Marcelino Núñez smiles at the mention of his impressive goal in Norwich’s 3-1 win over Birmingham. The volley, lifted high into the air and fired from 25 yards, has just been named the Sky Bet Championship Goal of the Month for February.
The midfielder, talking to sky sports In a video call from the Norwich training camp, he describes it as his “best moment” since joining the Chilean Catholic University club in August, but there appears to be little danger that he will get carried away.
“Yes, it was a great goal, but I still have to show and keep showing the player that I really am,” he says. sky sports. “I need to be calm and keep working hard, because my goals are big.”
Núñez does not hesitate when asked to give more details about those objectives.
“Establish myself as the undisputed starter in Norwich,” he says. And that’s just the beginning. “Like all players, I want to make the move to the Premier League,” he continues, “and, beyond that, play in the Champions League and represent my country in a World Cup… and a Copa América.”
It’s quite a list, one that reflects the 23-year-old’s drive and ambition, but for now the focus is more immediate. Norwich are four points away from the Championship play-off places in seventh place. The battle for a return to the top flight continues against Stoke on Saturday.
A Chile international with 14 caps, Núñez hopes to play a central role in it, but as he puts it, his efforts to secure a place continue. Since the Birmingham game, in which he scored twice and set up another, he has only started two of four.
That’s not to say he isn’t valued by David Wagner, the head coach who replaced Dean Smith at the helm in January. In fact, the opposite is true. “We all love him as a character and as a player,” the former Huddersfield boss said last month.
Rather, it’s about giving him time to fully adjust to English football, and the language, and finding the best role for him. So far this season, Núñez, or ‘Nacho’ as he is known, has been used on both sides of midfield, as a number 10 and even as a full-back.
“My favorite position has always been eight or 10, but right now it depends on what the coach needs,” says Núñez.
“If somebody gets hurt and there’s nobody else in a certain position, I’m happy to fill in and I’ll do it the best way I can.”
No doubt about that. Núñez’s work rate is formidable. Wagner has marveled at the physical numbers he puts up in training. At the Universidad Católica de Chile, fans used to joke that he would run home after games, such was his boundless energy.
Gus Poyet, his manager for a year there, sometimes harnessed that energy by using him as a full-back and, even during longer spells out of the starting line-up at Norwich, has thrown himself into his training and preparation with just as zeal.
“You always have to do your best and set a good example for the younger players,” explains Núñez. “I always work hard, even in difficult periods, because I know it’s a process.
“I have a good relationship with the coach. We talk about my good and bad performances, and we are always looking for ways to improve.”
The season has not been without its challenges, but it is clear that Núñez enjoys all aspects of life in Norwich.
His understanding of English is still limited – this interview is conducted in Spanish and the club has hired a translator to help him and his summer partner, Gabriel Sara – but he’s getting better with the lessons and the language barrier hasn’t stopped him.
“Coming from Chile to a league as important as the Championship is something beautiful, it’s tremendous,” he says. “I am very happy with the way they have received me at the club, with my teammates, with the league. Everything”.
Núñez was convinced by Norwich sporting director Stuart Webber, who traveled to Brazil to meet him and his manager after Universidad Católica’s Copa Sudamericana match against Sao Paulo in July.
Núñez was impressed when he was shown the state-of-the-art facilities in the club’s new training centre, a factor which, among other things, helped make Webber’s launch easy.
“They have everything you need to do your job at the best level and I mean allNunez says, her eyes wide.
“The fields, the gym, the meals. All of that helps you adapt very quickly. In addition, the dynamics in training is very intense. Then when you play the matches, you see that the league is also very intense and competitive. .”
Núñez always had in mind moving to Europe having grown up idolizing Chile golden generation – his golden generation.
“Claudio Bravo, Gary Medel, Charles Aránguiz, Arturo Vidal, Alexis Sánchez, Mauricio Isla… They were all in Europe, like me now, and I have always tried to transmit the same energy with which they played. For a young player, they It conveys a lot of positive things.”
Núñez admits, however, that he did not necessarily see his own move across the Atlantic and take him to England.
He may be a tireless worker, but he considers his greatest strengths to be more technical than physical, and that’s evident in the way he plays. Núñez is a creator and specialist in set design. No player has attempted more through balls in the Championship this season.
“With my characteristics, I didn’t always see myself in this league because it’s very physical but, thank God, I’ve been able to adapt very well,” he says.
“I like the Chilean league, because of the style of play and the good technical level, but what is different here, in addition to the resources that the clubs have, is the high intensity.
“It’s more like the Copa Libertadores or the Copa Sudamericana [South America’s equivalent of the Champions League and Europa League]. If you give those teams a chance, they kill you.
“It’s the same here in the Championship. If you make a mistake or drop your level, you’re punished.”
Núñez is doing everything he can to prevent that eventuality, his efforts buttressed by the drive instilled in him as a young player from a poor background in Santiago, the Chilean capital, where those he left behind now support him from afar.
“It’s just about continuing to develop and improve as a player,” he says. “I am very happy here, one step away from the best league in the world, which is the Premier League, I just have to keep working hard, keep pursuing my goals and fulfilling my dreams.”
Follow Stoke vs Norwich live sky sports digital platforms starting at 3:00 pm on Saturday and watch the highlights for free afterwards