"At this moment, Mumbai City FC and Mohun Bagan SG are like Barcelona and Real Madrid of Indian football" - FC Goa head coach Manolo Marquez 

FC Goa head coach Manolo Marquez
Manolo Marquez spoke to the press for the first time as FC Goa manager (Image Credits: FCG Media)

FC Goa's appointment of head coach Manolo Marquez grabbed headlines as it signified the club’s ambitions for the upcoming seasons.

Over the past two years, the Goan-based outfit has finished ninth and seventh in the standings respectively, therefore failing to qualify for the playoffs. A team that was once regularly challenging the frontrunners now finds itself at a crossroads, and is desperately seeking to rectify its recent shortcomings.

The expectations are always high among the Guars faithful. But when quizzed by Sportskeeda on whether it is realistic for the club to challenge the established sides this season, Manolo Marquez, in his first press conference, responded that two teams are ahead of others in the pecking order.

"I can reply with cliches, but it’s boring for me," he said. "Last season I had the same question about Hyderabad FC with Mumbai City FC or ATK Mohun Bagan. Maybe in five or six years, the situation changes. But at this moment, the City Football Group with Mumbai or Mohun Bagan because they have a lot of money, they are the candidates to be in the top two. "

The 54-year-old head coach compared Mumbai City FC and Mohun Bagan SG to Spanish giants FC Barcelona and Real Madrid as he expects them to dominate Indian football in the next few years. However, Marquez also sounded optimistic about the Goan club’s chances to fight alongside the two clubs.

"Of course, we will fight to enter into the playoffs, and then the top four, and if it’s possible, like Hyderabad FC last season, to finish in the top two," he added. "In one game, FC Goa can beat every team in ISL at home or away. But in the long term, at this moment Mumbai City FC and Mohun Bagan SG are like Barcelona and Real Madrid of Indian football. But we will try to fight and arrive to get the Shield. "
"It is always dangerous to speak about these kinds of things. Of course, we want to win every game and we will try to arrive at the top. But if you ask me whether Mumbai and Mohun Bagan are over the other teams in the competition, my answer is yes," Marquez continued.

FC Goa recently announced the departure of seven players. Marquez was asked to outline the club’s plans in the transfer market, but he remained tight-lipped about the players they are targeting.

Nonetheless, he promised that the Gaurs would arrive at the first game of the season with a strong squad.

“It’s a good question but difficult to reply," Marquez said. “More or less I know which is the squad. Like every team in the world, you will sign and lose players during the summer. But we will try to build a very competitive team, and try to play good football, but I don’t know the specific areas.”
"I know we will have a good team. But I can’t tell you what areas we need to improve because it’s a collective sport. Football is about five things, attack, defense, both transitions and set pieces. Of course, there are a lot of details in this. These kinds of things we will work on in preseason and then let’s see. The team who is the best in all these aspects usually finish well," Marquez added.

The Gaurs have played their reserve teams in the Durand Cup in the past, but the former Hyderabad FC head coach stated that he would try to involve the first-team players once the team was settled.

"I think there is a process in everything we train" – FC Goa head coach Manolo Marquez

Much of Hyderabad FC’s success was down to the management and the head coach working in tandem and having a similar vision.

After three years in Hyderabad, Manolo Marquez now faces another new challenge of building a new team from the ground up. He discussed the important factors for a club and the need for trusting the process to guarantee a smooth transition.

"Every season is difficult," Marquez said. "We had three very good seasons and one important thing was continuity. I said a lot of times the agents wouldn’t be very happy if I were the coach of all the teams because I like the continuity. In the second season the players more or less, know what you want. If you change the players every season it will be difficult."
"It is step-by-step. It’s not like we will arrive in Goa and from the first game we will play fantastic. Maybe we will play a good game, but the thing is we have to work step by step. This doesn’t mean in the first season we can’t do important things as we would try to win the maximum number of games possible. But I think there is a process in everything we train," he added.

In his first interview as an FC Goa coach, Marquez expressed his frustration about cricket being the more popular sport in Hyderabad despite Hyderabad FC’s success in the ISL. While reiterating his affection and respect for the Hyderabad faithful, Marquez said that Goa shares Spain's unique passion for football.

"I’m receiving a lot of messages from fans of cricket. This is in the whole world, not only India. For example, in Spain the main sport is football but in another country like India it’s cricket," he said.
"It is obvious that in Kerala or Kolkata, Goa, and Manipur where we had the experience of playing Durand Cup, football is very important. It is true that it is very difficult to have grassroots in every state because not all states have the conditions," Marquez continued.
"If someone tells me that I prefer cricket or another sport I can understand," he added. "But if you ask me in Goa, in my opinion, football is very important. It is one of the most important states in terms of the game."
"I was not correct when I said football is not more important in Hyderabad than cricket. It is true that cricket is their sport. I have a lot of messages from Deccan Tigers, our fans and I love them. They sent a lot of messages in the past two seasons. But I arrive in one club and state where football is more similar to my country. "

Many believe Manolo Marquez will offer a breath of fresh air to FC Goa. The club’s decision to hire the highly sought-after coach has already ignited a new spark among the supporters as they gear up for the new season.

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Edited by Samya Majumdar
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