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Since he made his debut in the Scottish Premier League at 16, Ryan Gauld has been on the lookout for a place to call home. Despite earning the nickname Mini Messi, for his combination of eye-catching talent and 5-foot-7 frame, the Aberdeen-born attacking midfielder had bounced from club to club, before finally landing with the Vancouver Whitecaps in 2021.

But since his arrival at B.C. Place, the club has gone from strength to strength, winning back-to-back Canadian Championships and returning to the MLS Cup playoffs for the first time since Alphonso Davies left to join Bayern Munich in 2018. The 28-year-old Gauld has been front and centre of that turnaround, being chosen the team’s player of the year the past two seasons, and being rewarded for that last month with the club captaincy to go along with the three-year contract extension he signed in January. The Whitecaps, who are unbeaten through their first two games in Major League Soccer, play host to Real Salt Lake this Saturday.

What is your favourite occupation?

Football probably. I don’t know much else, so I’d have to choose football.

Did you have a backup plan?

I never actually. You had the usual thing in school, when you say you want to be a footballer people will tell you it’s never going to happen. But yeah, if I didn’t play football, I don’t know what I would do. I have no other real interests of something that I’d be doing. So thankfully I was pretty good at football.

What is your chief characteristic?

I’m just like a nice, genuine, respectful guy, I think. I think the media staff here might tell you different but just pretty quiet, I like to keep to myself and just keep my head down and try not to annoy people.

What is your idea of misery?

Being away from my dogs for too long. Me and my fiancée have got two dogs. So being away from the three of them for a while, I wouldn’t say it’s misery. It’s just being away from them and … anything that’s too social, that gives me anxiety and I just like to be in the comfort of my home.

You’re from Scotland, you live in Vancouver now. Where would you most like to live in the world?

This kind of changes year by year, because obviously I’ve not been settled in a place for more than two or three years. So if you asked me right now I’d probably choose to live outside of Lisbon. There’s a little area on the west coast of Lisbon, Cascais or Estoril. They are two of the nicest places I’ve been to and I’d just like to have a little house by the sea and just live there.

What’s your greatest extravagance?

The thing that I like doing that I get from being in Vancouver is the surf town Tofino and Vancouver Island. We’ve only actually been there two or three times but going over there doing a little bit of surfing. We’re thinking about doing some camping the next time we go, just like camp and surf.

Are you a reader?

I’ve started to read a lot more because I went through a phase of spending way too much time on my phone. So I deleted social media off my phone. I’ve got a guy who controls that now. I feel like I could get a lot more out of reading a book, learning something, than being on my phone. So I like to read different things. I’ve never watched The Lord of the Rings movies. So at the moment, I’m doing The Lord of the Rings books. But it’s something I’ve kind of started doing more in the last year or two is picking up a book and reading.

Any authors or genres that you’re getting into?

The sci-fi stuff’s pretty, pretty cool. And then I like to read like not autobiographies, but biographies. There’s one on Kurt Cobain that’s probably one of my favourite books that I’ve read. I can’t remember who wrote it, but it’s Heavier Than Heaven, just about his life. And that was probably my favourite book that I’ve read.

What is your greatest achievement?

I would say it’s ongoing, just the fact that I have managed to make a living at playing football. Growing up close to Dundee, playing with so many players from Brechin, like six or seven years old and then obviously playing for the next 10 years. I played with so many kids and just being able to have dedicated enough of my time and training hard enough to make a living at what I’m doing just now I would say is an ongoing achievement. I’m just trying to keep pushing as far as I can.

Do you have a greatest regret?

No. I like to not look at anything as regrets. I would more look at it as a lesson to learn from something instead of saying oh, I regret doing this or that. I was asked a lot of times if I regret moving to Portugal when I was 18 because things didn’t go as it looked like they might have in my career. But I would definitely say it wasn’t a regret because there’s so many positives that came out of that like learning the language, we’ve got a house there. And like I said, we’d probably like to move back there at some point so obviously there’s lessons that came with it and how I can be better as a player and as a person. But I don’t like to live with regrets.

When and where were you the happiest?

To be honest, where I am just now. The past year is the first time in a long time that I’ve actually felt settled somewhere, that I’m happy on and off the pitch. My fiancée is happy. It’s the first time that we’ve had that kind of security of having a longer contract and knowing where we’re going to be. Before, there was a couple of summers where we were in six or seven AirBnbs for a month, because we didn’t know where we were going to be the next week. So just to have that kind of security off the pitch has definitely been able to make us happier.

Does that happiness and security help you keep your focus on the pitch?

It definitely has because you don’t have any wonders in the back of your head. When I was on loan wondering where I’m going to be next year, where I’m going to be in a couple of months’ time, it was pretty tough. But just being settled now and not having to worry about anything but the football side of things is nice and yeah, I think it has brought out the best of me.

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