PETALING JAYA: He was out with a knee injury for the whole of 2019, and will turn 34 in June – the kind of statistics that would spell the end for many footballers.
Not for Johor Darul Ta’zim’s (JDT) Natxo Insa, though.
The Spain-born Malaysian is refusing to slow down and, based on his last four performances, he is putting younger midfielders to shame.
The former Celta Vigo and Real Zaragoza midfielder showed why he could be one of the most influential midfielders in the country when he impressed in the team’s 1-0 win against Suwon Samsung Bluewings in the 2020 AFC Champions League.
In the Super League, the Malaysian international started in three of JDT’s four matches, before the movement control order (MCO) was imposed.
His energetic performances in the middle of the park have delighted JDT’s coach Benjamin Mora, as he has more options in his midfield, which is already stacked with players like Hariss Harun, Afiq Fazail, Syamer Kutty Abba, Liridon Krasniqi and Nazmi Faiz Mansor.
For Natxo, the challenge is a tough but healthy one.
“Right now, my priority is to maintain or improve my performances because I have not played for a long time due to the injury I suffered last year, ” said the player, who joined the Southern Tigers from Levante in 2018.
“Competition for places is pretty tight, but I see it as a healthy competition because indirectly, we are looking to improve on our own form to retain our spots.
“The treatment I received here in JDT made sure I could return to the pitch even though I was out for a year. My return to form is thanks to the facilities provided by TMJ (JDT owner Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim).
“Now, I want to repay that favour by giving my best on the pitch, and it does feel like a miracle because I have found my groove again.”
His form indeed coincides with the team’s performance in the league as the defending champions top the table with 10 points from four matches.
Fans are even clamouring for Natxo’s return to the national team. He last donned the Harimau Malaya jersey on March 22,2018, when he played in the 2-2 draw against Mongolia. It was also his first cap for the team.
Natxo admitted that he yearns to play for the national team again, but wants to concentrate on his form first once the league resumes.
“If the opportunity comes, I will take it. No player will reject a chance to play for the national team because it is an honour.”
“But I have to make sure my form justifies the call-up.”
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