Jordi Amat: I feel like one of the family at Swansea City
JORDI Amat did not need to carry out extensive research when Swansea City and the Premier League came calling last summer.
The young defender was following a path from Spain to the Liberty Stadium that has been well worn in recent seasons.
Roberto Martinez first established Swansea City's Iberian connection when he brought Andrea Orlandi, Guillem Bauza and Angel Rangel to the Liberty more than six years ago.
Those 'three amigos' probably had little idea about the club and culture they were about to become part of as back then Swansea were a League One side whose reputation barely extended beyond Britain.
But things have changed.
Amat joined an eight-strong Spanish contingent when he moved from Espanyol, while manager Michael Laudrup is also a La Liga legend.
Swansea's profile has soared in recent seasons, fuelled by the Premier League's world-wide appeal and last season's Capital One Cup triumph at Wembley.
"In Spain, Swansea are very famous because they have a lot of Spanish players and that's good," said Amat.
"And the players here all want to do well so the good feeling about Swansea continues in Spain.
"Lots of people talk about Swansea and they were very happy for me because I was going to a good team.
"I came to a team that is famous for their Spanish players so now I'm one more, I'm part of the family.
"A lot of the media talk about the Premier League and obviously this team has eight Spanish players.
"It's normal for people to talk about Swansea because they know about Michu and other players."
Even in a country with a Swansea soft spot, Amat was more familiar with Laudrup's side than most.
He arrived in SA1 after a season on loan with top flight Rayo Vallecano, the side from which Swansea had signed Michu a year earlier.
"At Rayo Vallecano all his friends would say 'Michu's scored again.' They are a small club in Spain and Michu was probably their best player," said Amat.
"The next year I went to Rayo Vallecano and I moved to Swansea. It's incredible.
"People in Spain are not surprised because they know Michu is a good player who scored lots of goals in the first and second divisions.
"In Spain Michu was a good player — here he is a star.
"It's possible he might get a Spain call-up, some players in the under-21 side have asked me about this. He has the level, and the level of the national team in Spain is very, very high.
"I don't know when, but it's possible."
Michu underlined his growing reputation by returning to Spain in style with a goal against Valencia at the Mestalla.
Swansea's overall performance also oozed class as they dismantled their big-name opponents to win 3-0.
Wilfried Bony got the first goal, Michu grabbed the second before another player with La Liga experience, Jonathan de Guzman, sealed victory with a stunning free-kick.
It was a result that only added to Swansea's standing in the country.
"People were surprised but we showed what this team can do on the pitch," said Amat.
"A lot of friends said we played very, very well. Valencia are at the top level in Spain, but we scored three goals against them, good goals.
"I wanted to play in the Premier League because it's the best league in the world. So many players, and a lot of friends, told me that when you play in the Premier League you play big teams.
"In Spain people say it's amazing to come and play here.
"It's incredible because all the stadiums are full and the people are very, very friendly.
"I'm very happy to be here."
Amat's transition was made easier by the fact his family opted to move with him to Swansea.
And because one of the first to make the trip has now become an unofficial go-to guy for new Spanish arrivals.
Rangel has been known to act as an impromptu interpreter for media interviews and also helps players settle away from football.
"He has been here for six years and he speaks Catalan like me," said Amat.
"It's easy to do things because if I need to buy a television he says ' go here.' Angel has a lot of contacts and a lot of numbers.
"It's good, it's been a very positive move for me.
"The first day for me was perfect because the relationship with all the players is very good and with the manager.
"The fans are all very friendly and that is different because in Spain if you go to buy something the supporters shout. Here they are very friendly and polite.
"But at the games they are very noisy. Supporters in Spain just watch the game.
"Here they stand up and shout all game."
Rangel is rated doubtful when Swansea resume their Europa League campaign against St Gallen this evening. He is struggling to overcome an ankle problem.
Captain Ashley Williams also looks set to miss out with an ankle injury, while Garry Monk has a knee complaint.
That means Amat should again be handed a start in central defence, alongside Chico Flores.
Another Spaniard, Pablo Hernandez, may feature for the first time since making a goal-scoring contribution in the 2-0 win at West Brom on September 1.
He is nearing full fitness after suffering a thigh injury.
"It's a very difficult game because they also won their first group game (against Kuban Krasnodar) and it's important for us to win our first game at home," added Amat.
"It's a different game. Valencia was a very good win, but every game is different and I think we have to follow that win with another win.
"It's difficult to know a lot about them because it's a different league.
"But with the manager and with videos we will know a lot.
"The important thing is my team, Swansea, and what we can do."