Boro icon Mendieta opens up on DJ life, Southgate fallout and Van Gaal's 'military regime' aura

Over the course of two decades, the Spaniard’s mastery in midfield saw him adored from the Mestalla to Middlesbrough and beyond.

But as he slides a set of headphones over his mane and places a record on the turntable, the former footballer eases into his new world of work.

“I would always play songs for fun but DJing was never something I thought I’d do in retirement,” Mendieta, 44, tells SunSport.

“I’ve DJed at small clubs with not many people and huge festivals with thousands of people, and it’s not about DJing itself but something I love doing.”

Eleven years have passed since the two-time European midfielder of the year retired at the Riverside with a League Cup and Uefa Cup runner-up medal.

Over the course of an hour, Mendieta lifts the lid on his rift with former team-mate-turned-manager Gareth Southgate, reveals the true Louis van Gaal and explains how he ended up at Boro.

But, first, to the turntable of a central London record store.

Mendieta is the picture of Rock ’n’ Roll as he turns up wearing sunglasses, skinny black jeans and a sweater with an electric guitar blazoned across the front.

His debut on the decks came in 2010 when a friend asked him to do a set at Spain’s Festival Internacional de Benicassim in front of thousands of revellers.

“We had two vinyls and on the turntable and a CD in case something happened,” Mendieta recalls.

“The first turntable didn’t work. We could hear it but the people couldn’t hear it. We were there for two minutes and it felt like hours as the technician was fixing it. After that, it was brilliant.

"From there, it’s been festivals and events, non-stop. It’s something I never thought I’d do.”

Flicking through a box of LPs, Mendieta’s blonde locks create a striking resemblance to famed DJ David Guetta.

“People have said that before,” Mendieta says, laughing.

“I think he’s done a bit more partying than me, though. I have big admiration but his music is not really my thing."

Mendieta’s thing includes an eclectic mix of music, from Iggy Pop rock to the soulful sounds of Sam Cooke and the metal of Metallica and Motorhead.

“Soul is easiest to play. Even if people don’t know the songs, it’s the rhythm,” he explains.

“I don’t want to sound old but when I started listening to music you had to find lyrics in books. You went to record stores and libraries to find books about the albums.

“I used to translate lyrics. I went to an academy in Valencia for three years to learn English for that."

This made Mendieta’s move to Middlesbrough in 2003 easier, as he joined Steve McClaren’s team after unsuccessful spells in Italy and Spain.

“I went to Lazio and won nothing, I went to Barcelona and won nothing. Then I go to Boro and get to two finals and win a trophy,” he says.

Lazio paid £29million for Mendieta in 2001. “It was a very difficult year, I didn’t have the chance,” he says. “I played just 15 games which was crazy and they had three managers in a year.

“I played more at Barca but they had coach changes and two presidents that year. It was difficult.”

Former Man United boss Van Gaal had taken Mendieta to the Camp Nou. “With me he was great,” he recalls.

“Although Louis strikes you as someone strict and with a military regime, he was not. He was very approachable. Family always came first and he was very good tactically.

“If I had to say something I found, not just with him but most managers, is the way he was so focused on his idea of football. He was reluctant to change.”

After a year in Catalonia, Mendieta wanted to experience the Premier League and McClaren sold his vision at the Riverside.

Alongside the likes of Mark Viduka, Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink, Boudewijn Zenden and Yakubu, Mendieta led Boro to silverware and a top-seven finish.

At first, he bonded with Southgate. “We talked about football a lot, playing from the back and had a similar idea,” Mendieta says.

“I’ve spoken about this with him and we are fine, but when he became manager he wasn’t honest with me.

“He didn’t explain the situation: the club wants this or that. He kind of tried to persuade me about things that weren’t there.

“Why send me to the reserves? There was no need for that. Whether it was him or it comes from the club, someone needed to find a solution.

“He has said if he knew then what he knows now as a manager, he would have dealt with it differently.”

Jamie McPhilimey – The Sun17Middlesbrough and football can never forget Mendieta, though, as he now mixes his past with his present.

“I’ve been asked to do playlists for Boro fans when they go to away games on coaches and I’ve been DJing at Champions League final fan zones for two or three years," he says.

“Real Madrid against Atletico in Lisbon was special. It was mostly Spanish there and everyone was with shirts and shouting ‘Mendieta!’

“Putting those two worlds together, that's what I enjoy now."


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