When East Bengal FC announced the arrival of Alejandro Menendez as their Head Coach a couple of months ago, many eyebrows were raised. Not because a Spanish coach helming the top position, but because of the impressive CV that Menendez possesses.
As a coach of Real Madrid Castilla, the youth team of the Spanish club, Menendez oversaw many buddying talents in front of his eyes, who now make headlines every day. Players like Dani Carvajal, Alvaro Morata, Juan Mata or Isco Alarcon came out of Menendez’s hands. At least 50 players are plying their trade in different leagues all over the world who once in their life played under Menendez.
So, when a coach like this comes to an Indian club, excitement is obvious. That is what happening for the past two months. Supporters and club officials are hoping that Menendez will change the scenario and bring them the elusive I-League title, which the club hasn’t won for the past 15 years.
On a chat with the club magazine ‘East Bengal Samachar’, Menendez said it is the rich history and tradition which attracted him to join the red-and-golds. Menendez, who heard about Indian football from former ATK coach Jose Molina and former Bengaluru FC coach Albert Roca, said he wants to build a new football culture in the country.
“There is moment comes up in everyone’s life when you want to embrace a new challenge. I had previously worked in Asia and knew Indian football could be the next big thing. So I decided to take the challenge and accepted the offer from East Bengal. Upon arriving at the club, I saw many trophies and it satisfied me that I have not made a mistake,” Menendez said.
The former Buriram United coach believes success is not about trophies. Rather, to him, success is all about the process, which needs to be developed over the years. “In Spain, we believe in this theory. It starts from the academy level and we emphasise more on developing footballers rather than running for trophies,” said Menendez.
Menendez wants to focus more on the defenders. Not because he is dissatisfied with their performance, but to him, defenders are important for every club to win matches. “In modern football, defenders play a vital role behind every attack, which is called pressing football. Pep Guardiola started this tradition when he was the coach of Barcelona and follows the same in his current club Manchester City. Look how successful he is,” explained Menendez.
East Bengal has Costa Rican world cupper Johnny Acosta in their team. Should we see him play as a leader in future? Menendez said, “Both Johnny and Borja (Gomez) are world class defenders. But they need more time to adapt to the style. I have seen the Indian defenders try to release the ball immediately to relieve the pressure. But sadly in modern football, the ball stays with the defender for most of the time. So I am trying two-three combinations right now to get them adaptive with the style.”
Spanish football is all about tiki-taka and Menendez feels his team can produce the same passing football in future. “Why not? I have talented footballer in my team and all of them are working hard. As I said, I don’t want to run after trophies. I want to build a new football culture and these boys have everything to make this club the best,” said Menendez.
Talking about world football, Menendez said he wants to have someone like Luka Modric in his team rather than Messis and Ronaldos. “To me, Modric is the best footballer in the world right now. I have seen (Lionel) Messi and (Cristiano) Ronaldo closely in Spain. The way Ronaldo changed himself is exceptional. And Messi is from another planet, a gift of God. But Modric, much like Xavi and (Andres) Iniesta changed himself according to the need of the team. That is what you look for,” said Menendez.Published 21 Oct 2018, 19:14 IST