By Paddy von Behr
INTO his mid-30s and without a club since Christmas Eve, former Rangers striker Nacho Novo could be forgiven for seeking a comfortable path to retirement.
But not even an enticing contract from Steve Kean in Singpaore could tempt the Spaniard away from a crack at the Football League with Carlisle.
Since leaving Rangers in 2010 two seasons in Spain with Sporting Gijon and one at Huesca – with a spell at Legia Warsaw in between – had the Novo family longing for British shores once more.
But an unsuccessful spell at Greenock Morton – with just one goal in ten appearances – saw the 34-year- old’s contract with the Scottish Championship side terminated on December 24.
There was no shortage of interest, though. Newly-formed Indianapolis-based club Indy Eleven tabled an offer and ex-Blackburn boss Steve Kean called about Brunei DPMM –but Novo plumped for Carlisle United.
“Steve offered a very good contract but you need to think more about the family,” said Novo.
“He said he would like to take me over there – to book a flight and see the area and that it was quite a nice place.
“One time I was thinking I would maybe go for a look and see how it is. It was a close thing, but obviously the family is most important and I don’t think they were happy to move over there.”
Novo had almost found his way to England eight years earlier, but a move to Coventry collapsed on transfer deadline day in August 2006.
Frenchman Paul Le Guen had arrived to manage Rangers and Novo was suddenly out of favour, with the Sky Blues happy to capitalise.
“Sometimes when you change managers, the new manager wants to change some players,” Novo said.
“I was close to going but I decided to stay and fight for my place.”
Novo, who netted 71 times in a six-year spell with Rangers, has had to wait until the twilight of a fruitful career to find his way south of the border.
And the Spanish goal-getter is hoping to see the stresses and strains of the last few years melt away – and get back to simply enjoying his football once more.
“I love England,” said Novo. “I think the football is great and quite competitive and it is one of the best leagues.
“It is not the same atmosphere (abroad) that you get in the UK – the fans make it a big thing. You can see all the Spanish players come here to the Premier League.
“As soon as you play here and go back to any other country, the fans and the support are not the same.
“Now I have the opportunity in Carlisle and I just want to enjoy it and prove that I still have lots of things to offer. Obviously I am 34 but I still feel like I’m 17 – I just love the game.
“I wanted to go to a good club – a club with history – and just worry about doing well and enjoying the football.”
And he admitted his new location has an added benefit – Novo is not far from his friend, Manchester City striker Alvaro Negredo.
“I am quite good friends with Negredo,” he added. “Obviously he is doing well.
“He is a good player and a nice boy and he is absolutely enjoying it at a big club.
“It is not too far away so probably I will have days when we don’t play and I will go down to see him.”