sport news Spanish legend Joaquin set to play his 825th LaLiga match on Saturday

'I haven't just been telling jokes for the last 20 years!' says Betis winger Joaquin Sanchez from the other side of the Zoom screen.

It's his response to the suggestion that never losing his sense of fun, and the infectious smile that no one, apart from maybe Ronald Koeman, has ever managed to wipe off his face, has prevented people from seeing the great player behind the grin.

Still crazy after all these years? Yes maybe, but a brilliant footballer too.

Veteran Joaquin is set to play in his 825th LaLiga match this weekend against

JOAQUIN CAREER STATS BY CLUB

Real Betis

Appearances: 387

Goals: 57

Assists: 31

Valencia

Appearances: 216

Goals: 30

Assists: 31

Fiorentina

Appearances: 71

Goals: 7

Assists: 13

Malaga 

Appearances: 71

Goals: 10

Assists: 13

HONOURS 

Copa del Rey x2

LaLiga Breakthrough Player of the Year, 2002

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The winger who stood-up Jose Mourinho in a Seville hotel when the Chelsea manager was trying to sign him in 2005, is still wearing his training kit because of LaLiga's pandemic protocol that means all players must change at home.

It's the build-up to Saturday's visit to where at the grand old age of 39, he'll play his LaLiga match number 825, no outfield players has played more in Spain.

He smiles back at almost every question, but especially broadly, when Sportsmail asks: Did he actually talk to Mourinho about the Chelsea move?

'Well in the meeting I didn't because I never turned up!' he laughs.

'They were all at the Alfonso XIII hotel and I was coming back from a publicity thing in Madrid and I didn't want to go to the meeting. I knew if I went, I would end up going to England. So I didn't go.

'I spoke to Mourinho later and apologised. And afterwards he thanked me. He said: "I appreciate you being honest because, well, you are the first footballer that has said no to me".'

At the time he was a 23-year-old sensation for Betis and Spain. The former were a Champions League outfit and the latter building towards their greatest period.

'Lopera said to me that I had to leave, because they had reached an agreement,' says Joaquin, remembering Betis' then-president Manuel Ruiz de Lopera's negotiations with Roman Abramovich for a sale of around €37million (£33.6m - a Betis record at the time).

'It had all happened very quickly for me. I was 20-years-old when I played in the World Cup in 2002. I remember having a lot of stress because it was not easy to take it all on board.

'When the moment of truth came, I didn't want to take that step of going to another team. I just didn't see myself leaving home.

Joaquin impressed in the 2002 World Cup and caught the attention of Europe's biggest clubs

Joaquin impressed in the 2002 World Cup and caught the attention of Europe's biggest clubs

He once stood-up Jose Mourinho to avoid a transfer to Chelsea in the summer of 2005

He once stood-up Jose Mourinho to avoid a transfer to Chelsea in the summer of 2005

'The president would say: "Here comes the Russian again with an offer behind his back". But I was happy where I was.

'People always say to me: "Joaquin, don't you regret it?"

'Well the answer is no, I don't. I know I lost an important opportunity to play for a great team and earn a lot of money but it just wasn't what I was thinking about at that time.' 

Do young players these days forget too easily, that despite all the pressure, they can still decide to stay put if they want to?

'Yes, and also they are so young when they have to take those decisions,' Joaquin says. 'In the end this is such big business that the word of the player doesn't always count for much. And sometimes he goes even though he knows that he is not going to be an important player [at the new club].

'It's true that when you get an offer from a powerful club it's difficult to turn them down but sometimes we forget the most important thing, which is to play.' 

He continued to impress but a move to Real failed in 2006 because Betis wanted too much

He continued to impress but a move to Real failed in 2006 because Betis wanted too much

He signed for Valencia and played for Quique Sanchez Flores, Ronald Koeman and Unai Emery

He signed for Valencia and played for Quique Sanchez Flores, Ronald Koeman and Unai Emery

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In the summer of 2006 it did feel like time to move away from Betis. came calling but president Lopera asked for too much and in the end it was Valencia who bought him for €25m (£22m). There he played for Quique Sanchez Flores, Koeman and Unai Emery.

'The first period was not easy at the start,' he says. 'Quique was a coach who demanded a lot physically. I ended up playing and it was very good. Quique was a very important coach for me.'

Before he goes on to the next manager there is a pause and a scratch of the chin. 'Pfff! I'm not even going to name [the coach],' he says.

'Genuinely, he didn't do anything for me. You know very well how all that ended up. But these are things that you have to go through. I learnt from that but it wasn't good.'

Current Barcelona coach Koeman fell out with most of Valencia's players in his six-month spell at the club and he left Joaquin on the bench as an

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