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Roberto Martínez interview in El País

28/10/2014  Comments (25)  jump
The following interview by Jordi Quixano was published in El País on 27 October, 2014. It has been translated for ToffeeWeb by Greg Hunt.

I'm a pioneer of the passing game in England

Jordi Quixano. Liverpool, 26 October 2014

In his first training session as Everton manager, while the team was doing an exercise focusing on ball retention, he went up to one of the strikers and asked him: Do you know who Dixie Dean is? His question was met with a shrug of the shoulders. I couldn't have that! cries Roberto Martínez (41, from Balaguer in Lleida) from the chair of his office at Finch Farm, the Toffees' modern and stylish training ground.

It piqued him because when he signed on at Everton, he immersed himself in and was fascinated by the club's history — We've won the league nine times and that's not something to be aggrieved about as some fans think, but an advantage because that means that this team is destined to win trophies — and also by stories such as that of Dixie Dean, the first British number 9.

The reason for that is that, in the 1933 FA Cup Final, shirts were numbered for the first time, from 1 to 22. And Everton were given the first 11. So, of course, the number 9 was given to Dean, England's most prolific goalscorer, Roberto — or Bob, as he's known in England — passionately informs me.

He has now paused the video of the morning training session. It's interview time and he puts his heart into it just as he does with his work. It's a quick break, an indulgence he allows himself.

Question. How did you tell your father, your first role model in football management, that you were going to start managing?

Answer. I phoned him up to tell him that I was ditching our rule, the one that said that I mustn't hang my boots up while I could still run. But Swansea were willing to pay a fee to get me and my dad ended up encouraging me to do it.

This job is an obsession and if you don't approach it like that, football will move on without you.

Q. Who were your role models back then?

A. I've always admired tactical rebels, those who changed the philosophy of a club with their ideas. So, Cruyff at Barça, Toshack at Real Sociedad, Maturana at Valladolid

Q. Now you're the one people look up to.

A. You have to try not to listen to what people say because that's how you lose your way and football has a knack of putting you in your place. What I like is that I took on a real culture clash, in trying to understand a kind of football that was the opposite of everything I had been taught.

Q. Were you sure from the very beginning about what you had to do?

A. Very sure. My great challenge was to disprove that phrase that could be heard in the Championship and in League One and Two: that you can play well or you can win. I was a passer of the ball, not one to stick my foot in when there was a 50-50, so I played the tactical game that I knew, while respecting the culture I was in. I'm a pioneer of the passing game and possession football in England — and proud of it. And now there are a lot of teams who want to play with the ball and on the deck.

Q. What role did Guardiola's Barça play in that change?

A. It helped people to see that that way of playing was the future; it helped educate the fans who had thought that, to get to the opponent's goal, you had to give it to your Number 9. And now everything is much easier because young English managers want to have possession of the football.

Drinking was a problem, but people in the Premier League know now that excess has a cost.

Q. Other bad habits such as drinking have changed as well, haven't they?

A. Well you've got to watch them. 15 years ago, drinking was a big problem and the saying was that you work hard to play hard'. When I started out as a manager, I was very strict and then I realized that I couldn't go on like that. You can't take their culture away. Now I try to educate them and show them what they should do. And if a player doesn't want to do that, he has to know that I'll judge him only on what he does on the field. It's easier with the young players, not with the ones who've played 300 Premier League matches.

Q. Have you ever had to go and get a player out of a nightclub?

A. Once or twice, yeah. But not for two years now. People in the Premier League have realized that excess has a cost.

Q. But it's a competition of excesses, at least in financial terms. Your club, for example, is building a hotel at the training ground for the players and you're negotiating with politicians in Liverpool to build a new stadium. There's nothing like having money is there?

A. It's not about who's got the most, but who needs the least. And I learnt to work with very little. But in the Premier League, if you work for the long term, you can accumulate and save money.

