Guillem Balague speaks exclusively to Footy Matters, discussing how English football is perceived in Spain as well as the things we can learn from their success as the FA goes about restructuring the national game.
Speaking at the Soccerex European Forum in Manchester, the Spanish football expert offers some wise words to players that tweet as well as some advice for Chelsea’s Spanish striker Fernando Torres.
We also get his thoughts on the up-coming biography of Barcelona manager, Pep Guardiola.
Watch it on Youtube: Guillem Balague Interview
WHAT BRINGS YOU TO SOCCEREX?
I‘ve been invited to present a couple of events, one that will take place soon, 2 o’clock, which by the time you put this out it will be well gone but will be interesting because it will be about media and football, what happened, what went wrong and why and what can we do about it to sort it out because they seem to be two completely different worlds when in fact they are the same business.
So we got Gary Neville, Gaizka Mendieta, Brian Berwick, and we got journalists as well, so it should be good.
DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR YOUNG PLAYERS TAKING TO SOCIAL MEDIA, ESPECIALLY TWITTER?
Somebody told me, somebody at one of the top five clubs in England who looks after these things, she actually says to the players, “before you write it make sure that that’s something that your mum, your aunty and me would be happy to read” so I think that’s a good enough rule.
HOW IS ENGLISH FOOTBALL REGARDED IN SPAIN?
Its one of the top leagues in the world so its no doubt that its one that is followed. It’s very well looked after by the televisions that treat it, they do reports, they analyse it deeply, like football is analysed in Spain, so not so bothered about controversies more about tactical, so yeah its considered one of the top leagues in the world with some of the best players and everything around the game is unparalled in the world, the best stadiums, the best facilities, the best fans in the world, no doubt.
SPANISH FOOTBALL IS CURRENTLY AT THE PINNACLE OF THE WORLD FOOTBALL HOW CAN WE HERE IN THE UK GET CLOSER TO THE SPANISH GAME?
Everybody has to do it their own way, you cannot copy because if you copy it will become second of the one you copy that’s for sure so it’s a matter of finding out what you are good at and trying to exploit it.
In Spain they realised 15-20 years ago that we play the ball really well because that’s how players have been brought up so why not fill the pitch with midfielders? That’s what Luis Aragones decided. He made the midfielder’s get into their minds that they had to score goals. It just happens that we have an amazing generation of players especially up front, the kind of guys that give you the goals and the games and the victories, so all in all it’s a mixture of good coaching from a long time ago, treat the federation almost like a club so everybody goes in the same direction, all the youth team play the same way. Selection of players is important and from a long time, from the [Johan] Cruyff era and perhaps before when Cruyff was a manager so I’m talking about the 90s but before that, the 80s, but always chosen the players that can play the ball first of all not because of their physique, we found out that that’s what we good at and just exploit it and reinforce that. England will have to do the same, What are they good at? Answer that question first and take it from there.
DO YOU THINK THAT THERE IS A CONFLICT BETWEEN THE COMMERCIALISATION OF THE PREMIER LEAGUE AND THE WAY IN WHICH THE FA IS MANAGING THE GAME AS TO WHY THERE ISN’T THIS CLUB MENTALITY YOU ALLUDE TO.
Its much more complex then that I think. I understand that the Premier League has to defend their priorities and they’re about getting lots of money to get good players and get the stadiums up to scratch and be able to compete in the league and to do that they have to just get as much money as they can, it’s business everybody does that in fact, everybody envies that.
But you have to match that, at some point there has to be like a common ground between that and what the FA want to do. It doesn’t have to the same, Premier League defend one thing the FA defend the other but it must be a common ground and I think they are trying to find it through Gareth Southgate’s proposals and the new way of developing players that people want to try.
I was just listening to Terry Venables here at Soccerex and his completely out of the game now so is Steve McClaren, so is [Sven Goran] Eriksson, from the FA point of view, so will be [Fabio] Capello, why not use these guys experience and listen to what they have to say because they been at the top, but they just like “no, lets go and start from scratch“ and maybe that’s not the way but in any case questions are being asked daily in the streets. You have to change the culture of the country a little bit, to do that will be very difficult but I think people are trying to do it.
THE FA HAVE ANNOUNCED THEY ARE LOOKING FOR A NEW TECHNICAL DIRECTOR – WHO WOULD BE SUITABLE FOR THE ROLE & WHAT SHOULD THEY FOCUS ON TO RAISE THE TECHNICAL STANDARDS IN THE GAME?
To me, it’s more urgent then, how do they call it? Technical Secretary, Director of Football, or whatever you call it, it’s more urgent then that, it’s to change the culture of the game. It’s a massive country and to move it you have to push so hard so it’s a matter of getting the ball rolling, I don’t care whose the Technical Secretary, is quite clear that changes have to be made and its quite clear they have to be made from the foundations.
