First came the scaffolding platform. Then there was the giant screen. Now there’s the walkie-talkie too. When Spain’s players turned up at their Las Rozas headquarters this week for their last two games before this winter’s World Cup, Luis Enrique brought them together in the gym and made it clear that they would find something different in their training package. At the back of the jacket, near where the GPS would go, he added a small speaker, with which he could tell them exactly what to do.
“You will hear the master’s voice,” warned them. He said he would try not to shout too much but from the podium by the training ground the Spain coach spoke to them: issue orders, correct mistakes, direct their next move. Control everything, understand it correctly.
“When you first find out, you imagine that there will be a lot of information, and that it will control the game by radio,” Borja Iglesias He confessed. “But he does it very well and it’s a good way to approach the player. It’s great, helpful and he knows how to use it well: it’s clear, concise and helps.”
At 29, Iglesias was in the Spain squad for the first time but was in the Celta B squad when Luis Enrique was the team’s first coach in 2013. It’s been a long way to go – he only played one league game for Celta’s first team, in January 2015 After Luis Enrique left, he went to Zaragoza in the second division, joined Espanyol for two years and is in his fourth season with Betis, scoring only three times in his first season – but Luis Enrique says he has been watching him for a long time. Borja saw his coach up close, too.
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The first time Luis Enrique decided to build a scaffolding platform at the training ground so he could follow the session from a better vantage point was in Vigo, and he continued to do so in Barcelona. With Spain, where he became coach in 2018, other innovations followed. If that platform enabled him to see their mistakes, a giant screen was erected on the side of the field so he could show their mistakes live. Now, holding his walkie-talkie, it’s in their ears, blocking their mistakes. This is hope at least.
Everything Big Brother — “Papa will come out behind you,” he told his players — and much Luis Enrique.
He’s always been different, inventive, and pretty much his own man (even if sometimes he does something like that in his own way which suggests that it’s partly about not doing things the way other people do, and more outwardly aware of what he likes to do to let’s, even if his provocative nature is more playful which his critics like to admit). It was like that as a player, Going from Madrid to Barcelona, He is like that as a manager. Driven by fierce determination and complete conviction. One asks his players to participate in it.
“It is basically the same as it was [back then], says Iglesias. Things have changed with time and experience of course but it is clear that he is the same. He conveys an idea very similar to the one he has always had and in the same way. He makes the team aware of how he wants to play, and he explains it. Then he did it at Celta. Now he has more tools at his disposal. I don’t know if “ability” is the right word, but it has more ways to reach players. I see a lot of similarity to what I saw ten years ago.”
“The way we play is clear to everyone,” Luis Enrique said. “It all depends on a clear footballing idea: we are better than our opponents if we play like we do.” “If we play long ball, a lot of teams will beat us.”
And so they play it his way — “even if it means the fans are having a heart attack” — and so the message gets carried home over and over again, in word and deed: over the big screen and small speakers. Philosophy is not completely inflexible but it can be felt and as long as it remains constant, it is immutable. It is expressed directly, without hesitation, without compromise, and is explained completely and directly. It is not negotiable.
Hear him speak – at his first press conference on that encounter, he was there for about an hour – which is pretty cool. Even if you still disagree with some of his decisions, things fall into place and it all makes sense. On his terms, at least. It is always on its terms.
On the first day Luis Enrique took office, he made a statement of intent: He was the leader. This week he said “If you come and do what we want, you will come back; if you don’t…”
For Luis Enrique, the Selection It’s not a bonus, it’s a team. And it’s not about the clubs, but about the country under his leadership. “I watch the press conferences of other international coaches and I feel sympathy for them because I see that the same things happen to them as it happens to me: they always ask about players who were not selected,” he said.
“It’s hard to please everyone. I understand that. It’s normal for fans of a certain team to say ‘Hey, this guy needs to go.’ When I was a kid I did too: I got upset when [Sporting Gijon players] Eloy and Applanido did not leave. ‘Come on man, how can you not take these guys and they are the best? “
How? Because they may not be a team. Which is why if Luis Enrique’s choices don’t make sense to some – and there are so many choices that seem to be in the left field, many of which can be questioned – they make sense to him, the man he has the most interest in. The side more than anyone else, the man with analysis, the man who provides the framework it should fit in.
There is a spherical element, and a collective element as well, a matter of authority: it is important, for example, to feel Sergio Ramos He wasn’t completely honest about his physical condition the last time he joined the team. While you can never quite know what might happen with those who didn’t quite come, you can judge what happened with those who did. Once they are with him, they are identified as those who can be molded to an idea, this is the place to earn it, and the opportunity to join this group. Here the approach is dug into it, it must be followed and if not, you will not come back, no matter what you do on the outside. You don’t earn your place there, you earn your place here.
Gemma Soler speaks after Jaffe became Spain’s youngest-ever scorer in their 2-2 draw with the Czech Republic.
“Given the choice between what they did for their clubs and what they did for me, I would always choose what they did for me,” says the coach. And some of the biggest and most criticized calls have been proven over time as well: Danny OlmoAnd the pedryAnd the drymaybe even Eric Garcia Currently.
The obvious example is Iago Espace, the best way to explain his approach – not least because it’s a decision that seems hard to explain. Aspas is the best Spanish striker that has been around for a long time. Not accepting it seems downright silly at times. He deserves to play for Spain. Watch it weekly with Celta and it’s almost impossible to fathom why he didn’t get the call. But, then, is it worth? It is not about entitlement.
Take this answer from Luis Enrique – which, it must be added, wasn’t explicit about Aspas but kind of feels as if it applies to him at least as much as it applies to everyone else:
“When journalists look at a really outstanding player at a given moment, they do it in the context of his club,” the Spain coach said. “But in the context of his club, this player is number one and everyone plays with him. He scores all the goals, he doesn’t defend. The context of the national team is completely different. Here the team doesn’t play for one player, we all play for each other. We all attack, we all defend. I had a lot of these players that the media are asking for, and they came here and that’s what happened.”
“The team is not simply made up of the 11 best players in La Liga. It’s not just: pick the one who gets all the goals. You’re looking for a choreography. What I want is a team that goes to the match from the first minute, regardless of the outcome: we don’t go deep, We always take risks, we keep pressing high. When we have to defend, we want to get the ball back as fast as we can. That’s how we have always played since I’ve always been here. That’s what I want the team to do and I look for players who explain our idea of playing better” .
It’s a non-negotiable and inevitable idea, too – there, in their ear, the voice of his master chasing the players across the field.