Buendia wears his heart on his sleeve in bid for perfection
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Emi Buendia is adored by Norwich City supporters and by the head coach alike, but the man himself is still striving to improve.
Most superlatives have been used to describe different moments of his brilliance in yellow and green. Whether it be a sublime piece of skill against Hull City or an exquisite touch against Bristol City.
Underpinning the creative though, is frustration. At every point of his Canaries journey, supporters have pointed out the flailing arms or outbursts of frustration.
His emotion on the pitch can often be interpreted as sulky or arrogant, but it’s more a graphic illustration of his frustration.
Like every creative, Buendia is a perfectionist. The Argentine is, however, more conscious of his flaws than anyone. Speaking about his on-field outbursts and the criticism he has received for his emotional behaviour, he admits it’s something he needs to improve on.
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“You said the correct words. I have a passion, an emotion. I was, in some games, really frustrated for my side and that doesn’t help me or my team-mates. I’m trying to learn every day about that but it’s my character.
“I have to improve in that thing to be a better footballer, a person and a leader like we spoke about before. This year, I’m trying to be calmer on the pitch and trying not to get really frustrated when I did something wrong. I’m being patient with the games because the chance will always be there. If I’m frustrated, the chance won’t be there.
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“If I’m patient and calm, then I can help the team in every situation. I can focus and concentrate in every action. So, this is what I need to learn.”
His on-pitch persona is in direct contrast to his character off the pitch. Buendia is the epitome of a family man, during our near hour-long conversation, his son Thiago disrupts his ‘Papa’s’ answer.
There’s no doubt that being a father has altered Buendia’s approach to life generally, but also football. He admits it has made him more mature and encouraged him to be a leader on the pitch and a role model off it.
“With the years, you grow up and change your mind. I’ve become a man because I’ve had a kid and I’m waiting for the second one. I’m really young for that and people think ‘you’re really young to create that family’ but that is what I want.
“Obviously, it has changed my life and my mind about every situation around my life and my life in football. I’m happy with this and I’m trying to learn about every situation.
“I’m young, but I’ve played professional football for five, six or seven years. My debut in Spain came really early. This is my third year in Norwich and I have experience to help my team-mates but also, I try to be a leader on the pitch through my behaviour.
“It doesn’t matter if I have three years, one or 10, I always try to be a leader with my football.”
The task on the pitch has shifted for Buendia. Despite his statistics being lauded in the Premier League, the message from Daniel Farke was clear: he wanted Buendia to contribute more in terms of goals.
“It was a tough year for me (in terms of) goals,” Buendia admits. “It was the first year that I don’t score goals. The year before I scored eight goals and had more chances to score. Last season I was struggling. I had many opportunities to shoot but with my eyes I saw Teemu’s movements and I try to find him because that’s my football. I always look to get the assist than the goal.
“It’s one of the things I need to learn and improve in my game. My whole years in football, I have got more assists than goals and I really like to find the last pass or the assist to my team-mates.”
Those magical moments have created a bond between City fans and the Argentine. His chant is one of most frequent to spill out of the terraces in conventional times.
Some players struggle to feel that love as frustration and disappointment dominate discourse.
When asked if he feels the love from Norwich fans, Buendia replied simply, “Yes.
“I say it in every interview that I get to talk about the City fans but when I arrived, if I’m honest, I didn’t think they could be like this, but wow. They impress me a lot. It’s incredible. They are always there in the stadium, the atmosphere when the game is done whether we win, lose or draw, they always respect the players.
“In my situation, I love what they give me. I try to repay the love that they give me, to win and get promoted for them and hopefully they enjoy my football on the pitch.
“It’s difficult to play in an empty stadium, more for us I think because the fans are really important.
“They are a massive part of our games. Two years ago, they really pushed in the last minutes to help us. Hopefully soon the situation changes and they will be in the stadium with us and help us to achieve our goals.”