The Maradona of Water Polo

From the book Pep Confidential.

Estiarte was an exceptional athlete. Known as the Maradona of water polo, he was a prolific goal-scorer who possessed a killer instinct. He won every honour and trophy available, earned 578 caps, scored 1,561 goals for Spain and played in six Olympic Games. For seven consecutive years, from 1986 to 1992, he was voted No.1 in the world in his field.

The ease with which he seemed to single-handedly change the course of every game also earned him comparisons with Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all-time, and he was the top goal-scorer in four consecutive Olympic Games, as well as in all the other competitions he competed in. Despite this success, one thing still eluded him. Winning Olympic gold for Spain.

In the end it would take a change in philosophy rather than athletic prowess to secure this final prize. Having met and befriended Guardiola, Estiarte began to reflect upon his own approach to sport. He began to understand that while his individualistic playing style and single-minded determination to score had won him plenty of honours, only effective team-work would help him to secure that elusive gold medal. Estiarte decided he needed to make some changes.

Already a harsh self-critic, he examined every aspect of his own game and saw that his egotistical ideas had to go. Working co-operatively with his team-mates, he began to play a more supportive, enabling role. Almost inevitably, Estiarte lost the top spot in terms of goals scored, but his sacrifice changed the fortunes of the whole team and Spain won Olympic gold and the World Cup consecutively.


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