Q. Money which is available to the manager — because you're consulted about every decision, aren't you?

A. Yes. Here, the manager is in charge of everything: he takes into account the playing philosophy, what the fans want, the short-term, medium-term and long-term projects, the development of the academy, how the budget is managed — everything. In Spain and other places, the entrenador [the coach] is only responsible for results and very often he's not even in charge of signing the players. But here, in contrast with other clubs who are owned by foreign millionaires, the chairman is a born and bred Evertonian, he's a fanatic. That's why my decisions are always supported because they're not financial decisions, but ones for the good of the club.

Q. Doesn't your job exhaust you?

A. No, I love this profession. But you've got to have enough energy because you're building something 24 hours a day. In the end, this job has to be an obsession and if you don't approach it like that, football will move on without you in the end. It's a passion, an obsession.

Q. But are you able to enjoy the other things in life?

A. Yeah, yeah, of course, but you have to prioritize and so you don't have much time left.

Q. How much sleep do you let your assistants have?

A. I understand that not many people are like me. But when you want to go from 250 to 600 passes with a team, there's a lot to change and a lot of work. Even so, I try to give them a bit of time off, and they've all stuck with me since I started out.

People don't know me in Spain. This is where I cut my teeth as a manager.

Q. Is that because you're a man of your word?

A. Yes, I am.

Q. Is that why you turned down Celtic and the chance to be Ferguson's assistant, amongst other jobs?

A. Of course. I was brought up to believe in human relationships. A deal's a deal. I could never have left Swansea if the chairman hadn't given me his permission. And it was the same with Wigan. I remember the day the chairman signed me up. He said: If we get relegated, you'll still be the manager. And if we get relegated again, you'll still be the manager. You'll be the boss for four years and, if you fail, the failure will be mine.' How could I walk out on someone like that?

Q. But now in England managers don't last as long any more. Why is that?

A. Because loyalty is on the decrease. There's a European influence in that: Sky Sports is on 24 hours a day and people see what's going on elsewhere. And then you've got the foreign owners, who want quick success and don't give you time to develop your philosophy.

Q. Would you turn down an offer from a club like that?

A. Everything in good time. It doesn't appeal to me now, but that doesn't mean I'd turn it down in the future.

Q. What about Spain?

A. People don't know me in Spain. This is where I cut my teeth as a manager. I've had a couple of offers, but they only want to give you one or two years. And I like longer term projects. Anyway, you have to be brave to see the way I work and then offer me something. I'd like to have that experience, but right now I love the Premier League.

Q. What's the Premier League lacking in order to be perfect?

A. It's an honest league, where people are straight with you, the referees let the players play, the players don't look to trick the referee (well, sometimes as a last resort, but not as a strategy), the fans respect the players and take on the blame if their team loses, there's a great variety of styles of play, no-one ever thinks they're beaten

Q. But what's it lacking in order to be perfect?

A. It's strange, but I don't know.


Reader Comments (25)

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Brent Stephens
1 Posted 28/10/2014 at 14:28:50
I read that and I get excited about our possible future (not at all incredible).

And I love his development of the young lads - which is an excuse to link to John Stones John Stones one of nine from the EPL having been nominated for the 2014 European Golden Boy award. Past winners include Lionel Messi, Wayne Rooney, Sergio Aguero, Cesc Fabregas and Mario Goetze!

Mark Boulle
2 Posted 28/10/2014 at 14:48:50
Cheers Greg. IÂ’m a Spanish speaker myself, so was interested to see how youÂ’d translated it - pretty flawless IÂ’d say :). I was just disappointed Roberto didnÂ’t wheel out the wonderfully meaningless Â’futbolisticamenteÂ’ at any point!

Are you a Spain-based blue? IÂ’m over in Madrid quite frequently for work if so...

The only thing IÂ’d say is RM is either being disingenuous or is not aware of his burgeoning reputation in Spain. Every time I go over there and get to talking football with taxi drivers, colleagues etc, he is well-known and respected. LetÂ’s just hope that doesnÂ’t mean heÂ’s on the radar of the big fish over there as a potential new boss just yet...

