Spanish basketball legend and two-time NBA champion Pau Gasol arrived in his hometown of Barcelona on Wednesday as he prepares to join his boyhood club FC Barcelona and return to European club basketball for the first time in nearly two decades. Gasol took a private flight home after signing a deal last week to play for Barca for the remainder of the current season. He will undergo a medical review this week, the club said in a statement, and be formally presented to the media and public next week.
"I am happy to be home and excited to have this opportunity at this time of my career and my life," Gasol said after his arrival. "I am happy that my wife and daughter are here with me and, as always, we are a united family and I have their support. It is not easy nowadays to cross the ocean and take this trip in the current circumstances. I am excited and eager to start. We will go step by step, not rushing things but without stopping, starting tomorrow."
Gasol grew up in the Barcelona youth system and, after he made his debut with the first team, exploded to become a dominant player almost overnight. In 2001, Gasol led Barca to the Spanish Copa del Rey title and was named MVP of the tournament. He played in six EuroLeague games in 2000-01 and was named to the All-EuroLeague Second Team that season. Gasol played the next 18 seasons in the NBA, lifting two titles there, while also shining for the Spanish national team, with whom he won 11 medals at the World Cup, EuroBasket and Olympics. After a foot injury sidelined him for most of the last two years, Gasol will work his way back into game shape to make a run at a EuroLeague title with Barcelona.
"I will try to recover from the trip as soon as possible and we are starting tomorrow with the medical checks, the tests, to see where we are after more than a year away [from basketball], and with a chance to see how my body is feeling, not just my foot. I am looking forward to having a clear picture of the situation to see what kind of work I need to do, and what will be the training plan, the work loads and practices," Gasol added.
"Of course, since the moment I left in 2001, I have followed the team, the club as close as I could. Since the signing was official, of course, I am following it with a closer attention, paying more attention to details. It has been playing at a good level and it is a good team, no question. They are first in the EuroLeague and second in the Spanish League. We have options to win both titles and, simply put, I am excited to complement what the team already has."