If things work out as Stephen Hart and HFX Wanderers expect them to, Juan Diego Gutiérrez is going to sell a lot of shirts this season.
The diminutive Peruvian is exactly the kind of player that excites fans, especially those who may be new to the sport. Attacking, exciting, and most at home ghosting between midfield and defence in the opposition half, Guti’s signing has brought some much-needed creative flair to the Wanderers attack.
The 26-year-old Peruvian has enjoyed an intriguing career up to this point. After forcing his way into the Universidad San Martin first-team in 2011 – alongside fellow Wanderers new boy Luis Perea – the attacking-midfielder built up enough of a reputation to earn a move to the top tier of Danish football with Vejle Boldklub.
After a year in Europe, which also included a spell at Gefle IF in Sweden, he made his way back to Peru where he’s been playing since.
That is, until Wanderers came calling.
As he counts down the days before joining up with his new teammates at the pre-season training camp, Halifax’s boy from Peru was kind enough take some time out of his schedule to answer some questions for us.
Firstly, welcome to HFX Wanderers FC! I hear there have been some visa issues that needed ironing out. Do you have any idea when you’ll be able to fly in to join up with training?
Thank you for the welcome, I can’t wait to be there and meet the people of Halifax!
I have no problems with the visa, but it’s taking some time because I need to do a lot of paperwork. It’s tough to provide everything that they ask for. I have an appointment on March 12th at the Canadian Embassy, so I hope everything can go fast.
You’ll playing under head-coach Stephen Hart at HFX Wanderers. Is he someone you’ve worked with before?
I didn’t know Stephen before so I’m excited to get to know him. I’m looking forward to working together.
You started your career in Peru before moving to Denmark in 2016. Was it difficult moving away from home?
It’s always hard to leave home and all of your family but I really enjoy new challenges and I think this is going to be an important one for me.
In terms of playing style, I can see similarities between yourself and David Silva. Is there a player in world football that you look up to and try to model your game on?
My favorite player is Messi. I always watch videos of him and try to see his games. It’s not easy to copy him but I try!
David Silva is kind of my second favorite player, so I really appreciate that you see some similarities in the way we play. I also try to copy him as much as possible so thank you, I appreciate you saying that.
You played with your fellow HFX Wanderers South American Luis Perea for Deportivo Universidad San Martin in Peru. What kind of partnership did you two have on the pitch?
I have played with Luis and he is a great player. He is really strong so he can keep the ball very well. He can also score a lot of goals because he is great at shooting on target. I think I can use him to find spaces and use my ability to play around him. I also know that if I give him a good pass it will be a goal. 100%.
You can play on either wing or as a no.10. Which position do you think suits you best?
I can play on both wings and as a no.10 really, I don’t have a predilection for one. It all depends on how we play and how the opponent plays. The only thing I can tell you is that I feel very comfortable when I have the ball.
What qualities does a player in this position need to have?
In all of these three I think it’s important to have good technique and manage the ball well.
I often find with players in your position, that assists can bring as much pleasure as goals. Is this something that applies to you?
I feel the most pleasure when I am good on the ball and can make the team play. Of course, it’s important to score and I love to do so, but making the team play well is my favorite pleasure.
How do you anticipate the level in CPL will compare to the level you’ve been playing at in Peru?
I think CPL will be a really good league with teams that like to play and attack fast. I think it’s going to be more dynamic than the Peruvian league.
As a proud Peruvian, do you have ambitions to try and break into the national team at some point in the future?
It’s a dream to play in my national team but I feel right now that it’s far for me. I need to keep working hard, and maybe God is saving something good for me.
And finally, what do you know about Halifax? Have you had much time to research the city?
What I know about Halifax is that it’s a really nice city. A little bit cold, but beautiful with kind people. I also know that it’s kind of an island. I read that Halifax had one of the biggest explosions in history and also that the city is related to the Titanic.
Thanks for taking the time to do this, Guti.