Dave Abrahams
4 Posted 28/10/2014 at 14:59:22
Mark Boulle, yes you are right Martinez is very well known in Spain and is always welcome at Spanish international get-togethers whenever the Spanish first team or U21s have a game.

Spain is most probably where Bobbie will finish up but I hope it is a long time in the future.

Greg Hunt
5 Posted 28/10/2014 at 15:17:30
Thanks Mark! It wasn't too hard I don't think - the most difficult bit was "agravio" near the beginning which I've translated as "being aggrieved about". I was a bit puzzled by that, but I can only think he meant that some people are unhappy that we haven't looked like adding to the 9 league titles in recent years. I am glad he didn't say "futbolisticamente" as it would have caused me a few more problems!

I live in Valencia. It's OK, but not too many blues though: if I go to the pub to watch the derby, I run into far too many Liverpool fans for my liking.

As for Martinez's reputation, I agree it's on the up over here. At the end of last season, one of the main pundits on Canal+, Julio Maldonado, said that he thinks he'll end up at Real or Barça eventually. Maybe Marti­nez hasn't realized that the perception of him is changing. Until a couple of years ago he really was unknown, but signing for us and doing things like loaning Deulofeu has brought him into greater focus.

Patrick Murphy
6 Posted 28/10/2014 at 15:35:07
I would imagine that managing Everton FC is a much higher profile job than we as Evertonians realise and obviously with Roberto being a Spaniard they are bound to take notice of what he does and how he does it. Hopefully he will achieve something of real merit before going abroad to one of the two big guns in Spain.
Paul Ferry
7 Posted 28/10/2014 at 17:27:48
Doesn’t mince words our Bobby does he: I’m a pioneer of the passing game and possession football in England — and proud of it’!
Brian Hill
8 Posted 28/10/2014 at 17:24:02
"It's an honest league, where people are straight with you, the referees let the players play, the players don't look to trick the referee (well, sometimes as a last resort, but not as a strategy), the fans respect the players."

Comments please.

Paul Dark
9 Posted 28/10/2014 at 17:30:36
It's a good interview, and RM comes across well – as he generally does in these situations.

Since I'm deluded to the point where I think Everton is the biggest club (not team) in Britain, it pains me to see him entertain the possibility of leaving is for a bigger/better job - but that's just realism, I guess. It would be great if he turned round and said "I'll stay here for life if I could." But, of course, again, unrealistic on my part.

I think what he says about the history of the club is spot on, of course.

Ajay Gopal
10 Posted 28/10/2014 at 17:14:55
He 'gets' Everton in a way that Moyes never did (I say that in spite of appreciating what Moyes did for us). I have said it a hundred times before and I say it again – we are very, very fortunate to have Martinez as our manager. 'He will take us to places that we never thought possible' (no, Phil Walling, not the Championship..!). He will get us our eagerly anticipated silverware and then inevitably move on.
Martin Mason
11 Posted 28/10/2014 at 17:42:33
I agree, I think it was an inspired decision to take RM from Wigan and I believe that he will take us as far as itÂ’s possible for us to get. HeÂ’s learning too so thereÂ’ll be disappointments along the way but after DM he is a breath of fresh air in every way.

I really like the bloke, his intelligence, humour and his humility are wonderful to see at a time when most managers canÂ’t string a sensible sentence together. He seems to have weathered the earlier storm and got us grinding out great results again and that is the sign of a good manager.

You can see that he has assembled a great squad despite our few resources and persuading EtoÂ’o to join us was a master stroke. What a player even in the twilight of his career. In short I think RM has given us hope when there was very little and DM has perhaps shown himself to be no loss.