There is a network of volunteers that run youth football in England. Why volunteers? Why not coaches? Lets get rid of these parents that want to coach the kids and put coaches in charge.
From that, lets get more people in the FA that defend the kind of football that they wanna start the teams playing.
Gareth Southgate and who ever else, just put them on television all the time, let them talk and if you think there are other coaches that have been there before and have good experience like the Eriksson’s the Capello’s, listen to them.
McClaren complains that he hasn’t been called by the federation since he left, why not? This guy has something to say, he’s been at the top, those things.
DO YOU THINK THEREFORE, THAT PART OF THE REMIT FOR THE NEXT ENGLAND MANAGER SHOULD BE THE OVERSEEING OF THE TECHNICAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE GAME AT GRASSROOTS LEVEL?
Again we are starting the house from the ceiling you need the foundations, you need the idea, what kind of style do they want, you need somebody at the FA that actually takes those decisions and then depending on the style of the teams that you want then chose the coach.
The Spanish federation had Fernando Hierro as Director of Football and he made sure all the youth set up was with coaches that had the same way of thinking he did and as previously proven to be successful under the Luis Aragones era, so then he chose Vicente Del Bosque as the coach because he just fitted with all that and I think that should be more the way.
CAN BRITISH PLAYERS BE SUCCESSFUL IN SPANISH FOOTBALL?
Yeah, they will be fantastic in Spanish Football because it will add something they haven’t got to their game. So they will have to go through a little bit of an adaptation period but why not?
I heard again Terry Venables saying that he tried to instil some new things into the players when he came into the national side but the players will say ‘ah but you know we’re used to 4-4-2’ . So people are saying it’s the managers that don’t want to change; no its actually the players that they are happy to do what they do and not move from there and that’s why you will never get Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard playing together they just happy in the way they do things. Get them away, get them abroad, going abroad should be an obligation for absolutely everybody in the world, go away for a year, come back, you’re a new person and for a footballer it’s the same.
They are all so good, they’ll be as good as any player in La Liga but they’ll add something that they don’t have maybe the pass maybe the tactical acumen maybe the technique, I don’t know but certainly will get better.
WE HEAR A LOT OF TRANSFER RUMOUS OF LINKING FOREIGN PLAYERS TO THE PREMIER LEAGUE BUT WE RARELY HEAR ANY ENGLISH PLAYERS LINKED WITH CLUBS ABROAD, PARTICULARLY TO SPAIN.
Well Spanish football is about to implode. The crisis means that there is no money so the wages that players get here they won’t get anywhere else in the world so why would you want to go to earn less money, unless like in the case of Jermaine Pennent, or [Jonathan] Woodgate or Michael Owen or David Beckham at some point it kind of makes sense for whatever reason. They love Spanish football, but they see themselves as a product of the Premier League and they’re happy to be here because its one league where the professional gets respected, you get paid every month, the fans love you, you know just everything right to develop your profession. I still say even if you’re not getting paid every month or you don’t get paid what you where promised, just go abroad, go to Spain, prove yourself.
EVERYONE WANTS TO SEE A REJUVENATED FERNANDO TORRES, DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVISE FOR HIM?
No, but I want to see him as well getting better and he is getting better.
In the past, when he was at Liverpool for instance, he wouldn’t have an eye for a pass, he would finish himself. At the moment, while his confidence is growing, you can see he is trying to create for others as well as trying to finish, so just a matter of confidence.
There was an injury that affected him, there was a moving of a club, there was a club that you can see now was in transition to something else, all these reasons why we haven’t seen the best Torres. In himself as well he’s got to enjoy what he’s doing. All that together will get a better Fernando Torres and I think we’re already seeing it.
WILL WE BE SEEING THE BEST OF FERNANDO TORRES IN A CHELSEA SHIRT?
Well he’s staying isn’t he, so yeah.
YOU’RE IN THE PROCESS OF WRITING A BOOK, WHAT IS IT ABOUT AND WHEN CAN WE EXPECT TO READ IT?
It’s the biography of Pep Guardiola. Fascinated by the character, the man, he’s helping me with it, which you know ill be eternally grateful for. He’s even got me in touch with people you know we wouldn’t normally get access to. I’m very luck to have Sir Alex Ferguson as the foreword of the book and I’m just learning a lot about football, about himself, about how people portray in a very superficial way many times these kind of public personalities but then you scratch and there is much more complexities then would think and I hope all that’s reflected in the book which should come out in September.
TELL US WHY FOOTY MATTERS TO YOU
Footy as in Football? I just love it, I love it and I’ve been lucky enough to earn a living out of it. I’m a lucky man.
Tags: Fernando Torres, Gareth Southgate, Guillem Balague, Interview, Spain, The FA, Twitter