Willy Caballero has revealed he was close to retiring before Southampton rediscovered his love for football.
The 40-year-old goalkeeper began last season without a club and maintained his fitness by training with League One club AFC Wimbledon before Saints came calling in December.
The Argentinian, who has now signed a one-year contract extension to keep him at St Mary’s for another season, says the club reignited his passion when they unexpectedly handed him a Premier League lifeline.
“It’s not because I’m 40, because I’ve been thinking about it for a few years, but it is a discussion with myself and my family also,” he said of the decision to prolong his career.
“It’s a continuing fight between those questions and answers about it, but always winning is my passion for football; always winning is my desire to train and compete.
“Every year that I’ve been spending playing football and training, I feel better. Last season was exceptional, because I didn’t start properly with a pre-season.
“Even when I was training really hard with another team, with Wimbledon, who helped me to get fit, I was considering to finish my career, because I didn’t have the chance to find another team.
“But when I arrived here, training with the guys filled my whole body and mind with energy to continue, and I’m feeling really well and happy that happened.
“My feelings changed immediately. It was so easy to adapt here, so I believe it’s not just for myself, it’s a very good decision for my family and also for the team, so everyone is happy. This is a win win, I believe.”
willy caballeroi am here to compete with everyone, as i have done in the past and as i have done from the first day, because that is my way to train and feel football.
Whilst Caballero, a vastly-experienced stopper whose career has taken him to Premier League titles, Champions League finals and the World Cup, recognises his position as a mentor to summer signings Gavin Bazunu and Mateusz Lis, he has vowed to fight for first-team minutes.
“If I am thinking just that I can help them grow, it would be a comfortable situation. But I am here to compete with everyone, as I have done in the past and as I have done from the first day, because that is my way to train and feel football,” he continued.
“In any case, because of my experience and my age, I support who is in the goal and the decision of the manager, so I know how to manage every situation and I can help not just the goalkeepers, but any of the players that need a bit of support during the week.”
Former Manchester City keeper Caballero revealed he has spoken to former colleagues about the potential of Gavin Bazunu, who left the Premier League champions to become a Saint a fortnight ago.
“I received a few comments from Man City, my former team, and he has a lot of projection and a good future,” added the veteran.
“But I know that every goalkeeper has to show up, has to impress and has to grow season by season. Hopefully he can achieve what others are speaking about him.
“He has a very good physical condition and we can see that he has a lot of things that, as a goalkeeper of this age, it’s difficult to have, and probably will be great for the team.”