The former Liverpool shot-stopper had many interesting things to say about India and the fans in Kochi.
As the Toyota Yaris La Liga World came close, India experienced its first international pre-season tournament, knock at its door. Australian powerhouse Melbourne City along with La Liga outfit Girona FC came ashore, as the southern hosts Kerala Blasters retrofitted themselves to face two internationally-recognized sides in their own backyard.
On the eve of the tournament, Khel Now sat down with Melbourne City’s first-choice goalkeeper, Dean Bouzanis for a tete-a-tete.
“New culture, new people, new traditions, we’re liking it here. It’s a beautiful city and the facilities have been great. We look forward to the matches,” the former Liverpool goalkeeper, who’s currently under the bar for Melbourne, started off when asked about Kochi.
“It all happened very quickly,” said Bouzanis, about his youth career that escalated from the Sutherland Sharks and Sydney Olympic to Liverpool. “I was always an outfield player, but then an injury happened to the goalkeeper and I, being the tallest, was asked to play under the bar. That decision changed my life. An agent identified me, I had trials overseas and the next thing before I knew – I was at Liverpool.”
Talking about his time on Merseyside, Bouzanis was full of praise. “I’m fortunate it happened. I was lucky to go in the first-team directly. I learnt from fantastic players like Steven Gerrard, Fernando Torres and Luis Suarez, and around them, you see how professional and amazing they are, not just as footballers, but as human beings as well. It was massive for me.”
Watch: The former Liverpool keeper was all praise for Rafael Benitez
Rafael Benitez, the then Liverpool manager, had said that Dean is “the best goalkeeper in the world for his age.” The 6 ft 1 custodian talked highly about his former manager. “Well, it’s a massive statement. Rafa recognised my talent and took me into the first-team. I thank him a lot for that.”
Bouzanis, though, did not play a lot of football for Liverpool. He mostly started for the Reserves side, but had no qualms accepting the truth. “Nothing really went wrong,” Bouzanis continued, “Because such massive clubs keep signing the best players in the world and I decided to leave because I wanted to be on the pitch and play regular first-team football. I had a year left on my contract, but I decided to leave.”
The journey moved on to Oldham Athletic, based in Greater Manchester. Bouzanis played 45 games next season, keeping eight clean-sheets. “It was a great time, to play regularly and I’ve great memories at the club. I left because I had an offer from Greece, the place I originate from.”
Melbourne City finally came calling after stints at Carlisle United and Western Sydney and Bouzanis sounded happy about his time at the club. “It is a good club, great ambitions and we look to win everything we play in. That is exactly what drives us at this club. The club demands the best from you and that’s the environment you want to be in.”
Bouzanis has an interesting history with Warren Joyce, his manager and he gives us the inputs. “I’ve played against Warren (Joyce) during his time at Manchester (United while I was at Liverpool. I think I’ve beaten him a couple of times there (chuckles). He’s a great player, good coach and demands a lot from us. One thing that he makes sure of is that everyone is in a good condition and fit and fine to go. His credentials speak for him and he’s certainly a good manager.”
About Kerala, Bouzanis added, “The standard here, I’ve heard, is pretty good. I’ve played against the manager David James, while he was at Bournemouth. The team looks good. We’ve seen the games on TV and the game, we’re sure is going to be exciting.”
“Girona, on the other hand, is a big, big club in La Liga. They finished 10th last season and defeated Real Madrid. So, I’m sure it’s going to be a great match. It’s one of the best leagues in the world and they have top quality players,” Bouzanis added.
Talking about his technical abilities, Bouzanis said that he liked the ball at his feet. “I’m pretty confident with the ball at my feet. There are not many goalkeepers that can do that. What I’m looking to improve is coming out for high balls, being more commanding and collectively as well.”
“I’ve big ambitions about my future,” stated the shot-stopper, “I’m only 27 and that is pretty young for a goalkeeper. I have a few matches under my belt already, I’m looking forward to having another good season, push my way into the national team, but I wouldn’t look too far.”
“I’m expecting a great game, with the fans being the best in the country. I’ve heard of the Yellow Army and I’ve seen the lads around. I look forward to a great match,” Bouzanis signed off, with a smile, a thumbs up and a wink.