The men’s national coach, Luis de la Fuente grants EL PERIÓDICO DE ESPAÑA and Prensa Ibérica their first interview since the victory in the Nations League and after everything that happened after the Women’s World Cup. The agreement, on the eve of the momentous match against Scotland, is to talk only about football, the field that he truly dominates after a life dedicated to it.
Spain is playing direct qualification for the Euro 2024which will be held in Germany next summer, against Scotland in Seville (this Thursday) and in Norway (on Sunday, in Oslo). After six games with four wins, one draw, one loss, 18 goals for, four against and one title, the coach breathes satisfaction with the balance in command of the senior team in these turbulent months in the Federation.
Ask. Are you seeing the identity of the selection you want?
Answer. I think if. At the time we established a path, a route and a script on the selection that we intended to achieve. We established a series of records that I believe are being recognized. We propose a very versatile selection, with different types of attack. We have scored goals of different styles, with different football concepts and defensively we are also a solid team.
Q. On Luis de la Fuente’s board, what football references appear?
A. I have been lucky to have had 18 coaches with very different football profiles in my professional career. But I have learned from everyone. And then I have had the opportunity to meet, talk and debate about this with others. In the end all that is put into the shaker and you get a football idea. Since I started playing football I have always shown myself as an offensive player and I think that the teams I have coached have that first idea of attack. But I always bet on them being balanced to achieve goals.
I always showed myself as an offensive player and I think that the teams I have coached have that first idea of attack
Q. Who has inspired you as a player and as a coach?
A. I always say that I don’t recognize myself in the coach who started 26 years ago. I probably liked English football more at that time, with Liverpool and Manchester United as the reference teams. Logically, in Spain there were teams like Real Madrid and Barcelona, which marked a stage. For me, it has been an exceptional experience to be here in the Spanish Football Federation, because I began to interpret football in a different way and I have learned a lot. I have worked with the base that I had, but with the football idea of a very recognized model in the world that has given us many successes. And I have consolidated a football concept that I now believe is the one I am trying to capture.
Q. In the Federation you have experienced the successes of Luis Aragonés and Vicente del Bosque. Do you recognize yourself in them?
A. I think that the level of selection is beginning to change with Luis Aragonés, who is beginning to give an idea of a more combinative game, with footballers with a profile that today adapts more to this model that we now have established in the Federation. And that is consolidated by Vicente and makes it even bigger. I think Del Bosque adds new players and with the passage of time the idea evolves, something that he interpreted very well. Vicente brought out exceptional performance from those footballers.
Q. And now?
A. Now we continue to evolve and carry out regeneration. A stage ends for some players and new ones must be incorporated. I think we are in that process and we continue in it, but I think that now, after 11 years and after winning a title again, an idea is beginning to consolidate again. Not only for the title, but also for the future, because we have a team in which there are very young footballers with a lot of international experience. People who, both in their clubs and the national team, have won titles. And that usually always portends a very good future.
Q. In what phase are you in this process?
-I think we are consolidating the idea with nuances, but the footballers are the true protagonists of this. With good footballers you can achieve things. If you don’t have them, no matter how good ideas you have, or no matter how good the model or method is, they will not be achieved.
Q. The other day I compared Lamine with Maradona and Messi and warned that no matter how young he is “he is a type of footballer who must always be put because he has something different.”
A. I never look at the club of origin or age. What I look at is the performance they can give me. My pulse will never tremble when it comes to giving opportunities to players who are asking for them and who then, in our idea of the game, have an important journey. We also thought about the immediacy of the game with Scotland, which is what keeps us here in office. But I have been in the house for 11 years now and I have learned to look a little further and invest in players.
I have been in the Federation for 11 years now, I have learned to look a little further and invest in players
Q. You were talking about Scotland, do you think that from outside the defeat in Glasgow was given more importance than it was?
A. Yes, I think so, honestly. I am used to football criticism and I know the scenario in which I operate. I know that if you win you are very good and if you don’t, you are not, but I understand it as a natural behavior within society. But we were a new team with only 25 minutes of tactical work and then it was an important rival, very tough and in a stadium with an exceptional atmosphere.
