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'It all sort of fell into my lap. I am a sort of lightning conductor for the story . . .'

THE rule is that journalists should not interview journalists.

Graham Hunter was there for the rise of Barcelona as  a dominant force
Graham Hunter was there for the rise of Barcelona as a dominant force

But what if the journalist becomes the story? What if the journalist is the brand? The story behind Graham Hunter might not be as interesting as the tales of his chats with Xavi, his adventures with Gerard Pique or his conversations with Vicente Del Bosque but surely there must be a fascination about how a 50-year-old Aberdonian has managed to access all areas in the greatest football stories of the new millennium.

The march of Barcelona and Spain to pre-eminent positions in club and international football has been stalked by a bald Scotsman with a distinctive twang and a distinct take on the Camp Nou and La Roja. Hunter may not quite own the Spanish football story but he is well on the way to paying off the mortgage. He talks on satellite television from ESPN to Sky, he writes in newspapers, he holds a microphone out for Spanish radio, he has worked for UEFA and FIFA, he provides a variety of sound bites that are voraciously consumed.

And he writes books. Barca: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World sold in shedloads.  Spain: The Inside Story of La Roja's Historic Treble (BackPage Press) is a publishing event that is now on tour. Hunter and Spain is a double act that sells out the Glasgow Film Theatre and forces the book-signing queue out into Rose Street and eventually into a pub.

So what is the story, Graham? "It is not me," he protests. "It all sort of fell in my lap. I am a sort of lightning conductor for the story."

The truth, of course, owes much more to the sporting cliché that Hunter was in the right place and the right time. And like the predatory striker, he has taken his chance. He has been in Spain since 2002, when he felt his position at a national newspaper had become untenable. He briskly mentions a breakdown in a working relationship with a superior and the subsequent attraction of taking a financial package to go as quietly as the ebullient Scot could manage.

His wife, Louise, then told him: "When you enjoy your football, the world is a better place. Why don't we go to Spain?"

Hunter adds: "And we did."

There is some history to this change of geography. Hunter's first visit to Spain was as a raw recruit to the Tartan Army in 1982. He was feted by Alex Ferguson, a friend of a neighbour of the Hunters in Aberdeen, but he was also seduced by the country. "Spain impressed me," says Hunter more than 30 years on. "The noise, the heat, the daily rhythms. There was football in the bars, there were newspapers entirely devoted to football, there was football in the street, in every conversation, in most arguments. It all lodged in my consciousness."

But surely it was an audacious leap from reporting on English and Scottish football to settling in Spain, with no facility for the language, and with only a hope rather than a certainty of making a living?

"I do not think it was a huge jump," he says. "Not for me. It might be inherent stupidity or it might be because I like a risk. But I did not view it as something threatening."

This is a sign of the sunniness that surrounds Hunter, forcing him presumably to wear those wraparound shades. There must have been travails, there must have been doubts and surely, inevitably, there had to have been difficulties but Hunter focuses on how lucky he was to come to Spain at such a newsworthy time.

If he will not admit to the hassle, his life has been a testimonial to the power of the hustle. Hunter seized on matters Spanish and worked for the governing bodies, for television stations, and for newspapers throughout the world. "All I am is a chronicler," he says, but he points out that his move to Spain came when the Galacticos were strutting their stuff and when such as Sevilla, Valencia and Villarreal had solid, viable stories.

And then there was Barca. Hunter was on the doorstep as the door opened on a marvellous story. The rise of Barcelona as a recognisable premier brand was accompanied by Hunter's ascent as their most faithful storyteller.

His first impressions were favourable. "What one has to realise is the amount of access that was available," he says, still with a hint of awe. "It was simply a case of walking up to training and watching it. The players would troop past and would talk. I have watched some extraordinary training incidents. This completely shapes your ideas and your work as a writer. You see everything. There is no guesswork, nothing second hand. The doors have begun to be closed."

Hunter, though, has slipped through. His books sparkle with chats with Xavi, moments after the Barcelona midfielder has won a European Cup medal, encounters with Pique that include a search for a piece of the net after a World Cup triumph, and an exchange with Del Bosque involving the Aberdonian rattling through the Real Madrid team defeated in Gothenburg.

Hunter's high point was, appropriately, an hour-long chat with Johan Cruyff in the Dutchman's palatial lair in the zona alta of Barcelona. This brings the conversation dramatically into the present. Sandro Rosell, the president of Barca, has become embroiled in a corruption claims over the signing of Neymar, the Brazilian forward, but Hunter's disaffection runs deeper than financial scandal.

"Rosell has been part of a soiled process that seeks to expunge Cruyff and his influence from the history of the club. He has also been the leader when Barca have been too slow in re-stocking and reinvigorating the team."

He will not rule out a Barcelona triumph in the Champions League, though he concedes Bayern Munich will be difficult to depose. He is more bullish about Spain and the World Cup. "Brazil must be the favourites," he says. "But Spain are still powerful and come into the competition with three successful tournaments behind them and a mindset reinforced by consistent success."

Hunter admits that he has been entranced by both the national team and Barca but his sense of wonder goes beyond professional football. "There are still values in Spain that I recognise from my young days in Scotland," he says. "There is a decency about the people and a sense of morality. Spain is a relatively new democracy, relatively fresh. Putting it bluntly, it has not been Thatcherised."

His life in Barcelona is shared by the sporting behemoth and by Louise and daughters Cara, 17, and Annie Luz-Maria, a nine-year-old Scots/Catalan. The away trips continue to major tournaments, Champions League matches and the campaign to promote his books. But Barcelona and wider Spain remains a comfortable home fixture.

"We only have one life," he says of the transfer that took him from Britain to a land of opportunity.

"It certainly could have gone wrong. It is barely possible it could have gone better," he says with the subtle relish of a Hunter satisfied.

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