I’d had several proposals to start working in Spain, but then came the opportunity to go to Porto – one of the biggest clubs in the history of Portugal, with huge expectation in every competition they play.
It was a project about which I was passionate. I became totally immersed in it.
We had a first year that, I think, was superb in all aspects. We got to the quarter finals of the Champions League, and had a real chance of making the semi finals – that is, until the return leg against Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich.
It was a season where the players increased their value a lot. A sales record was reached in the history of the club, with the transfer of 11 players. It was a really productive year, and a very good experience for developing our idea.
The following year, after changing almost the whole starting 11, we were top until we lost against Sporting. It was our first defeat of the season in the Portuguese League, but the club decided to change the manager.
“When we left Real Madrid, we genuinely felt that there was still time to achieve everything”
That summer, I got the phone call from Villar. It was the start of a two-year journey with the Spanish national team in which we played against the best teams in the world without losing. We achieved qualification for the World Cup in brilliant fashion against a team with the pedigree of Italy.
I think the team was totally ready for the World Cup in Russia. Obviously, you don’t know what might happen in the competition itself, but we had hopes and dreams – and the players felt that.
It was a spell where we had the commitment of all the players.
As was the case when we were at Real Madrid, where I think we had a very good start. In fact, we had played some outstanding matches. But during games in which we were clearly superior to our opponents, we were unlucky in front of goal. We missed a lot of chances.
Every team faces situations like this at one time or another. Usually, during an entire season, the work you do balances out these sorts of scenarios.