Like time, Hugo has moved on.
Heartbreak at the end of last season, heartbreak in the European Championships. Many might have talked about a Euro hangover, but the opposite is true. The captain reflects the team, and the team is excited, fit and raring to go for 2016-17.
So ask about a thought on the end of last season, Hugo replies: “It’s behind us.”
Mention this summer’s Euros, when he led France to the final only to lose out to Portugal, and Hugo states: “Honestly, I’m moving forward.”
Instead, it’s about the here and now, and the future - and Hugo wants to lead Spurs to the promised land.
“Last season we created something special thanks to the gaffer, the staff, the medical staff and all the people who work in the Club,” he said.
“We are making a stronger Club and we need to improve, all of us, to make this Club bigger and step by step, we will arrive where we want to be.”
Below: Hugo in flying form at Palace last season
Thoughtful as ever, who better to lead us into the new season?
Let’s look at everything in chronological order Hugo and the one time we’ll refer back what happened at the end of last season. Is that driving us on this time around?
Hugo: “It’s behind us. We don’t think any more about it. We need to learn about the end of last season. We all want to improve this team and to make this Club bigger and it’s down to us, the players, to make a difference on the pitch. It’s true it was a good opportunity to finish second and we were disappointed and upset with the way we lost that place last season, but it’s behind us. We were all pleased to get back to the training centre. We enjoyed last season and played at a great level. We were consistent, we just need to improve the start and end to the season and we will be even more competitive.”
You left for France, and what a summer! How proud were you to lead your country to the final on home soil?
Hugo: “Honestly, I’m looking forward. I don’t think about the Euros any more, it’s done and we can’t change it. We had a great tournament, we did more than people expected, created a lot of emotion throughout the country and we can be proud of that. The most important thing is the day after the final we could all in the mirror and say ‘I did my best’ and that’s the most important feeling that a footballer has to get. It was a great experience to share, to live and it will make us all stronger in the years to come.”
Below: Hugo leads the French squad to visit the President of France after Euro 2016
How important was it for France as a country?
Hugo: “People need to dream and feel emotion and that’s what all French people felt. But when you are a player you are a competitor and you want to win and when you don’t get what you want it’s a bit frustrating. That’s football but you don’t give up, you keep your chin up and look forward.”
Many people pointed to the Euros and suggested it might negatively affect the players we had involved as they returned to Spurs - it looks anything but that…
Hugo: “If you want to be positive, you can be positive. For most of the English players, especially the Tottenham players, it was their first experience at that level and most of our players did well. Okay, the English fans wanted more but for us, for Tottenham, it’s a good thing because before playing in the Champions League, these players all had a tournament against great teams and a great experience at this level. But what is happening at the national team is happening with the national team and what is happening at Tottenham is happening at Tottenham.”
A new season awaits, and we’re back in the Champions League! How excited is everyone?
Hugo: “We need to be ambitious in this competition. We will face the biggest teams in Europe and that’s very exciting. This season is exciting because a lot of things have happened in the summer, a lot of great managers are at big clubs in the Premier League and it’s starting to be more and more difficult every season. And that’s why we play football. We want to play against the best teams, the best managers and the best players and that has to be an extra motivation for us. We’re ambitious and we need to be ready for every competition.”
It all starts at Goodison Park on Saturday. What are your thoughts on Everton? Are we ready?
Hugo: “Our minds are ready, but you never know what to expect in the Premier League and that’s why this league is so exciting. Everton is one of the most famous places in the Premier League because they are used to playing great games against top teams and performing well against top teams. Our us, it’s a big challenge. It’s important to start well.”
Below: Hugo back in training at Hotspur Way
These games are notoriously tight with lots of draws over the years (18 in 48 in the Premier League) and two draws last season - how do we turn those draws into wins this time around?
Hugo: “We were so unlucky because we were better than them. Home and away we played good football, we created a lot but didn’t score. That’s where we need to improve. We can’t put all the pressure on the strikers. It’s true Harry Kane has scored a lot of goals but we need to score more as a team. Both matches against Everton last season were a perfect example. We created a lot but weren’t clinical enough. We need to have more lucidity in the final 20 yards, the last pass, the shot. That’s an area we need to improve.”
You are our captain and one of our longest-serving players, how do you see your role here?
Hugo: “It’s true we have a great atmosphere, we are all involved and we can feel that. We work well and work hard and we are all ambitious. We can all feel the improvement of the team in the last two years, so we all expect a bit more. The responsibility is not just on the manager’s shoulders, it also belongs to us, and me first as captain, to make sure the players are going in the same way and understand what the gaffer expects.”
You’ve played football for a number of years now - your debut back in 2005 - are you still excited for the first game of a new season?
Hugo: “It’s the same, it’s true I’m getting older but I feel I’m at a good age. I have a lot of responsibility inside the changing room, but I’m looking forward to dealing with that. It’s the same as when I was a kid. I always want more and more and that’s my motivation every day, to work harder, to be better and stronger to help the team to get the best results.”