Koke explains Houston departure: "My head's not here"
Spanish forward Koke wants Houston Dynamo fans to know that his request to depart the MLS club has nothing to do with the team, the coach, the city or his playing situation.
He just misses his family.
“It’s early to say why I’m not playing, because I’ve been here for just a short time,” he told FutbolMLS.com by phone from Houston on Monday evening. “But more than anything I’m doing this for my family life, which is not the easiest right now being here in the United States and my family being in Europe. I can’t see them every day.”
News broke on Monday of the player’s desire to leave the club and management is currently working with the former Aris and Marseille attacker to reach an arrangement which would allow Koke to return to Europe.
When the news surfaced, speculation immediately turned to the forward’s inability to break into the Dynamo starting lineup. He has played a total of seven games, starting two and registering a single goal against the New York Red Bulls back on May 21.
“I’ve just arrived here a little while ago and the little that I have played is justified by the fact that I have to adapt,” he said. “A month has passed and logically you need time to adapt to get to know the league and my teammates. But the sporting side has nothing to do with my daily life which I think is more complicated than the sporting.”
The emotional side of Koke, who shed more than a tear at the press conference in April in which he announced his departure from Greek club Aris, is evident when he speaks in detail about his family.
“On a personal level, I have not been able to settle here,” he said of joining MLS. “I’m not adapting because of my family. My family is very close to me, I have a daughter and I’m separated from my wife. Playing in Europe, I have everything much closer because I can enjoy my daughter and, here in the United States, I can’t see her when I want. It’s complicated for her to come here because she’s two years old.”
Koke says his Dynamo contract runs through July 31, at which point the MLS club would have the option to extend the deal or pass. Dynamo management crafted an agreement that would allow the coaching staff to learn more about Koke before committing to the player long-term.
“One of the challenges is getting to know the player,” Houston president Chris Canetti told MLSsoccer.com at the time of the Koke signing. “It was a whole team effort by the coaches to watch as many Aris games as possible and get a lot of references. [Koke] was on the top of our list and the coaches felt he’s the type of player that would fit the team and be a real factor in MLS.”
However, he’s not even out the door yet at Robertson Stadium and he’s already extending feelers to his old club Aris, who granted him a release from his contract in April in order to allow Koke to try his hand at the American dream. He captained the team in 2010.
“The possibility of returning to Aris always exists because the fans and I, we have a common feeling which is love for that team,” Koke said. “That team gave me everything. I am a person that knows how to say tanks and I have feelings. And in this club you feel so loved and in this case I am fortunate to feel like I’m their idol.
“It’s a real dream for me to have the chance to return to Aris but I don’t promise anything because it could not happen. But in my head I do think aout this possibility when they love you and you are welcome. This is very important in life. So there is a big chance to return but nothing is certain.”
The 28-year-old went out of his way to make clear that the club and his Dynamo teammates have been “stupendous” in how they have welcomed him. But he wants to end the relationship on a positive note without burning bridges.
“It hasn’t worked,” Koke said. “It hasn’t been what we were hoping on either side," he said. "The truth is that it’s not worth it for me to be here right now when my head is not here.
“It’s several things — the sporting side, the daily social life. Things haven’t gotten off the ground from the moment I arrived here and you have to look at the personal side. Right now, I need to be close to my people.”