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01/04/2015 11:07
Superstar Wilfredo Leon happy with move to Kazan, confirms desire to play for Polish national team
2015 CEV DenizBank Volleyball Champions League - Men

Kazan, Russia, April 1, 2015. Wilfredo Leon, 21, was not only the MVP and Best Outside Spiker as he cruised to gold at the Final Four tournament of the 2015 CEV DenizBank Volleyball Champions League – Men last weekend in Berlin. He was also the absolute, undisputed major star of the competition held at the Max-Schmeling-Halle where he steered Zenit KAZAN on their way to a third title in Europe’s elite competition.

Last May it was announced that the Cuban wunderkind would join the ranks of the team from Tatarstan but his campaign did not start in the best way as he suffered an injury in the season’s opener with Belogorie BELGOROD, being able to leave the court only with the help of Zenit’s medical staff. It was another blow for Leon who had just returned to competitive sport after missing two seasons after leaving Cuba. However, Wilfredo came back stronger than ever and left his mark on the Final Four tournament, rushing towards his parents at the end of the awards ceremony since mom and dad had been supporting their pupil from the stands throughout the entire weekend.

“I am insanely happy, of course,” Leon says. “I almost did not play any matches for two years and could only train in the meantime. It was hard to get back to the elite level. Immediately after the end of the season, as my teammates went for holidays, I started working hard for the start of this campaign. The results are there now since together with Zenit we have won the Russian Cup and also the Champions League. The MVP award was a nice way to pay back the hard work I have done. We can be very happy with our results and victories. The decision to move to Kazan was the right one as these are victories I could only dream about. However, the season is not over yet, we still have to play Dinamo MOSCOW in the semis of the Russian league and we want to win this competition as well.”

Last year Leon spent most of his time training and working with Asseco Resovia RZESZOW, the team standing on the other side of the net on Sunday. This is quite an interesting coincidence.

“Yes, it is true that I trained with Resovia and I still have a good relationship with the players on that team but now my team is Zenit KAZAN and when you play such matches, there is no room for friendship.”

This was Leon’s first appearance in a Final Four tournament of the CEV Volleyball Champions League. How did Wilfredo cope with the pressure and especially with the ‘must-win’ situation that Zenit KAZAN was confronted with in the semifinal with hosts BERLIN Recycling Volleys?
“It’s normal that things are a little bit more difficult when you play the first match in such tournaments. We did not play our best in the second set of our match with the Germans but after that we got back on track. The most important thing is that we had to win and we did it.”

The final match was quite one-sided even though Resovia posed a threat to Zenit in the second and especially in the third set.
“All players understood the importance of this match but at the same time we were able to play more freely and more relaxed than in the semis. We wanted to prove and confirm that Zenit is the strongest team in Europe.”

Not every player can count on the constant support of his loved ones like Wilfredo does and his parents were in attendance also in Berlin for the Final Four weekend.

“Of course I was very pleased with their visit. The presence of my parents turns me on and provides an extra boost of energy, it makes me feel like I just want to step onto the court and demolish the opponent. And if they are not in attendance, I think I can play good, but not my best.”

Last spring many teams – including Resovia and Lokomotiv NOVOSIBIRSK – had put their eyes on the Cuban star but he eventually decided to move to Kazan.

“Also Dinamo MOSCOW offered me a contract but in the end I opted for Zenit since I am convinced that this is the best Volleyball club in the world, where everything is organised in the best way and at the highest level. The desire to become a member of their group was really strong and I am happy that I made the right decision.”

The Bulgarian libero of Zenit KAZAN, Teodor Salparov, has said that Leon is like a combination of Leonel Messi and Ronaldo in one person…
“Teodor is a great friend and he has been helping me a lot, turning into some kind of father figure. After all this is my first year in Russia and I needed to learn a lot about the local habits and everyday life in this country. I am very grateful for his continuous advice and support.”

There are rumours that Leon would like to get Polish citizenship and play for their national team. Is that true?

“Yes, it is. I want to play for Poland, but it is difficult to say when this will happen. Rio 2016? Unfortunately I think this comes too early but maybe after the Olympics I will be able to play for the Polish national team. However, much will depend on their Volleyball Federation and whether they want to see me in their national team. Right now I am waiting for their response.”

Source: Vadim Kuznetsov, R-Sport

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