The only place I went to alone was India.
We decided to do this because it was a short-term job for four months. The offer came to me via Atletico Madrid: Atletico de Kolkata (now ATK, above) was a team at that time associated to Atletico. I already had an offer from another team in the Indian Super League, but when you don’t have any previous knowledge it can create doubts.
In this case, I thought that if I went guided by Atletico Madrid, I would at least have some order.
Contrary to what outsiders might think, India is not so different. Nor was Hong Kong or Mexico. I always say that football is football everywhere. The basis of the game is the same.
However, each country has its own characteristics, and football there is developed according to its history and its resources. Of course, it is not the same thing to manage in Spain as in Hong Kong, or in Hong Kong as it is in India. But, at the end of the day, coaching the team is the same.
You have to be accountable to the president and the fans who want results. This is the same in any part of the world.
“It is all about taking your team to the place where you want, even renouncing the things that you would like to do”
Within the team, you also have the same roles everywhere: the stars, the ones who are more professional, the team players… the roles you can see in a Spanish team, you would find in any other country. He who is a star in India, even if not well known internationally, is a star in his own country. He expects to be treated as such.
In India, one additional conditioning factor was added: the duration of the championship. Being so short, you prepare for it as much as you can. We had a month’s pre-season in Spain – a time when we tried to establish the basis of what we wanted to do – but we couldn’t have the whole squad during that time.
A week before the start of the league, we went to India. Eight players joined before the first fixture, with four of them due to be in the starting line-up for their quality and the role they played.
In this instance, you have to do an express job. You have to prioritise. Be aware that you have to get a result the first day. With the competition being so short, if you lose from the start you know you won’t achieve the goal. So you have to make the most of every minute. To know where you are going to get a performance from, and what is going to be easier for them to assimilate.