You began your football journey at 13, leaving home to pursue a career. How was that for you?
“To be honest… It was a dream. Football is something that’s always caught my attention, I’ve always been passionate about it since I was very young. When I had to leave, it was very difficult, because I had always been at home with my mum, I had always been with her, and it was tough for me. But after that, when I arrived at the club I was joining, I fitted in very well because they welcomed me very well, like a family, and then my family could come and visit me, so little by little things got easier.”
How did playing at Independiente del Valle impact or develop you?
“It was the start of me becoming the person that I am today. I learned a lot of things there, both in terms of football but also as a person. As a person, at the school I attended, I learned a lot, I learned about values, and then on the pitch, I learned lots of details which are helping me now, more than anything here in the Bundesliga, for example studying the profiles of players you come up against, these are things I learned at Independiente del Valle, and it helped me a lot.”
What do you see as the key differences between European and South American football?
“The physicality. I think the football here is much more physical and much quicker, too. The speed of the game, here you play a lot more. In South America, it’s much more patient, more stop-start, and here it’s much quicker, the ball moves quicker, the passing, the precision. Those were things that really stood out as differences to me at the start.”
Who are the people who have influenced your career?
“Oh, so many people! At Independiente, I don’t know, there are so many people, what I can say? They helped me a lot. Going through it quickly I can say the head coach, Miguel Ángel Ramírez, I learned a lot from him. I didn’t play so much with him, but I learned a lot and it prepared me well because he taught me about waiting for the moment you’re called on to play and making sure you’re prepared. From there, in Europe, there’s (Marco) van Bommel. He gave me a lot of confidence, he was great for me, and in the squad with Toby (Alderweireld), a really amazing person, I don’t have the words to describe how much he helped me, he really took my hand to help me make an impact and play well. They’re people who have helped me continue to improve every day, and theoretically, they’re the people who have helped me the most, but there are so many others too.
Now in the Bundesliga – what does that mean to you?
“Yeah, it was a dream. I always followed the teams and leagues. But when I was with Independiente del Valle, I had an experience, we had this tournament and it was the first time I’d come up against a team from Europe, and this team from Europe was called Frankfurt. I always think back to it, firstly because it was the first time I’d played against a European team, and we were winning 3-0 in the first half, and in the second half they battered us and it finished 3-3! I just really liked that experience, I was captain for that game, and I swapped captains’ armbands with the Frankfurt captain.
I guess it’s a coincidence I took that armband home, and I’ve got a photo too. That was around 2018, and I’ve still got it. Apart from that experience, I was always interested in coming here. Before I came here, I had the opportunity to join another team, but unfortunately, it didn’t work out at the last minute, some things changed. But those are just things that motivate you more because I wanted to come over here. It motivated me to work harder, improve, and prepare myself better because I knew that if I worked hard the moment would come, and thankfully I’m here.”
Can you talk us through the process of signing for Eintracht?
“When the offer came my agent rang me, I was away having a good time, and he said ‘Frankfurt, there’s an offer, but relax, we’re still talking’ and all that. I felt a lot of happiness, and lots of emotion because I knew I’d been doing a good job, I wanted to get to the top and I knew I just needed to keep doing what I had been doing. That’s what I had in my head, and I was relaxed, and I wanted to keep doing a good job for Antwerp. And I spoke to my family, I told them about the conversations, and they knew it was my dream and what it meant to me. I’m very happy, and seeing how happy they were made me even happier.”
What are your first impressions of Frankfurt?
“The stadium, the fans, it’s incredible how much they support the team. That’s another plus for playing well here, you can make the fans happy. The people at the club, my teammates, incredible, the people they are and the help they’ve given me. These are the things I’ve liked since I’ve been here.”
And how is your German coming along?
“I know some words, I guess, but it’s hard! I’m taking German classes and I know some basic words: “Hallo”, “Guten Tag”, and “Guten Morgen”. There are others, but it’s hard! I’ll keep learning little by little.”
What is it like playing at Deutsche Bank Park?
“Yeah, it’s great. It makes us happy, it gives us confidence too, they’re always supporting us and they’re always there. We know the results haven’t always gone our way so far, but the way the fans support us has really surprised me, to be honest, it really makes you proud and happy to know they’re supporting us, a great stadium with lots of people. It feels good, and they help us as a team to keep fighting for them.”
What is it like to play as a defender in the Bundesliga?
“Yeah, there are teams that play very directly here, so you have to be prepared because if you switch off for a moment there could be a chance. If you switch off, you could concede.”
Are you comfortable playing in a 3-man defence?
“At Independiente, it was more that we played in a three, and I came through that system and played a few games there, so yeah, I feel more comfortable and more free. But I’ve also played in a back four and like it. But it’s true that I do feel more secure playing in a three.”
Is there anything you would like to bring to Frankfurt from Ecuador?
“The food, I think! Ecuadorean food is amazing, I don’t know how many people know it, but I invite you to try it! The food is great, and it’s things like that that you miss because the food here is very different.”