he won’t be happy! But I feel very welcomed and I think that’s very important for a player that’s coming to a new club.

“To feel that way, it’s important. All of the lads are trying to be close to me, to make me feel comfortable. That’s something I’m thankful of.

“There are a lot of talents in the squad. We’ve got a great manager and the most important thing is that we’ve got the ambition to keep growing as a club. Being as positive as we are right now, that’s going to be key to success. This club is getting better year by year and that’s because of that positivity and ambition.”

Over the past decade, the Club’s ambition has been set by late Chairman Khun Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and his son, Khun Top, now Leicester City's Chairman. Their generosity and kindness are something that Pérez already knows about, and he is eager to learn more about the Thai culture that has helped shape the Football Club to date.  

“Everyone has told me how good Khun Top is, and how nice he is,” says Pérez. “I know the owners are very kind people and I have always wanted to go to Thailand. 

“I still haven’t been, but me and my brother always wanted to visit there. We used to watch Muay Thai films, and it taught us a lot about their culture. That was always in our mind and that’s why we wanted to visit it.” 

With plans for a stadium expansion to follow City’s move to a world-class training facility, the forward’s aim is to be part of shaping the Club’s future by helping them realise their potential. 

I’m a professional and it’s a job. But what is more important is that it’s a dream that came true.

Ayoze Pérez LCFCQ

“I want to be part of something big like that,” he says. “This team is about establishing ourselves in a good part of the league. Hopefully, we can establish ourselves in Europe soon.

“We all know what has happened over the past few years at this club. Step by step, they are getting better, and I think it’s about time because the mentality this club has is very important for the future.

“I have seen some of the plans for the training ground and I was very impressed by it. It looks like a city, it’s huge! 

“Coming back to the ambition and the way the Club wants to grow and improve, that’s the best example of this. It will be a great move, and it’s something great for the Club.” 

Five years after departing Tenerife as a 20-year-old, his family connections have not faded. There’s always time to look back on his journey and to remember what life was like before the Premier League.

He adds: “I always remember where I come from and where I was six or seven years ago. I talk a lot about that with my closest family. We used to discuss many things. In just seven years, I am here, and it’s been quick, but plenty of things have changed. We talk about how life can change in just a couple of years.” 

With a new chapter of his career now underway at Leicester City, Ayoze is still driven by his simple life as a youngster in María Jiménez.

“I’m a professional and it’s a job,” he adds. “But what is more important is that it’s a dream that came true.” 

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