Diego Portilla: Inside the life of Galway United’s new defensive stalwart

Photo courtesy of Diego Portilla

A lifelong Real Madrid fan, Galway United’s latest signing Diego Portilla will hope to have as much of an impact at his new club as his heroes Fernando Hierro, Sergio Ramos, John Terry, and Rio Ferdinand did at theirs. 

Right from childhood, the Spanish centre back had always known that his career path was playing “the beautiful game”, as he was surrounded by family members who kicked the round leather ball.  

“I played football from a young age. All my life was football, my father was a player in Spain, my brother played in the Spanish La Liga, USA, Greece and other countries. I was surrounded by football,” said Portilla, in reference to his deep Football roots. 

The 27-year-old defender started his career at Racing Club academy in Santander, the town in which he grew up in Spain, before moving to PAEEK in Cyprus for the 2015/2016 season. A move back home ensued thereafter, moving to Tenerife before spells at Lorca, Mensajero, Laredo and C.D Atletico Paso, joining “the Tribesmen” from the Tercera division side in January 2022. 

Having played in multiple countries, the Spanish defender brings a wealth of experience and seems suited to cope with the changes in weather conditions.  

“In Spain, the weather is hotter, it’s not as rainy as Ireland,” said Portilla, going further to compare similarities between both weathers. “I am from the north of Spain. In my city, it’s always rainy so it’s not too different from Ireland.”  

Despite his experience playing outside of Spain, Diego Portilla will be hoping to acclimatise with the playing style and culture of Ireland. Having joined Galway United this January, the Spaniard has featured in two pre-season games till date, and his fully aware of the different playing styles from Spain and Ireland. 

“The difference between both is that the football is more technical in Spain and more physical in Ireland, but we have good technical players in Ireland,” he says. “I love this football.” 

Speaking of how he joined the club, the Spaniard shared his excitement at how the move came about, with the club’s interest and passionate fans playing a part in choosing Galway United. 

“I was playing in Spain on the Canary Islands when my agent called me and told me that the club spoke with him and told me the club and the coach was interested in me after watching me play.

“I like the club because it has good history in Ireland. The fans played a part in me joining the club. I saw videos of the games at Eamonn Deacy Park supporting the club. The club and fans are like family.”

Away from football, Diego Portilla loves to drink coffee, hang out in the city, read books, and watch movies on Netflix, listing Money Heist, Peaky Blinders, Game of Thrones and En Buscar La Felicidad (the Spanish name for The Pursuit of Happiness movie by Will Smith) as his favourites. 

With the club coming close but failing to clinch a promotion berth to the Premier Division of the League of Ireland at the final hurdle last season, Diego Portilla will be hoping to use his defensive skills to shut out opponents and get Galway United playing top flight football, which has eluded the side since 2017.  

First up is a trip to Cork to face Cork City on 25 February, where the pursuit of happiness begins for Diego Portilla and Galway United.

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