Karim Benzema closes the door on his cumbersome entourage and sits down on a chair in a windowless room.
I'm expecting a surly, troubled soul who is homesick and not enjoying life in Spain. It's March 2010 and things are not working out for the €35 million signing from Lyon. He's had trouble integrating into Iberian life and into Manuel Pellegrini's Real Madrid team.
Still, the pro-Madrid based media is doing all it can to support one of the president's men. Expansive interviews with the Frenchman talk about how he will come good, how his future is at the Bernabeu.
Most remain unconvinced by the spinning. It seems that it's a last throw of a dice for a player Madrid are desperate to succeed and repeat the form he has shown for Lyon when he was Ligue 1's youngest-ever top scorer. Madrid are anxious to break the cycle of short termism and claim they will be patient with their expensive new signing, but the reality is that Benzema is out of form for his club and out of favour for his country just months before the World Cup finals. He has every reason not to be in the best of moods.
But instead, Benzema enthused: about Zidane and (the original) Ronaldo, about playing for France and Madrid. Maybe not about Raymond Domenech, but history perhaps proved him right there. He claimed he was a better player in Spain, fitter, more versatile and learning all the time. The problem is that players don't get time in Madrid.
He said: "There is a pressure and high level of expectation. Sometimes it is stupidly high - I'm not sure whether that's a good or bad thing." He could easily have been talking about his club, not his country.
Things would get even worse before his fortunes improved markedly as this year has gone on. Eight league goals was a poor return for his first season in Spain, the World Cup was a disaster for everyone associated with France and new Madrid coach Jose Mourinho sidelined Benzema when others at the club were desperate for him to play, specifically president Florentino Perez and influential sporting director Jorge Valdano.
The once prolific striker scored just once in Madrid's first 19 league games of the season up to the end of January. Although he would have liked more minutes on the pitch, Benzema was not up to the task and Jose Mourinho insisted that he needed to bring in a number nine after Gonzalo Higuain was ruled out for five months.
Emmanuel Adebayor duly arrived on loan in the January transfer window, a signing which actually galvanised Benzema. He is relishing the competition and the Madrid fans are not complaining.
He has scored 12 goals since January and his strike rate is increasing by the week.
"I've found myself again and I've returned to my usual best," he said recently. "I put in a lot of hard work on the training pitch and that's paying off now.
"I'm going through a very good moment in my career and I want to get as much out of it as possible."
Central to his renaissance has been his understanding with Mourinho, who has dispensed a tough type of love, encouraging Benzema to train and work harder in matches and combining that with a psychological boost that he can be the best striker in football. France coach Laurent Blanc has also been a great influence and is likely to benefit from Benzema in a way Domenech didn't.
The methods have worked. Benzema's 21 goals for his club this season (he was prolific throughout the Champions League group stage and scored in both legs against his former club Lyon in the last 16) already look a respectable total.
With Madrid potentially facing Barcelona four times in just over two weeks next month, Benzema's return to form is exquisitely timed. On the weekend of April 16 Madrid, who have won every home game this season, entertain the Catalans at the Bernabeu hoping to close the five-point gap in La Liga and avenge November's 5-0 defeat. The pair then meet in the Copa del Rey final in Valencia on April 20. Champions League semi-finals could follow on April 26/27 and May 3/4.
Madrid fans would never have said this at the start of the season, but they would now have Benzema in the starting line-up every time they meet their greatest foe.