There’s one sense, above all, that struck Granero. “In the colleges, you can hear only the steps of the people, you can’t hear anything else and this is amazing,” he explains. “Otherwise, it’s silence.
"I’ve never felt that in Spain or anywhere I have visited and I’ve been to many places — maybe the only other place like this is Kyoto, Japan.
“Have you been there? They have this old town, untouched, and if you wake up early in the morning, when there is no noise, you find people wearing these wooden shoes when they are walking. You only hear the sound of their boots on the ground. Otherwise, silence.”
It was also early one morning, his first day off since his move from Real
“I could almost feel that people were there because they wanted to do something and I felt that also,” he says. “I felt small but it was inspiring — just walking, seeing the people. People who go there [to study] are not just happy with what they have, they are looking for something else and that’s how I feel about coming to England.”
It’s an intriguing, thoughtful response to a routine question as to what he does on his days off . . . but then it’s also a typical answer from Granero — whose interests range from Buddhism to Bob Dylan to, now, the quads of Brasenose and Balliol colleges. It is no surprise to hear he has almost completed a degree in psychology.
It is also interesting how the 25-year-old knits his responses to the bigger issue as to why he left Madrid, why he quit the Bernabeu for the Bush and QPR — and the role played by Chelsea’s Juan Mata, his best friend in football, in his bold decision. “He encouraged me to come here and had good words to say about Queens Park Rangers,” Granero says.
“He’s brilliant — wherever he goes he’s brilliant. He has the style. When he went from Castilla [Real Madrid reserves] to Valencia he was very young, there were many older players and it looked difficult for him. And he passed over them straight away. He goes to Chelsea — 10 minutes and he scores!
“He’s so talented and clever and he’s one of my favourite footballers and a good friend of mine. We were in the academy at Real Madrid together, with the national team academy, and now we live in the same city and we’ve always wanted to do that.” But the move was a bigger decision.
“I was born in Madrid, grew up in Madrid and I had the chance to spend my whole life in Madrid,” Granero explains. “But I wanted to enjoy football, I have always been very competitive.
"I want to compete against myself — and the way to do that is to set yourself a great challenge. This [QPR] is a perfect challenge for me — this team, this club, this league, this country. It’s a perfect fit from my point of view and with a big challenge like that I was always going to be happy.
“I have wanted to play in England since I was a child. Football was born here and they feel this sport in a way that they don’t feel anywhere else. Not in Spain. In Spain football is great, they have good players but the sport is not the same as here in England.
“I would talk to my family and say ‘one day I will play in England. I don’t know when — maybe when I am 20, maybe 25, maybe 30. Maybe for the best team in England, maybe for a team in the second division. I don’t know but someday I will play there’. And, this summer, I felt it was the right time to come here and test myself. I was plenty sure of that.”
Granero arrived as one of 12 new signings in a bewildering switch-around in the QPR squad that also resulted in 19 players leaving. At £3.8million his transfer fee was also substantially lower than first reported, making his arrival even more of a coup for manager Mark Hughes.
However with just two points from seven matches QPR are at the bottom of the
Premier League and in search of their first win of the season, at home to
“So far the results have not been good for us but they will be very good, very soon because the team is good, the players are good and we are working very hard to fix some things and also because I think this period [of the season] is made for growing up,” Granero states.
“We will improve a lot. The level will be increased and we will start winning. And when we win one game, we will win another and everything will go better for us. I think we are pretty close. I think the next game will be our first win even though we are playing against a very good team in Everton.”
His confidence is born of experience. Although he joined Real Madrid aged eight, he moved to Getafe — the other Madrid team — for two seasons, initially on loan, before being bought back. It started very badly — in fact Getafe had an identical record to QPR after seven matches with just two points — and ended in a rapid climb up the league table, a Uefa Cup quarter-final and the final of the Kings Cup.
“It was the best season for Getafe that they could remember,’ Granero says. “And it’s similar here. I think this team is better, has better players but there are many new players, quality players.” Getafe won their eighth league game.
Understandably he draws on that experience — and also the experience of returning to Madrid and fighting for a place. In three seasons, Granero made a healthy 67 appearances despite the usual flurry of big-money, big-name signings. “When I was there I came from Getafe, I was nobody,” he says.
“They [Madrid] were full of great players and every year they sign the best player they can find for your position because they have money to do that. That was good for me because in those three years I played quite a lot — 60, 70 games - which meant that if I had despaired about people being signed in my position I would have left after the first year.
“But I stayed for three years and I didn’t leave because of anyone being signed. I can fight for my place against anyone.”
There is an obvious adjustment to football in England. “It’s harder to play, it’s more physical, more intense,” Granero says of his experience of the Premier League so far.
“It’s also more pure. The referee is not stopping the game all the time I think I’m a technical player and that’s a part of me that’s needed here. It’s important. But I also know if I’m only a technical player then I am not needed here. I can do much more for the team — defending, fighting.
"I want to be involved in everything. Here you have to be a complete player, it’s not just about technique. Technique is good and important for your team but just technique? That would be worth nothing.
“We have had difficulties but I think I’m the kind of player that when things are difficult, when there is a bad moment, who wants to take responsibility, who wants to get the ball and try and change things and push the team more.
“I don’t like those who hide. Those who are there when things are going well, and then not there when times are hard. Sometimes I play this sport well, sometimes I’m really bad. I’m not the perfect player but I always want to make the best of everything.”
He feels the same about QPR. “There are teams in England who are survivors in the Premier League and they are happy with that,” Granero says. “You can see with this team that that is not enough. They are looking for more.” Step by step, just like him.