Mas­ter­class Car­los Quieroz

The Iran boss on young man­agers, the traits that great play­ers share, and how to beat Barcelona

Australian Four Four Two - - CONTENTS -

Car­los, you’ve been both a first-team coach and as­sis­tant man­ager. What is the dif­fer­ence be­tween the roles? I’d say the main dif­fer­ence be­tween the two is re­spon­si­bil­ity. The man­ager is the leader and the one who’s en­trusted with mak­ing good de­ci­sions re­gard­ing ev­ery sin­gle as­pect of the team. In both roles, you must not ig­nore your prin­ci­ples and al­ways re­main loyal. You’ve been a coach since 1984. What tips would you give to the 30-year-old Car­los Queiroz at the be­gin­ning of his man­age­rial ca­reer? If I could give him one bit of ad­vice, I’d tell him to try to stay in a pos­i­tive mood at all times, re­gard­less of what foot­ball throws at you dur­ing your ca­reer. That’s a valu­able piece of ad­vice but also hard to fol­low be­cause, de­spite what a lot of peo­ple think, be­ing a man­ager is a very dif­fi­cult and de­mand­ing job.

A lot of younger coaches are com­ing through at the top level these days – why do you think this is?

There isn’t a se­cret recipe for be­com­ing a suc­cess­ful man­ager. It all de­pends on the in­di­vid­ual’s abil­ity to do the job well. I don’t be­lieve age is ei­ther a ben­e­fit or a neg­a­tive as­pect for hav­ing a ca­reer in this pro­fes­sion. What I do be­lieve is that the suc­cess of a man­ager al­ways comes from their knowl­edge, ex­pe­ri­ences and lead­er­ship, and these three fac­tors have no re­la­tion to their age.

Have you had to al­ter your coach­ing style over the years, and do you work dif­fer­ently with mod­ern foot­ballers com­pared to pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions?

Be­ing a step ahead of your time is not just an obli­ga­tion for ev­ery man­ager – it’s the only pos­si­ble way to suc­cess. If you re­ally want to be­come a suc­cess­ful coach, adap­ta­tion is a non-ne­go­tiable char­ac­ter­is­tic that you must have and then de­velop. Ev­ery great man­ager in foot­ball his­tory knew how to adapt to dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions on and off the pitch. Have I changed my style since my early days? The best coaches don’t change – they just im­prove! You have coached Cris­tiano Ron­aldo, David Beck­ham and Zine­dine Zi­dane. Do the great­est play­ers share traits? Def­i­nitely. They aren’t the best play­ers in the world be­cause of magic, luck or any­thing else. They are who they are be­cause of two cru­cial el­e­ments. First, an in­tel­li­gent, sys­tem­atic and in­tense man­ner in how they pre­pare for ev­ery train­ing ses­sion and take care of their minds and bod­ies away from the pitch. The se­cond, which I strongly be­lieve in, is that su­per-ath­letes are men­tally and psy­cho­log­i­cally stronger than nor­mal ath­letes, and this dif­fer­ence means the great­est play­ers are of­ten a frac­tion of a se­cond ahead of the oth­ers. You helped Alex Fer­gu­son (be­low) to pro­duce a tac­ti­cal mas­ter­class when Man­ches­ter United faced Barcelona over two legs in the 2008 Cham­pi­ons League semi-fi­nals. How ow did you get the play­ers to un­der­stand your in­struc­tions? The sim­ple game has four cru­cial el­e­ments: space, time, num­ber, and the har­monic mix­ture of all three. You will find some sides who are usu­ally dom­i­nant in space, oth­ers in time, oth­ers in num­bers. The qual­ity of that spe­cific Barcelona team made us be­lieve that United could not ap­proach the match fo­cus­ing on num­ber or time. So we planned to ap­proach the semi-fi­nal try­ing to dom­i­nate the space el­e­ment. This meant try­ing to con­trol the zones of the pitch where Barcelona nor­mally beat their op­po­nents. In sim­ple terms, we man­aged to oc­cupy the key spa­ces of the pitch be­fore Barça could use the same spa­ces to hurt us.

How were you able to deny Barcelona space in both legs, stay or­gan­ised and main­tain con­cen­tra­tion?

The idea of what we wanted to achieve in the two games was the start­ing point for us. This meant we had very clearly de­cided what we wanted and needed to do. Then you have to work hard and pick the cor­rect prepa­ra­tion meth­ods to help get the job done – and that’s what we did. We were com­pletely sure about what we had to do against Barcelona, which was beat­ing them by oc­cu­py­ing the cru­cial spa­ces of the pitch. And we all un­der­stood that was some­thing we could not give up or for­get for a se­cond of those 180 min­utes.

Do you think some coaches are try­ing to over-com­pli­cate the game?

Yes. I’m not re­ally a fan of this cur­rent ten­dency to in­tel­lec­tu­alise the game – foot­ball is a sim­ple game. I am to­tally con­vinced that sim­ple ap­proaches are the best way to make all of your play­ers un­der­stand what you want from them. In foot­ball, as in life, the ones who can un­der­stand are the ones who dom­i­nate. I grew up play­ing a lot of street foot­ball, where the game gets played freely and im­prove­ments come nat­u­rally to peo­ple, with­out push­ing. push­ing Then I be­came a man­ager who re­ally be­lieves in the essence of the game, and it’s all from sim­plic­ity. If I a coach tries to rein­vent this logic, they are go­ing in the wrong di­rec­tion. di­rec­tion I’ve been de­fend­ing this phi­los­o­phy for years.

“Su­per-ath­letes are men­tally and psy­cho­log­i­cally stronger, so the great­est play­ers are a frac­tion of a se­cond ahead of the oth­ers”

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