Javi Pérez called Spain home for the first 20 years of his life. A product of the Valencia Academy, the midfielder climbed the ranks all the way to Los Che's second team. But after 15 years with the club, Pérez needed a change of scenery.
Oddly enough, it was a former Valencia star that offered him that opportunity.
Taking part in trials with David Villa's DV7 Soccer Academy, Pérez was offered a scholarship and the chance to become a student-athlete in the U.S. at the University of Pittsburgh. After two seasons as captain of the Panthers, Pérez was selected No. 64 overall by LAFC at the 2019 SuperDraft.
As Pérez prepares to join the Club for preseason camp, I caught up with the midfielder to find out a little bit more about his journey to MLS:
Can You Tell Us How You Arrived In The U.S. To Play College Soccer?
I started playing when I was only five years old. My dad threw me into the Valencia Academy and told me, “You should play soccer around here.” I started going up the ladder little by little and I went up every stage of the Valencia Academy. I went from the U5 team all the way up to the second team. So it was 15 years of my life but I really appreciate everything that everyone did for me there. I grew as a person and as a player.
Coming to the US was a big change for me. I felt like it was time to move on from Valencia. I was looking for new experiences and the US was a big one. How the college system works with student athlete is unique. That attracted me, the fact that I could play and study at the same time. And I still had some objectives of playing pro soccer, and with this opportunity, that dream is becoming a reality.
How Did You Learn LAFC Had Selected You In The SuperDraft?
I got a phone call from my agent saying LAFC had picked me. Obviously, there was a bunch of happiness. I was at home with my Spanish teammate. We just started jumping and hugging. He was happier than me even. So I was really thankful for the opportunity.
What Was The Reaction When You Contacted Your Family Back In Spain?
I FaceTimed them. Everyone started jumping. Then I had to call my parents and call my sister, she lives in London. And she started jumping and screaming. So it was a bunch of phone calls but everyone is really happy. Seeing them happy makes me happy, too.
What Type Of Player Are You On The Pitch?
First of all, I am a team player. I play for the team and what I bring to the table everything I have. Especially in my position, I try to offer the team a lot of balance and move the ball side to side, creating opportunities for the people that play in front of me. Put them in better spots so they have chance to get goals.
Is There A Professional Player You Model Your Game Around?
I try to look at the best midfielders. I am a player that is similar in playing style to the way Xabi Alonso was or like Steven Gerrard when he was younger and played more in that No. 6 position. So, I try to follow the best players in the world. But if I had to pick only one, I would say Xabi Alonso.
What Is Your Mindset Heading Into Preseason Camp?
I’m really excited to get this opportunity. It fires me up. I know the difficulty of this opportunity, but I am excited to get to start working, to start showing the coaching staff that I’m ready to earn a spot in the squad. I want to try to bring everything that I can towards the team’s success.
Have Any Plans Off The Pitch In LA?
Getting to know the city, it’s going to be my first time over there, so it’s a plus that I got picked up by team that is in an amazing city like LA. But right now, I’m focused on inside the field, earning my spot, and earning my place inside the team.
When You Learned LAFC Had A Friendly Scheduled Against David Villa's New Team Vissel Kobe, What Was Your Reaction?
For sure, it’s special. I have a really good relationship with David. He was the guy that kind of helped me out when I was here in the US. He was really on top of everything that happened to me. We established a very good relationship. He even talked to me yesterday and said congratulations. I’m looking forward to playing that game and playing against him. He is one of the biggest Spanish players in history, and now, I consider him a good friend of mine. It would be an honor to play on the same field as him.
Do You Have Anything You Want To Say To LAFC Fans?
I’m thankful for all the messages I have received already. I’d encourage them to bring the team along in the games that we are going to be suffering. They’re a key part in the team’s success. We are going to play for them. And hopefully, they will support us as well as they did last season.