LIVINGSTON defender Jesus Garcia Tena will have a different take on Celtic’s last 16 Champions League tie against Juventus from any other footballer presently plying their trade in Scotland.
The 22-year-old Spaniard, who has been named Irn Bru’s SFL player of the month for January, was on the books of the Turin club as a youngster. Moreover, his younger brother, 17-year-old Pol Garcia Tena, is currently with Juve, and has made the bench for the senior side in recent weeks.
It is no surprise then that Tena, who started out with Espanyol before having a season at the Turin club from 2010, will be sitting among the away fans at Celtic Park for Tuesday’s first leg of the knockout encounter with French team-mate Tony Andreu. “I asked some of the Celtic supporters in the team but we have to go to the Juventus end because my brother has got me the tickets so they said no. I tell the Celtic fans Juve will win and they just say I am a crazy Spaniard.”
His agent’s contacts with John Collins and John Hughes brought Tena to West Lothian in the summer, with AC Cunia his previous posting. He left Juventus to join that club just as his sibling was moving in at Turin from Barcelona’s youth academy, but the pair were able to share digs in Italy’s rainy city with AC Cunia close by.
Tena never made it beyond Juve’s second team, the Primavera. “It is far too difficult for young players to break through in Italy,” he says, with his Spanish nationality preventing a loan deal as clubs are given payments for these by the Italian federation only if they place young Italians.
Tena still considers his season with Juve to have been an important phase of his development, even if being a defender in Scotland’s second tier is an altogether more frenetic experience than the football he played in Spain and Italy.
“Training was really good for learning. In the current Juventus team, all the centre-backs are Italian and play for the national team – Chiellini, Bonucci and Barzagli. So, it was good,” he says.
“If I don’t know what to do in some situations I can ask Chiellini and he will give me the best advice because he is one of the best defenders anywhere.”
His old club, he is sure, will be too strong for Neil Lennon’s side. “I think maybe it will be a draw in Glasgow,” Tena says. “And then in Turin, Juve will win.”