I hoped to do the same when I joined Deportivo La Coruna.
It was a more difficult challenge than Milan, though. The team was 18th in La Liga and without a win in seven matches, completely lacking in confidence. Physically, mentally, morally… the environment was depressed.
In this case, what you see on the pitch reflects how the players feel off it.
In the first week, I was mostly observing and getting information. Having done that, I started to put in place the interventions. The first thing I tackled was the organisation of everything – when and how to do the video analysis, when we have individual conversations with players, group sessions.
I drastically changed all that had been done before. You have to create a shock effect, otherwise you continue with the same routine. You don’t break the negative spiral.
“The biggest job for me was to keep them believing. Even if we lost, I would focus on the good things they had done”
And so we started training twice a day. Not because we wanted to kill them – it wasn’t about fitness, but about the commitment and focus that training requires, and getting a lot of time with them so I could understand who could do what.
Then it was about getting the leaders in the group together and making clear the things I wanted from them. It’s fundamental that you have a group of leaders who support the philosophy, support the coach. That is half of the job in terms of getting the team where you want.
We did that quite fast. It was clear that the will to work was there; in fact, it was fantastic. But confidence isn’t built in a day.
The first match was unfortunate. We lost 1-0 to Real Betis, but the team played with an incredible intensity. The same thing happened in the second game, another 1-0 defeat at Alaves. That’s when you enter a phase of doubt, when results are still not coming.
At that moment, the biggest job was for me to keep them believing. I would say the result is a consequence of what you do – the processes you have in place. My focus before matches, in terms of communications with them, was on that.
Even if we lost, I would focus on the good things they had done. “This is the improvement. This is the process that we are going through. It’s just a matter of time before the results will come, but we need to keep believing.”