But then my replacement, Lito Vidigal, struggled – so the owner came back to me. In 2017, I agreed to do one – just one – season as manager.
I’d been in Tel Aviv for a long time. My father had passed away in 2016, so being close to my mother and my kids suddenly felt much more important. So after that year, I ended my time in Israel. I needed to be back in Barcelona to refresh.
I took some time to talk to other coaches, other sporting directors, to share ideas and talk about methods. Football keeps on changing all the time, so it’s important to stay up-to-date wherever possible.
It’s important to retain the drive to keep improving, to be open-minded and learn how others do things, how others solve problems. I had a chance to learn in my own time.
But then a call came from Chinese Super League club Chongqing, from Antonio Cordón – who was in charge of the sporting strategy of the company that owns both that club and Granada – with a very good offer. I’ve always liked the idea of taking on new, mysterious challenges, so I dived into this one too.
“I’ve always been understanding towards players, because I was a young player myself and I made mistakes”
When I arrived, it dawned on me how big a challenge this was. The team had only taken five points from a possible 27, and there was a negative dynamic around the place. I had to speak to most of the players through a translator because nobody spoke English. And I didn’t know anyone.
But I came through that challenge well. We managed to turn the season around, and that gave me huge confidence as a coach going forwards.
It led to me getting the job as Ecuador manager, which once again came through Antonio Cordón, who took up the role as the director of football at the Ecuadorian Football Association – though that was disrupted by the global pandemic and no matches took place. Then another call came from China – this time with Shenzhen FC.
I’d missed the emotion of training every day, of playing every three or four days. I loved the intensity of it. And it was another experience to learn from.
Coaching is a never-ending journey of new experiences, and I’ve loved jumping into new challenges wherever I’ve been able to. Each time there’s been a chance to learn something new, I’ve taken it.