Mon. Oct 26th, 2020

Maradona, Johan Cruyff and Jose Mourinho are Alejandro Menendez’s all-time favourites

3 min read

Kolkata derby takes a back seat as Alejandro Menendez reveals how he fell in love with Cruyff when he watched the Dutchman live…

Alejandro Menendez is popularly known in Spain for the work he has done as the youth coach of Real Madrid Castilla and briefly as an assistant to Jose Mourinho during the Portuguese’s stint at the Santiago Bernabeu. 

Alvaro Morata, Dani Carvajal, Iago Aspas, Marcos Alonso are some of the few names who have trained under him during their formative years. But surprisingly, when he was asked about his favourite players, Real Madrid players do not feature. 

“I have seen Johan Cryuff and Maradona play live. I don’t know what to say who is better. But when I saw Cruyff I fell in love,” said Menendez to Goal on the eve of the Kolkata derby. 

However, his favourite manager happens to be the current Tottenham-boss Jose Mourinho. 

“For me, Mourinho is the best coach. I have worked with (Manuel) Pellegrini, (Fabio) Cappello, (Vanderlei) Luxemburgo. But Mourinho is a class apart. I don’t know whether he is the best, as I have not seen  (Pep) Guardiola closely. But Mourinho has got success in various countries, leagues. So he is a top coach,” opined Menendez. 

But the East Bengal coach was equally full of praise for the Barcelona style of football. 

“I really appreciate the Barcelona style. You need players with a lot of skill to implement that philosophy on the pitch. You can only do that with top quality players.” 

In East Bengal, we have witnessed that Menendez has tried to implement the Spanish philosophy of passing football and playing out from the back. But, the coach has also shown tactical flexibility to rework his strategy according to the players at his disposal and keeping in mind the strength and weaknesses of the opposition. 

He went on to explain that there’s a lot of difference between a 15-year-old Spanish kid and an Indian kid. And a coach must find a balance between his philosophy and a playing style that would suit the players and help them grow. 

“I think it is a bit of both. It is important to have players who can understand your style and apply it. In that way, the player also develops and the good style is slowly implemented. Players whom I trained in Real (Madrid Castilla) were chosen ones. So they were definitely very talented. But it is not only skills. They are mentally strong and competitive. When we recruit it is your job to develop them so that they can become good professional players. For that, you need high-quality training to make capable of facing stronger teams. 

“The difference between Indian and Spanish players hinges on what the Spanish players did before. As a 15-year old you would have already done a lot of hours of high intensity, good quality training. Moreover, they can watch very closely how the best players train and play. They have the mirror very close to them. This background helps them to get better,” discussed Menendez. 

In 2007, when Mourinho was the Chelsea manager he made a remark about omelettes and eggs before a UEFA Champions League clash with Rosenberg. 

“It is omelettes and eggs. No eggs – no omelettes! It depends on the quality of the eggs. In the supermarket, you have class one, two or class three eggs and some are more expensive than others and some give you better omelettes. So when the class one eggs are in Waitrose and you cannot go there, you have a problem,” remarked the special one. 

Menendez has been able to bring out the best from some of the young talented players like Manoj Mohammad, Asheer Akhtar whereas others like Samad Ali Mallick have shown considerable improvements under his regime. In spite of that, he happens to agree with Mourinho’s observation. 

“The quality of players do have an impact. If you have medium quality, you get an average style of football. You cannot achieve many goals. You can definitely improve their quality. But you cannot turn ‘nothing to everything’. A very accurate example from Mourinho,” said the 53-year old in jest. 

Now it remains to be seen what quality of omelettes, the eggs currently in his basket produce when they go up against arch-rivals Mohun Bagan on Sunday evening. 

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