Getty Images

Not many players can say they've played in four of the five big European leagues, and not many players have the type of journeyman veteran experience Gerard Deulofeu has accrued before the age of 30. Despite already having stints at Barcelona, Everton, Watford, Sevillla and now Udinese, Deulofeu is enjoying the peak of his career and feels that the best is yet to come at age 27.

From his words and his attitude, you immediately get the perception of a player who is aware of his qualities, without regrets and who still has dreams yet to be fulfilled. Ahead of Friday's big clash between his former club AC Milan and his current club Udinese (12:45 p.m. ET | Paramount+), Deulofeu sat down with CBS Sports to reflect on the past, the present and ahead toward his dreams for the future: "I feel now I'm an experienced player even if I'm still young. My career until now was affected by injuries, but now I give value of playing, going to the training ground, I'm enjoying what I do."

The present: Udinese 

The Spanish striker, considered one of the best talents of his country at the time he was coming out of the Barcelona academy, joined Udinese from Watford in the summer 2020. This season, he's already found the back of the net eight times through 22 games and is three goals away from matching his career high in a season, a milestone he should in theory topple before the season is over. He's one of the most talented players on a Udinese squad that's currently fighting off relegation, in 16th just three points ahead of the drop zone:

"Of course we need to do better in the second part of the season," Deulofeu said. "Italian soccer has changed in the last years, for sure. Now the level at Serie A is much better than the past, you can see it also in Europe when they play against other important teams. It means we are doing a good job here, every weekend here is tough". 

When asked who impressed him most this season, he quickly pointed towards a young German midfielder and a couple of others: 

"My teammate [Lazar] Samardžić for sure," Deulofeu said. "His last pass is really good. I love to play with him, also with Beto who scored eight goals already and [Destiny] Udogie who is an animal on the left side. In general, I love AC Milan since I played there in the second part of the 2016-17 season. I was impressed by Rafael Leão's impact this season, and plan on asking for his jersey when we will play them."

The past: Barcelona 

Deulofeu grew up in the midst of arguably the greatest team ever assembled in the history of the sport. FC Barcelona under Pep Guardiola captured three Spanish titles, they were two-time Copa del Rey winners and twice lifted the Champions League trophy. At the time, a young Deulofeu was playing for the Barcelona B, but he was constantly training with the senior team where he was fortunate enough to gain confidence under the tutelage of some of the best players in the world while at the historic youth academy La Masia. 

"I feel so proud of my past at La Masia," Deulofeu said. "It was an amazing time even if I had a difficult time later on. Pep Guardiola was my coach for a short period and this makes me a little sad. I hoped to have more time to work more with him, because he makes all the players better. He's another level. But I also had others that were important for my personal growth such as Unai Emery at Sevilla and Roberto Martinez at Everton."

Deulofeu said he was "not surprised" to see Xavi -- one of the players the Udinese man saw while frequenting with the first team  at La Masia -- back as a Blaugrana coach. He's also happy to see Joan Laporta back as president and remains optimistic about the club's future.

"Now I can see a team going in the right direction," Deulofeu said. "They need experience and to play games together. It's not easy to play at the Camp Nou for a young player. 

"I can understand why some young players have chances to play more compared to the past, because before there were such incredible legends there. Guardiola also did it with players such as Pedro and Busquets. Now, Xavi gives chances to others like Pedri, Gavi, Nico and so on. Now, it's easier to play for a young player, of course, but this is the right process and with them Barcelona has an amazing future ahead, I'm sure."

His time at AC Milan 

Deulofeu is familiar with Friday's opponent, having already played in Italy for AC Milan when joined in January of 2017 on loan from Everton. He established memorable moments during his 18-game stint in the 2017, scoring four goals, but ultimately, he didn't stay and went back to Everton before Barcelona decided to use the buy-back clause they agreed with the English club.

"I think I was the best player those months at AC Milan," he said. "I didn't stay because Barcelona decided to use the buy-back clause but also because AC Milan changed property and management at the same time. 

"Adriano Galliani [former AC Milan director] wanted me to stay, but he had no power anymore. The new management didn't want me to stay at the end of the season and so I left. 

"I was one of the last signings of Adriano Galliani at the club where he was in charge for 30 years. He was amazing with me. From the first day, he was super nice. He brought me to a restaurant with him, to some events, we had a good relationship. That period in Milan was really good." 

Best players he played with 

When asked about the best teammates he's ever had until now, Deulofeu quickly pointed to one of the greatest players to ever play and a few other prominent stars. 

"Leo Messi at Barcelona for sure," he said. 

"Training with him makes you a better player, he's stratospheric."

"Then Sergio Ramos in the national team, I had a very good relationship with him," Deulofeu said. "Last names I want to mention are Romelu Lukaku and Ever Banega. Lukaku is an animal. We had a very good connection, and I think I provided him 10 assists in the last season and I told him he has to pay me a travel to Miami."

When it comes to coaches, he raves about the way Unai Emery operates his team: "He is an amazing coach, he works a lot with videos, he studies a lot the opponents. Video sessions were like more than one hour, it was intense but very nice working with him."

Best memories

Deulofeu's eyes shine when he speaks about the past, specifically his time at Watford and their historical run to the 2019 FA Cup semifinal at Wembley. He had the game of his life at one of the most prestigious venues of the sport, scoring two goals including the winner in extra time to complete a two-goal comeback against Wolverhampton that led Watford to the final against Manchester City. 

"That's my favorite memory, for sure," Deulofeu said. "Playing at Wembley in that semifinal was unbelievable -- this is the best memory. I still follow Watford, of course, I watch every match. We need to improve and push, hopefully with [Ismaïla] Sarr back, things will be better."

And what's the best thing in each of the countries he lived until now? 

"One thing I can't live without in Spain is the food for sure, I love paella," Deulofeu said. "In England, the passion of the fans, people who bring families at the stadium to support the team, it's amazing to have that feeling. And Italy ... well, I love traveling in my free time, to discover this country. Venice is close to Udine, there are also some nice lakes. Oh yes, and pizza, of course!"