Position: Attacking midfielder
Current club: APOEL FC (Cyprus)
Former clubs: Alaves, Barcelona, Swansea City, Brighton and Hove Albion, Blackpool and Anorthosis Famagusta.
And here it is at last, AFEFootballNews’ first former Premier League player to be interviewed, Andrea Orlandi. The Spanish attacking midfielder joined Swansea back in 2007-08 season and helped them on their journey from League One to their Premier League promotion in 2011-12. He ended up playing 90 times for the club and although he only made three Premier League appearances, he scored what still to this day remains the Swans’ fastest ever goal in the division when he netted after just 25 seconds in a 4-4 draw against Wolves.
At Championship level, he was a regular for the Welsh side (50 of his appearances came during the two seasons there) and after he departed Swansea he became a vital player at Brighton in their attempts to gain promotion to the first division. A brief spell at Blackpool followed where he again impressed during the season and then he made the move to Cypriot side Anorthosis. He signed for his current team, APOEL in June of 2016 and seems excited by what they have to offer in terms of European football.
AFEFootballNews contacted Andrea through Instagram and he kindly agreed to answer a few questions for the website. Here’s what the man himself had to say …
AFE: Who was your footballing idol when growing up?
AO: I had two main footballing idols. The first one was Jordi Lardin, he was a left winger who played for Espanyol. I was a big Espanyol fan and I loved him because he was quick and a good goal scorer too. My other idol was Francesco Totti. He was inspirational for me on and off the pitch, I even tried to imitate his moves because his touch was and still is amazing, I just loved watching him play.
I managed to meet them both later on in life and Totti clearly beats Lardin on a personal level, so I would have to say Totti.
AFE: How did it feel to be loaned out to Barcelona when you were at Alaves? And who was the best player at Barca at the time?
AO: It felt great to sign for Barcelona and when I walked into the offices I realised how huge the club really was. Alaves had just been promoted to La Liga and I was going to have little first team action and so the move to Barca was great for me. I played every game for the second team and even made my debut in La Liga with the first team.
The best player there at the time was undoubtedly Ronaldinho, he was absolutely out of this world! First time I saw him in the dressing room, I had to pinch myself, I couldn’t believe it.
AFE: Who’s the best player you’ve played against during your career?
AO: Best player I’ve played against has to be Andres Iniesta in the youth ranks. It’s funny because I played against Vardy and Mahrez (in the Championship), for example, who are big players now of course, but I didn’t realize at the time just how good they were. Vardy was a sub many times in the Championship for Leicester but now look at him!
AFE: How hard was it settling in to life in Wales?
AO: It was hard at first, really hard. I was coming from a club with the some of the best facilities in the world, to Swansea City football club, who at the time had no dressing room for the players to get changed in, some players used to come straight from home to the ground in their training kits!
I struggled with the English game physically, but mainly mentally I think. Roberto (Martinez) didn’t really help me at the time either as I barely got a chance to play in my first two seasons at the club.
AFE: Who was the best player at Swansea during your time there?
AO: I would say that the whole team was very strong and the spirit we had in the dressing room at the time was unbelievable as there were some really top guys there. Scott Sinclair was exceptional when we got promoted, Ashley Williams was a rock at the back and Joe Allen was like my little brother, but everyone was very good, even myself!
AFE: What about the best manager?
AO: It has to be Brendan Rodgers for me. With Roberto we attacked well but we couldn’t defend and with Paulo Sousa we were solid, but not so great going forward, but Brendan was perfect at balancing both sides of the game. He didn’t play me much in the Premier League but he made me a better player and I used what I had learnt from him in my following season at Brighton where I had a great year. I love him as a man as well as a manager.
AFE: You were a part of the Swansea side who won promotion to the Premier League in 2012, how special was that to you?
AO: Getting promoted with Swansea was an amazing feeling, because it felt like four years of hard work had finally paid off for us. We were a family and each and every one of us would have been willing to die for one another out on the field, there were no ego’s and no primadonna’s. That day at Wembley was special and one of the best days of my career for sure. Seeing so many happy faces around me, with the fans and the players and staff of the club, made me even happier.
AFE: Do you think Swansea will have what it takes to stay in the Premier League this year?
AO: I’ve watched quite a few of Swansea’s games this season and i’ts not looking great to be fair. Fortunately they’ve managed to get a couple of good results at home to boost their hopes of survival but I can’t see an identity within the team. Hopefully things will change soon and they stay up because I love the club and still have some good friends there.
AFE: You now play in Cyprus with APOEL, how does that league compare to the others you’ve played in?
AO: You can’t really compare the Cypriot league to the Spanish or English leagues of course but the top six teams here play a good standard of football and it’s very competitive between them, however the rest of the teams aren’t so great. I’m lucky to be playing for APOEL because they’re the best team here and we have qualified for the last 32 of the Europa League this season, we’ll be playing Bilbao in February. Playing in Europe is one of the best experiences I’ve had in my career.
As my father is a Swansea fan and I have followed them for many years with him, we both fondly remember some of Orlandi’s performances for the club during some of the best years that the Liberty stadium has seen, so it was an honour to talk to the midfielder. Cheers for volunteering Andrea and all the best with your European adventure!