The fourth Cup final between Basque clubs, the first between Athletic and Real , begins to be played between two legends from both teams and currently coaches from their respective subsidiaries. From rojiblanco, Joseba Etxeberria (Elgoibar, 43 years old), third player in the history of the Bilbao club with the most games played (514), after Iribar (614) and Txetxu Rojo (541). Blue and white, Xabi Alonso (Tolosa, 39), the son of one of Real's historic players – Periko Alonso – and perhaps the most internationally projected realist youth squad after his time at Liverpool and Bayern. Xabi thought this past Tuesday an offer to train Borussia de Mönchengladbach that he finally ruled out to renew with Real. As referee-moderator , Vicente del Bosque . The appointment is in Mondragón, halfway between their respective residences. Neutral ground.
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Del Bosque. You represent both clubs perfectly and now you are the coaches of the two subsidiaries. What feelings do you have about the final?
Xabi Alonso. For the Real it is a highly desired final. Fighting for a title again so many years later had become a great illusion. With the wait of a year, the desire is even greater. This final rewards a lot the work done over the years in Zubieta. You cannot speak of a favorite.
Joseba Etxeberria. The real shame is that it is going to be held without people . For Athletic, it also reaffirms a job well done. And in a few kilometers around we have Eibar, Alavés, Osasuna, who are competing with the best. I give 60 percent to Athletic and 40 to Real.
DB Why have you become technicians? What are your concerns?
JE In the last years as a player I began to analyze the teams and the possibility of training was beginning to appeal to me. I didn't think I was going to like it that much, really. I started seriously two years after I stopped playing. I have been lucky enough to experience the difference between categories in the same year. I was in Third with Basconia, then in Second B with Amorebieta and I finished in Second with Tenerife. I don't know if I like training more than playing, but what I do now I like a lot and I learn a lot.
DB Being a team coach has a different point than managing other teams. There is usually a working methodology. You look for the team and the club, but maybe others just look for the club. Do you have specific instructions regarding game systems, work model, or are you going for free?
XA In our case there are no instructions, but there is a project and you have to follow its lines. There are lines of succession. At Zubieta it is clear what is wanted for the first team and you have to adapt to that idea and you have to feel it. Then you are free to develop your ideas, your small modifications.
JE The philosophy at Athletic is similar. We have a very defined style of play. An idea installed on a social level. A very dynamic football, very fast, with a lot of intensity. A bit like it has been in much of history. Within that pattern, we have autonomy to decide the systems, the players, the planning of the year. There are some guidelines, but with freedom
XA What we want is to help the footballer to be better. Then, the good guys are sure to be able to play on any system and with different coaches. The good player knows how to adapt, he knows how to learn and he knows how to make his qualities as effective as possible. Helping to improve the players is being very enriching. Seeing players who work with you and go to the first team is gratifying.
JE The fact of seeing them grow, accompanying them on that path and seeing them in First fills you a lot.
DB You don't have to be a blessed or a saint, but a normal guy . The normality is to treat kids well. We also have the role of educating them. Many are not going to get anywhere and they also have the right to make mistakes. We cannot marginalize them or cast them out.
XA That is the great challenge, leading to the complicated one. To the one who is easy there is no problem. You have to make the effort with whoever it is most difficult for you. That is where you have to deposit your energy. If you get that one to learn, mature naturally, that's the greatest thing.
JE It is said that everyone must be treated equally and that is a lie. Behind each footballer there is a person and each one is different. The coach's secret is to reach out and convince. A minority will leave, so the important thing in training is that those players who do not reach the first team have enjoyed that process, that they want to go to San Mamés. That they feel part of the club and proud that they have also helped those who have thrown up.
XA We are lucky to be in two clubs that bet on the quarry. Players see it. It is a great motivation.
DB The important thing is that the players believe in you, that you transmit credibility to them. A coach has to be demanding, but you have to be careful with the one who is the most deviant. You have to turn to that.
JE In the end, Lezama and Zubieta are high-performance centers. We need competitive players, but stability is also important. That it is not seen in the club that everyone is lurching. It is not from one year to the next. It's a long process.
DB It may be a bit lyrical, but you have clear identity marks of how you want your teams to be.
