At the end of the 90s, Julio Gutiérrez broke into Unión Española with force and, beginning in the 2000s, he was signed by Udinese as the great Chilean promise. He had just turned 20 and left to forge a future in Europe. He did not achieve the continuity that he expected in his initial destination, but the forward played for several years in the Calcio B Series, he returned to Chile for a couple of seasons and also passed through Colombia, Venezuela and Mexico.
Today, Gutiérrez is the assistant coach of the spring team (U20) of Udinese, lives in Italy with his family and spoke with AS to review his nearly 17 years as an active player. He recalled his beginnings in the Hispanic team, his time in the minor teams, also the sporadic calls to the Red and he expanded on his international length.
“It was a good trajectory, which I did not imagine. In the beginning, you always dream, but you are not sure that you can achieve what you want. The first illusion is to debut in professionalism, I was lucky enough to do it at 17 years old. Later I had the opportunity to consolidate myself in the Union, also go to the National Team, to the youth teams, and thus take steps and steps. They are things that you dream about when you are a child and then the possibility of going abroad and playing in other countries arises,” says Gutiérrez from Udine, in northeastern Italy.
“For me it was a successful race, a great race. Surely, many boys would have liked to have it, within all that I am very happy. Afterwards it is normal for one to wonder if I would have done this at that time, if I would have stayed on that team or if I would have left before, I don’t know. But decisions have to be made, then time will tell if they were good or bad. I am very happy with what I did, I could have done much more, I think everyone can do much more. I am grateful for what I did and for what I could have given in football”, adds the former attacker, who in Chile also performed at the Catholic University.
– What did you lack to have had more continuity in Serie A in Italy?
– I left very young and with little experience of matches in the First Division. In Unión, we won the championship in Primera B and after six months I am going to Italy. I lacked having played two or three years, having played for a big team. I don’t know… playing for Colo Colo, la U or Católica and having participated in a Copa Libertadores or Sudamericana, that gives you experience, a different touch.
– Should you have delayed your departure a little longer?
– I think I went to Europe too virgin, if you can say that, very green, very weak. I felt good, I was playing, I scored goals, from my point of view I said “I’m fine”. But you get there and you realize that football is another. You have to adapt, you have to play your chance.
– But for that it was important to have a background…
– What happens is that all those who left young at the beginning it was difficult for them to later get into the line a bit. Having had more experience, that process of becoming a professional and going to Italy for such a difficult championship was very fast for me. I debuted at 17 and then at 19 and a half they sold me to go to Italy. I played two and a half years in Chilean soccer and at the beginning you don’t play much, you alternate. At the age of 18 I began to play more continuously, when Unión Española descended to Primera B.
– Was he anxious?
– Maybe I could have waited a while longer, have done one or two more years in a big team. That would have given me a different touch and surely I would have arrived more prepared. However, when the opportunity comes, you think you have to take advantage of it. If you say no because you need to gain experience, maybe the chance will never happen again. Making decisions at 18 and 19 years old is not easy. All in all, you are a young boy just starting out.
– A difficult crossroads at that time…
Of course, later, when I arrive in Italy, in that first year I play little. He came in a few times and mostly went to the bank. Even then I asked for the possibility of going on loan to Serie B and there I was able to play a little more. Then, between loans and returning to Udinese, my career passed for a bit.
– Was the blow very strong when encountering a different football reality?
– The subject of the training was nothing different from what I already did, always two hours of training, the tactical part… The difference was great in the intensity, the strength, it was light years away from what I had experienced. I would go into a clash with a defender, collide and destroy myself. And when I was in Chile, more or less, I put up with it. More than anything I was always skillful and fast, those were my strengths. But if he had to go to the dispute with any, the majority lost. That was the great difficulty I had at the beginning.
– He returned to Chile and spent two years, at Unión and also at UC. What evaluation do you make of that pass here?
– Good, pretty, I was excited, because I was returning to the country, after having been abroad for six years. I returned to the club that had given me the opportunity to make my professional debut, where I had also spent almost my entire life, I arrived at Unión Española at the age of 10 and did all the categories in the club. It was back home and I was able to have a very good year. It went very well for me and that’s where the interest of Católica arose, my return to Unión was quite positive.
– Do you feel that you could have had more chances in the National Team?
– I believe that when someone goes to the National Team it is because they have continuity and if you don’t have it, you have no chance of being called up. It came from the processes in minor teams, you go to Europe and you think that, of course, now comes the other stage in the adult. You want to be, you arrive in Europe, but you stop. I gave my best to be able to be there, but sometimes it was not considered. He was 20 years old and was in the Udinese squad with players who were 30 and already established in Serie A.
– A very complex scenario.
– You just had to play it and not having so much continuity it is logical that the theme of the National Team begins to fade. I think the period of loans in Series B was good and I had some calls at the level of friendly matches and calls in the Qualifiers for the 2002 World Cup, against Ecuador and Colombia. But if you don’t have continuity, it’s normal for the National Team to take a bit of a backseat.
– How was your time in Colombia?
– They were very good, I had a lot of fun. Well, I always had fun playing, if I chose to play soccer it was also because of that. I went to Colombia with a big team from the capital, San Fe, the fans were very important, a lot of people went to the stadium and to feel that again was important. We were able to win the Colombia Cup and with that we played the South American Cup as well. In addition, there was the possibility of fighting for the first places with the other big Colombian teams and all these sensations were very good for me.
– And in Venezuela, how did it go?
– I was in Táchira, another big team, but in this case from Venezuela. The possibility of going there arose, because they were going to play the Copa Libertadores. That option attracted me a lot, for me it was a great challenge, that’s why I chose to go there. We won the local championship, also the Venezuela Cup. When you play, you also do it to compete and win, and I had the chance to do it in Venezuela and Colombia as well. Later I was in Mineros de Guayana and we also won the Venezuela Cup.
– Are you permanently based in Italy?
– Look, doors are never closed at all. My professional life in football was always about making decisions and leaving. I left Chile young, I came back and then I left again. Now I live here again and maybe tomorrow there will be a chance to work as a coach in Chile, why not take it. I’m not closed to anything, I’m used to moving. Now, I do live here in Italy, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to live here forever.