Gudjohnsen revels in return to familiar role

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The Independent Online

Realising you are the club's seventh-choice striker is not the best way to start the season, even in a team as attack-orientated as Barcelona.

In the summer, Eidur Gudjohnsen was told the addition of Thierry Henry to a strikeforce already boasting Samuel Eto'o, Lionel Messi and Ronaldinho, the emergence of youngsters Giovanni dos Santos and Bojan Krkic and the versatility of Andres Iniesta, would see him playing very little football.

All seven of those forwards have played more minutes up front than Gudjohnsen but after turning down a move back to the Premier League and convincing Frank Rijkaard to look at him as a midfielder, he has started six of the last seven matches and is on course to play against Real Madrid tomorrow evening unthinkable after a miserable summer.

"There was a lot of speculation about my future," he said. "When you play as a striker here you are just expected to score 25 goals and I don't think I have ever been an out-and-out striker. I have always played off the main striker or in the last two seasons at Chelsea purely as a midfielder. They have realised that now, and they just look at me as one of the midfielders."

Gudjohnsen came to Barcelona as a forward and scored minutes into his debut to confirm his billing, but when the goals dried-up the striker tag weighed heavy. He said: "People started to doubt my qualities a little bit and that is one of the worst things that can happen to a player.

"The fans here are not like in England. They expect to see something every game. They are spoilt because they have watched the best players in the world in their team for a century now. But in the summer I told the manager that there was no chance of me leaving and I wanted him to look at me as a midfielder.

"He said the club had received an offer that they could not refuse the same money they paid for me the year before and with two young strikers coming up and with Henry signing it would be difficult but I said I didn't mind difficult situations and he said he would support me in any way he could."

The chances finally came and Gudjohnsen reminded everyone what both Dick Advocaat and Jose Mourinho had discovered that he can play in midfield.

"When I was at PSV, Advocaat always said 'you will end up being a midfielder but it is good to get you scoring goals at a young age'. In the end I look at myself as a good footballer, not particularly as a centre-forward or a midfielder."

His versatility has also helped him adapt to two very different styles a challenge he recommends more English players taking.

"I speak a lot with Henry and in the first few weeks here he was shaking his head saying to me 'this is just like a different game'.

"Teams here don't have the endurance of the English teams that unbelievable willpower to run to the last second. Here the emphasis is on the technical side pass and move, one or two-touch football.

"English players should try and take the challenge like [David] Beckham and [Michael] Owen did. I am certain that they have the qualities to succeed here. It is just the fact of whether they see themselves as adapting to a different culture. Here it is a bit more like a theatre, people expect to be entertained and then they start participating, apart from in the bigger games. Against Madrid for example the whole week is like the build-up to the FA Cup final."

So to cup final day and Rijkaard is still under some pressure to recall the Champions League winner, Deco, who Gudjohnsen has relegated to the bench but the Icelander has given his manager no reason to drop him. "I told the people here that I would work twice as hard to change any doubts they might have about me as a player. I know I have the quality to play here and in two months I have completely turned the situation around."

And he understands exactly how important tomorrow's match is. "You almost have the feeling that never mind if we come 10th in the league, so long as Madrid are 11th" he said.

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