The Wednesday feature

This is the first of a regular series of articles in which each week we will take a more in-depth look into the achievements of our clients past and present as well as various aspects of the ICM Stellar Sports organisation. This week we speak to goalkeeper Gerónimo Rulli – hero of 2021’s Europa League Final

When it comes to becoming a professional goalkeeper there are many qualities you need to possess, but for Gerónimo Rulli there is one that stands above all others: a strong mentality.

Geró needed every ounce of concentration and focus during 2021’s Europa League Final against Manchester United. Not only did the Villarreal keeper have to ensure his side weren’t beaten in open play over a gruelling 120 minutes, he then had to face 10 penalties in the shootout, step up and score one himself, and finally win the trophy by saving fellow goalie David de Gea’s sudden-death spotkick.

“When I took the ball and walked up to the spot I didn’t think anything other than to score,” says Geró.  “I had not scored a penalty before but I knew if I struck it very strongly then there was a good chance.

“I then had to face the next penalty and not to panic and so I got down to save it. It was an incredible feeling – I felt I was up in the clouds! I was so proud and happy for myself and my team.”

Gerónimo Rulli saves the eleventh penalty in the Europa League Final shootout

Geró, 29, was born in La Plata, Argentina, and while his friends used to dream about becoming the next Diego Maradona, there was only ever one position he wanted to play.

“Being a goalkeeper means everything to me. I have been a keeper since I was four-years-old – I have spent all my life in the goal!” he says.

“For a team it is a very important position, and you have to have a different mentality to play there. I would say it is crazy to want to be a keeper, all goalkeepers have to be a little bit crazy!” he adds with a laugh.

“Yet it is also true that the most important quality needed to be a keeper is to have a strong mentality because we need to live in the moment and live with the times we make a mistake. If a goalkeeper makes a mistake it is 90% certain to lead to a goal so you have to have a strong mentality.

“That is why it is good to have an agent. I can concentrate on my football and not worry about anything else!”

Geró can look back at a hugely varied career. From joining his hometown club Estudiantes as a boy, he went on to become first-team goalkeeper there before two successful spells at Real Sociedad, a run of games on loan at Montpellier, a stint as back-up at Manchester City and two caps for the Argentinian national team.           

In September 2020, ICM Stellar Sports negotiated Geró’s move to Villarreal which led him to the crowning achievement of his career so far.

“To play in the final of the Europa League was the best moment of my career and one of the biggest moments of my life. When I was a kid in Argentina I never dreamed that I would be winning this trophy,” he says.

“I am very proud of the achievement for myself but also for my club and for the fans. It was the first major trophy in Villarreal’s history and it comes now with the chance to play in the Champions League and also the Super Cup Final against Chelsea.”

With those games ahead of him, Geró is soaking up the adulation now and the special feeling that comes with being a champion.

“Villarreal Football Club is like a family, so there is so much happiness,” he says. “Every single person who works there has spent a lot of time in the club so they love it like a family. All the fans and every single person in the city is very happy and proud and that is great to be a part of.”

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