XA In order for them to improve and develop, we try to be protagonists. Brave We have a very clear mirror in the first team and this is where we look to improve and arrive at that idea. Master the different times, grow with the ball. Do not wait and look for someone to come to look for you to find holes … We are not comfortable there. That is what we try to convey and they feel it that way. And so we define ourselves as a team. It is the idea that I feel and the one that the club wants.
Del Bosque, Alonso and Etxeberria, in another moment of the talk. / JHJavier Hernández
JE I try to convey what I felt as a footballer. I have known coaches who said that they as footballers would not play on their teams as a coach. As a coach I confirm what I felt as a player. In my teams it is non-negotiable that they are very intense, that the ball goes very fast because that will allow you to go further. As much as possible, attack and defend forward
XA Joseba was a forward, I was a midfielder and I have been assimilating the experience from my position . I have been developing a personality that is reflected in how I am as a coach. I see football more from control, from how to dominate the situation and see everything that happens around you…
JE And I am more of vertigo. The good thing about soccer is that. All styles fit
DB You give a lot of laps to games, to training. There are technicians who, although they are very good, are a bit convoluted. I tried to be as simple as possible and the simpler it is, I think you are more modern.
JE I believe a lot in training. Everything is trained. The style, the mentality, the competitiveness. I give a lot of importance to the day to day. We technicians have to give it a lot of thought so that the player gets it simplified.
XA The improvisation is over. The different generations that we are entering we are taking off our boots, shirts … we have other rules. I take into account that, being young, in addition to their technical and physical qualities, they develop their own criteria. It is not telling them you have to do this and that's it. It is better that they read what they have to do, review the game, have their own criteria. It is not doing what the coach tells you, they are the ones who have to play and make the best decisions. That is what will make them better players.
Joseba Etxeberria, the last rooster
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JE We are here to help them. Soccer belongs to footballers. We have to have a plan to help them compete, but the key is in the decision-making of the player, even if he has an idea, a plan and a brand.
DB I have always believed a lot in technique. Xabi, who had him as a player, when he touched the ball, he enjoyed his touch. They enjoyed the ball. In the national team, the Xabi, Xavi, Iniesta came out and began to touch the ball with the interior and I listened to that touch and I liked it. I enjoyed that sound. You never saw some of them in that group and I wondered if they didn't like football…
XA Luis Aragonés used to say that the ball has music. When he listened to the rondos, before training, he always said that. Tac-tac-tac…
JE The key to the game is the ball. We have always liked football from the ball. In the playground, at recess … there was a ball.
XA Without technique there is no tactic. First you have to be good and you have to know how to dominate the ball so that things happen later. If the ball does not do what your feet want or the head commands… everything else will not come out.
JE But, of course, you need technically good players so that the head works better.
DB The balance between technique, talent and the order…
JE If you want to play fast and you don't have technically good and classy midfielders, it's much more difficult. And even more so now that there is so much equality, so much information, the engine room in the center of the field is key. It helps you to be balanced, it helps you play fast.
DB The midfielder always has the mentality of not standing, of showing up. The more people on the move you have on your team, the better for the ball keeper. If you have players who play walking, very standing, very standing, it is bad for the team.
JE In fact, the trend in current football is to have athletes who play football well.
Etxeberria, Alonso and Del Bosque pose during the match. / JHJavier Hernández
XA Athletes? No … You have to have players who are very good physically, not athletes …
DB There are skinny and tiny players who are very strong. We have known them all …
JE Iniesta is an athlete
DB It is true that a trend towards the physical returns, but there is no single recipe to say this is who is worth and this is not.
XA It is clear that now the greats Powerful teams that are dominating more are physically very strong
DB Chelsea physically swept Atlético. They didn't let him, impossible…
JE It's the trend. You have to be intense. Without the ball, the less you let your opponent think and the more you pressure him, the longer you will have it. You have to go steal or make mistakes. With the ball, if you have the ability to move it from one side to the other, that greatly impedes the opponent's defensive plan.
DB I see you with the determination and enthusiasm necessary to continue in football and have a long career as coaches. Soccer is to enjoy, not to suffer.
JE It is a daily learning process. The key is to enjoy and try to help the players.
XA I don't know if Cruyff said it, the most beautiful thing about football is playing it and the rest training it. When I was playing I was wondering if I would like to train… and I like it.
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