Jordi Gomez can remember the first time he set eyes on Wembley. It was four days before his seventh birthday and he was at home in his native Barcelona watching his beloved Barca win the European Cup with a 1-0 win over Sampdoria in May 1992.
“It was a great night, we were all so happy, I can remember Ronald Koeman scoring the winner, and it was the first time Barcelona had ever won the European Cup,” he told me. “Wembley seemed to be a special place and I thought I would love to play there one day.”
The Spanish playmaker has been one of Wigan’s most influential players on their historic run to the FA Cup final this season.
He has scored three goals in the competition, against Bournemouth in the third round, the winner against Macclesfield in the fourth round and the third and final goal in that thrilling quarter-final destruction of Everton at Goodison Park.
“I’m really enjoying my football this season,” says Gomez. “Life is never boring at Wigan, we are always fighting for something, and now it is to stay in the Premier League and also to win the FA Cup for the first time too.”
Growing up in Barcelona, Gomez never expected to be here, he only had dreams of playing for his hometown club, who he joined as an 11-year-old and stayed for the next decade, making his way through the youth sides and playing for Barcelona C and B.
“It was a great time, and I learned so much there,” he says. “It helped me become the player I am today as we were taught to play exactly the same as the first team, so you are always prepared.”
“At Barcelona you are told to keep the ball, look after it, it is your friend, and never just get rid of it, which is the opposite to a lot of teams here in England.”
For half a season Gomez played in the same Barcelona Under-18 side as Gerard Pique and a certain Lionel Messi. “Even then Messi was a great player, he would score two or three goals a game, but I don’t think you could have ever predicted what a star he would become.”
In 2007, Gomez accepted he would never force his way in to the Barcelona first team and joined their local rivals Espanyol, but he only played three times for the first team before a year later agreeing to join Roberto Martinez at Swansea City on a season-long loan.
“I thought, ‘Ok, I will give this a try,’ and from the very first moment it went really well for me. I had a Spanish manager, and some Dutch and Spanish teammates so we played a continental style, and it wasn’t very different to what I was used to at home.”
Gomez was a revelation for Swansea as they enjoyed their first season in the Championship for 24 years. His skill and creative attacking talents brought him 14 goals in all competitions and earned him a place in the Championship’s Team of the Season.
When Roberto Martinez left for Wigan Athletic in the summer of 2009 he made sure he took Gomez with him on a permanent deal, but the player admits he was slow to adapt in his first two seasons in the Premier League.
But Gomez began to express himself more from last season, which included scoring at Chelsea, and that has continued this season with his goals in the cup run and also a hat-trick against Reading, only the third by a Wigan player in the Premier League and the second ever by a Spanish player after Fernando Torres.
“It took me some time to get used to Wigan, but I have done that now so it is easier to enjoy my football,” says Gomez. “The whole team better understands how the manager wants us to play.”
“I really like playing for Roberto Martinez, and can see after my time at Barcelona that he wants us to play just like them, because we have to keep the ball on the floor and pass it.”
“I have enjoyed my time here very much, and what would make it even more special is to win the FA Cup. It would be a great achievement and the first thing I have ever won in my career.”