He loves technique, skills and tricks...
WHAT will Ricardo Moniz bring to Notts County? Well, precisely 96 different ways to beat a defender for starters!
“That’s what he used to tell us,” said Tom Huddlestone, who worked with the Dutchman at Tottenham under Martin Jol. “And he wasn’t lying – Ricardo taught an amazing amount of little tricks and skills.”
Yes, Moniz is the anti-Mourinho. If the Portuguese is to football what Brutalism was to architecture, then the new Magpies boss is the game’s Gaudi, all frippery and flamboyance. Moniz is a man for whom team and tactics should always be secondary to individual brilliance.
In the era of prozone and percentages, that may sound hopelessly naive. But as we watch the likes of Harry Kane and Ryan Mason tear up the Premier League, it is worth remembering that much of their development sprang from the blueprints Moniz left behind.
“Ricardo left a lasting impression,” said Spurs goalkeeping coach Rob Burch, a player during Moniz’s three years as a coach at White Hart Lane under Jol.
“He did a lot of work with players on the technical side and his legacy was such that a lot of the drills and sessions he brought to the club are still being used now.”
To understand Moniz, we must first understand the teachings of Wiel Coerver, a pioneering but largely overlooked Dutch coach nicknamed ‘the Albert Einstein of football’.
Coerver, who died in 2012, believed for many years that modern training methods were deeply flawed, with a devotion to shape and tactics hindering individ- ual expression. “Not one percent of the top players can pass an opponent,” he said in 2003.“I do not mean one time or so, but regularly, as Garrincha
Matthews could. It is a question of better and more training.”
This, then, was the Coerver method, a style of training that focussed almost exclusively on developing flawless technique, inspired by watching endless videos of the world’s finest players.
Under Coerver, players didn’t just ‘hit the target’. They learned how to shoot perfectly with both feet, to hit a specific area of the goal, to fool a goalkeeper
or chip him from any distance. Players were told to walk home from training with a ball at their feet, tricks were actively taught, viewed not as showboating but as invaluable tools of the trade.
Perhaps the most famous exponent is Arjen Robben, whose infamous selfishness was encouraged by Coerver during the Bayern Munich’s man’s formative years at Groningen. “The best players take no notice of assholes on the side of the pitch that say they must get rid of the ball,” said Coerver. “Arjen is like that. So was Cruyff.”
So where does Moniz come in? A competent but unremarkable defender who bounced between Holland’s top two tiers, the 50year-old met Coerver at a motel in Eindhoven in the late 90s and from that moment on was a devotee.
A youth coach at Feyenoord, he worked with a young Robin van Persie, then managed the youth team at PSV before joining Jol as ‘skills coach’ at Spurs in 2005.
Huddlestone credits Moniz with improving his long-range shooting, Jermain Defoe with his sleight of foot. Gareth Bale was another who spent hours on the training pitch honing his talents.
It was, however, the younger generation – the likes of Kane, Mason and Danny Rose – who benefitted most.
“Ricardo did a lot of good work with the club developing some of our younger players coming through the reserve team,” said former Spurs skipper Ledley King.
“You saw that they all really improved technically from work- ing with him, especially the really young players, the kids of ten, 11 and 12. Ricardo would be there for hours in the dome of the Spurs Lodge training ground, teaching them tricks and skills.”
Though a popular character with players, management was a long time coming. It wasn’t until 2011 that Moniz became head coach at Red Bull Salzburg, yet the wait was worth it as he became the first manager in Austrian history to secure a League and Cup double in his debut season.
Initial success has, however, proved difficult to sustain. After leaving Salzburg due to a clash with club directors in the summer of 2012, Moniz moved to Hungarian giants Ferencvaros, only for his middling 18-month tenure to end in the sack.
Brief stints at Lechia Gdansk in Poland and German side 1860 Munich also yielded little success, dismissal from the latter coming just six months into a two-year contract.
Now Notts County have offered a chance to rebuild in England’s third tier.
“It was always my dream to return to England,” said Moniz, who has made no promise about keeping struggling County in League One. What he will bring, says 1860 chief of sport Gerhard Poschner, is passion.
“Ricardo is obsessed with success, and very emotional,” he said. “He is never satisfied and defeat just eats at him.”
PASSIONATE: Ricardo Moniz gets his message across to his players
PLAYING DAYS: Moniz in action for Haarlem in 1985