Q. And, on the contrary, do you think that the victory in the Nations League has been undervalued?
A. I don’t think so. We live in total, absolute happiness. What I saw were players who were euphoric, some had never been to the national team and were enjoying that unique moment for them. And I saw many fans who were on the streets in Spain celebrating. I think it was given importance, a lot of importance.
Q. How important was it to resolve the two games against Georgia and Cyprus with resounding wins, after everything that had happened around the national team and the RFEF?
A. It did not serve to consolidate an idea, it strengthened the idea of work that we have been repeating since we started working in March. A recurring reading is that we were playing with two rivals who are inferior, but I have a lot of experience in this world of football and if you don’t approach a match from the opening minute to the last second of the match with intensity, with concentration, with ambition, with strength … That is the way and I tell the players that. So what those results do is further reinforce my idea that this is a team with desire and ambition that wants to achieve important things with exceptional talent and quality.
Q. You have won a title with all the teams you have coached, including the senior team. And he knows the raw material he has at his disposal because they are largely guys he has worked with, who have already won with you before.
A. Winning something costs a lot, it is very difficult. We have been lucky, thank God, to win in all those stages, logically because we have had great teams. If that gives me peace of mind? Well yes, but it makes me be very demanding of myself to continue improving. We are going to try to continue taking steps and continue winning things, because there is already a very good thing about what they call a winning mentality: it increases when you win again and win again and win again. So, we want to continue winning.
Q. It seems that if there is one thing you have had from day one, it is the support of the players.
R. I have felt that way from the first day, I think it has really been that way. From the first opportunity I had to be with them, I saw that they were a group of dedicated players. Largely because I always had, as I said in my presentation, that I had a lot of advantage, because I have had 80-90% of the players since they were Under-15, Under-16, Under-18… So I knew that I had their support and the conviction that they were sure of my bet and how they were going to be treated with me. They know me perfectly in terms of football and those who don’t know me, I made sure they knew me. The truth is that from the first moment I had the support of all of them in that sense.
Q. I ask you about two proper names. Pedri has not yet been able to be called up due to injury. Do you have in mind that he is an important player in your national team?
A. I don’t talk much with the players on a day-to-day basis, when they are at their clubs. But when they are injured I usually call almost everyone. And Pedri made his debut with me as a kid, I think he was a U19 in Macedonia and I really want to see him with us.
P. Morata is surely in the best moment of his career.
A. I believe that we have a very high level of football players and Álvaro right now has the advantage of having experience and experience, in addition to his talent and football level. Maybe he is at the age where he has reached that maturity and is in perhaps the best moment of his football career. He is a star, he helps us a lot with others who are training and who are in that process.
Morata is a star who is surely in the best moment of his career
Q. There are seven years left until the 2030 World Cup in Spain and it would not be unreasonable to think that if things go well I could continue being the coach. Have you thought about that possibility these days?
A. I am very excited that the World Cup is being played in Spain, because of what it represents for the Federation, for Spanish football, for the Spanish players and for the entire country. But I don’t even consider what he says, I see it very far away. In fact, I usually remember that I came to the Federation for three months and I have been there for 11 years now. There are many things to do before that. First, qualify for the Euro Cup, which we are dedicated to achieving this month, and then have the possibility of being able to compete in it. That already seems like an exceptional experience and possibility to me. Thinking about that World Cup seems quite distant to me, but it is an illusion, of course. How could a coach and selector not want to participate in a World Cup and also in your country? It would be the maximum.
Q. In England it has been published that when Gareth Southgate leaves the English team, among the candidates to lead it is the women’s coach, Sarina Wiegman. A first step that has never happened. Do you see it as too far away for a woman to be in charge of a men’s team?
A. I see that very naturally. If people are prepared and trained, we must all have the same opportunities. I think we are going down that path with total and absolute normality, really, and that is what they taught me at home. My parents did not treat brothers and sisters differently, they treated us all the same. So I see that naturally. If you are prepared, which is all you need, then go ahead.
Q. What do you think Spanish football has learned during the last month and a half?
R. What I want is for there to be unity from now on and forever, so that we only think about football, football, football… I don’t know what things we will have learned, but the important thing is to be united. Being united is the key to achieving important things and I think that is good for everyone. Union.