Colin Glassar
12 Posted 28/10/2014 at 18:06:40
Greg, 'Agravio' in this sense means (I think) weight of expectations. I might be wrong as it is usually used in the context of an insult.
Wayne Smyth
13 Posted 28/10/2014 at 18:19:50
Brian, I read that too and did a double-take.

I think it's certainly a much bigger problem abroad, but there certainly is deliberate cheating that goes on a lot in our own league.

There are teams like our own where cheating is generally frowned upon or at least not encouraged, but you look at the top 4 and I think they are so desperate to maintain their stranglehold that they will attempt to deliberately con the ref to gain any advantage.

Greg Hunt
14 Posted 28/10/2014 at 18:19:11
Colin - it's interesting you say that, because that was initially more or less how I understood it. I was going to say something like "it shouldn't be seen as a burden".

But then I double-checked it in the RAE dictionary and it can't really be used with that sense (according to the dictionary, which is not infallible by any means). I asked my wife and she was puzzled, but that might be because I was asking here to read an article about football. The only way to be sure would be to ask the man himself...

Hello? Roberto? Are you there?

Colin Glassar
15 Posted 28/10/2014 at 18:34:59
Weight, burden, pressure are all acceptable but like you said we'd have to ask the man himself. Excellent translation btw.
Paul Hewitt
16 Posted 28/10/2014 at 19:41:44
I could listen to this guy all day.
Phil Grayston
17 Posted 28/10/2014 at 22:37:53
It could just be that Roberto couldn't find the exact word he was looking for, hard to believe as that may seem for one as linguistically gifted as him.

If he'd described our honours list as 'un lastre' ('burden') in reference to the weight of history on any Everton manager's shoulders and the handicap of our present financial situation, it would have made perfect sense to me; especially as someone who started following the Blues in the late sixties when our name was synonymous with style, skill and trophies.

The great thing about our manager, though, is that he is undaunted by the challenge of returning the glory days to us. Add this to his long-term vision and planning and I just can't help getting excited.

Great work, Greg, and if you've ever up in Barcelona, the place to meet up with fellow Blues is the Loch Inn.

Patrick Murphy
18 Posted 28/10/2014 at 23:14:23
I think what Roberto is saying about the '9 titles' subject is that we shouldn't be fretting because those triumphs represent what the club has achieved throughout its history and therefore can be used as a blueprint for future success – albeit it's far more difficult than in days gone by.

Basically he is saying that success is in the club's DNA and not every club in the country can lay claim to that sort of history.

Mark Taylor
19 Posted 28/10/2014 at 23:57:40
This is the bit I found interesting:

"When you want to go from 250 to 600 passes with a team, there's a lot to change and a lot of work"

I'm not at all convinced that is a good metric when I see our CB's faffing around at the back, but it is an interesting insight into modern football coaching, along the lines of, 'If we can do 600 passes a game, that normally means 60% possession and that gives you a 70% chance of winning or drawing the game, so how can we coach the team to pass it 600 times and who should we get to make the passes and to where?'.

Interesting thought. Is there a nominated team counter of passes? Is someone carrying a 'pass-ometer' like a pedometer?

As for RM moving elsewhere, eventually he will, one way or another, but the only two clubs demonstrably bigger than us in Spain are Real Madrid and Barça and to get a job at either of those, he will need to win trophies here first. Not easy for him but great for us if he can.

I also have a hunch that OFM has queered the pitch for 'over-achieving' managers at allegedly 'smaller' clubs to manage a 'big' club, so unless some magic is produced then his only reasonable bet is managing a second-tier club like Valencia and unless he is homesick or is sacked, I can't see that would be a progressive career move.

Drew Shortis
20 Posted 29/10/2014 at 01:46:30
I can't see Martinez leaving us unless one of the European superpowers comes in for him, and that's not going to happen unless he wins some (more) trophies and establishes Everton as a Champions League team.

I think people will take note of Moyes's failure at Man Utd. The step up was too big for him. He had won nothing with us, experienced very little top level European football, and was not used to the massive transfer budgets and huge egos that go along with it. I can't see Barcelona or Real Madrid making the same error in judgement.

