With Marko Bijač’s departure to Pro Recco, the most-trophied Croatian water polo club VK Jug needed a new captain. The players’ and team’s decision was unanimous and the 34-year-old Xavi García was chosen. He’s Spaniard (Catalan) with a Croatian heart who is about to start his fourth season wearing Jug’s cap.
Xavi has been a Croatian citizen for five years, and since 2016 he has been a permanent member of the ‘Barracudas’ with whom he earned silver in Rio and the World gold last year in Budapest. In the last three seasons, Jug has won 11 trophies, including one European champion title, one Super Cup and three Regional League titles, the Croatian Championships and the Croatian Cup.
First and foremost, I would like to thank the club for the great honour. VK Jug is more than a club, it’s an institution. As a team, we’re all the same and there were others who could easily take the position (Maro, Sandro, Lonac…).
I hope I’ll be up to the task as this club deserves. I also believe that I’ll be of help to other two captains — Lončar and Fatović — and contribute with their charisma and experience,” said Xavi.
What’s the key to achieving a good atmosphere that, as everyone says, is the foundation of success?
The team must always come before an individual. We’ve shown that in the last few years. Within the team, we have built a family atmosphere, which is crucial to anyone who wants to achieve the results. Any other scenario can bring only short-term success, but it’s not good in the long run.
After seven years, Sandro Sukno returned to the club. What does this mean for the team?
The comeback of Sandro Sukno, the best player in the world, is extremely important to the club. Not only because of his unquestionable playing quality but for the influence he leaves on younger players. They can learn a lot from him. We are a team of the present, but above all, the future.
In relation to the last season, Marko Bijač, Viktor Rašović, and Vincenzo Renzuto left the club. Toni Popadić, Daniil Merkulov, and Alex Papanastasiou replaced them. What do you think of the new players and what can we expect of them in the future?
Bijač is the best goalkeeper in the world and his departure is a big handicap to us. However, we immensely believe in Toni, and I’m sure he’ll have an excellent season and will be a strong link in our team.
Daniil Merkulov is good in all segments of the game. Despite his young age, he has a great international experience. He’s a great young man and I expect great things of him.
Alex is a young man who has shown his talents in playing for Greece’s youth team, who is the World and European Champion. We have to give Alex some time to adapt because he arrived just a few days ago. But in the future, he’ll be a great player in Jug.
What is your score of the young men joining the first team?
It’s well known that Jug’s young players are doing great. I think that anyone younger coming to the team has a chance to continue our work. With our guidance, of course.