I hope Martinez does one day manage one of those illustrious teams as it will mean he has achieved his goal of bringing glory back to Everton and he will leave behind a lasting legacy that his successors can build on, much as his successors at Swansea have done.

I think Martinez has learned to be more patient since the time he left Swansea for Wigan. Sure he got to manage in the Premier League much sooner, but it was with a club I would consider smaller than the Swans and one whose financial limitations meant he was unable to really ever progress.

At Everton he has the good fortune to have a Chairman who shares his long term vision and I think they are good for each other. I know Kenwright is not universally popular on this forum, but his lack of dollar does mean he isn't as likely to sack his manager at the first sign of trouble.

Fair enough, his resolve hasn't really been tested (our recent poor run wasn't really a crisis), but a lot of managers would have felt the pressure growing as their chairman looked on disapprovingly and I'm sure that tension radiates to the players, compounding the problem.

A very interesting article. Thanks for the translation, Greg!

Phil Walling
21 Posted 29/10/2014 at 10:56:18
It is indeed interesting to hear how much regard Roberto has for BK. Moyes spoke in similar terms about his boss and nobody could call him an arse -icker... (Until Fergie invited him round for tea, that is!)

I wonder sometimes if we've got said revered chairman all wrong but then I think of King's Dock etc, etc, etc... and question if this bloke at Leeds wouldn't do a better job!!!

Drew Shortis
22 Posted 29/10/2014 at 13:00:40
I think Martinez values Kenwright's passion for the club and the fact that he isn't necessarily looking for overnight success (though that would be great). The Everton project probably looked more appealing than many jobs as he can implement his long term plan without the constant fear of it being cut short if he falls just short of the Champions League and he won't be pressured into playing a certain kind of football for short term gain.

Champions League football is the primary mission as it will give us the financial boost we need to clear our debts and get into a modern stadium. The youth set-up will provide us with a steady flow of talent which Martinez is not afraid to utilize. If we can establish ourselves in the top four for a few seasons the whole outlook will be radically changed. Everton will be an attractive investment and hopefully if the right kind of investment comes along Kenwright will do what is best for the club (and sell for a handsome profit to boot), Martinez will get his recognition with a move to Barça or Real and everyone will be happy. That's the idea anyway.

Mike Allison
23 Posted 29/10/2014 at 13:31:15
Brian #8, if you're implying that you disagree with his assessment – as well you might, given the diving and play-acting we do see on a regular basis – then I suggest you think of it as a relative assessment. Compared to other major European leagues, and Uefa competitions, English football is still far more honest in terms of those sorts of things. Unfortunately this is mainly because the others are so bad.
Greg Hunt
24 Posted 29/10/2014 at 13:49:03
I think you're spot on there Mike.
Aidan Wade
25 Posted 29/10/2014 at 13:34:15
The man is a pleasure to listen to. He radiates an unpressured positivity that must be great on the training pich.

I think Martinez telling a player he's a little disappointed about his late night drinking would be more crushing than a thousand Scottish hair dryers.

Imagine having to listen to Brendan or that ego in a suit, Mourinho all the time.

Anto Byrne
26 Posted 29/10/2014 at 08:46:35
The passing and possession in the last 15 minutes against Burnley ensured we kept their scoring chances down to an absolute minimum. In not too recent times it used to be all hands on deck, every man back for a corner, a massive hoof down the middle from Howard.

We would invite sides to attack us and we would respond by taking off forwards and bringing on defenders. Our slender margin (KITAP1) would be tested and IÂ’ve lost count how many times teams would get one back but I reckon over a certain 11-season reign it would be in double figures.

Our 136-year history had been blighted by 11 years of anti-football. Martinez is restoring our traditions, paying homage to our great players from all eras and instilling our sense of purpose while rebuilding the foundations of our club from its 136 years as a founding member.

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