We were both believers in the method. In the way of doing things. Our first priority at any new club was to convince the players of the importance of being professional full-time. On and off the pitch, during training sessions, before, after and during competition.
We wanted to make them realise that yes, for all of us the most important part of our life is our family. But once you know that your family is well, there cannot be anything – anything – that can take any minute of your life over football. Always, the priority has to be football. This was what we tried to make the players feel.
Rafa’s methodical approach was deep-rooted in me, also. It was normal. I wouldn’t understand training in any other way. I think the analysis is one of the most important parts of the training because, whatever you do, it has an effect – positive or negative, better or worse.
You have to analyse what happened, why it happened, and try to find the solutions if the result is not the one you are looking for.
In our first year with Extremadura, we got promoted to La Liga. But it lasted for just one season. After that, we decided to leave. We had another year on the contract, but we wanted to be in the first division.
“Carragher and Gerrard were curious. They always wanted to know why. They wouldn’t accept what you told them just because you were in charge”
It was then that we first came to England to visit Manchester United for a week, to watch them train. I remember talking with Rafa then, asking him about the possibility of going to see Liverpool train as well. Because that was my dream, you know?
It had to wait. After a season out of work we signed for Tenerife, in the second division. Again, we got promoted into La Liga. This time we left to go straight into another club: Valencia.
The three years we spent there was a massive experience for both of us. We won La Liga twice and the UEFA Cup as well.
But when the call came from Liverpool? Well, it was exciting. It was the Premier League and, especially, it was Liverpool.
It was different.
In England, I think you become more a manager than only a coach, because you have to manage so many people.
Rafa used to delegate, of course, but he was never very long away from the pitch because he loves coaching. In Spain, we have not had this management culture for long – we are mainly coaches. So Rafa could not totally delegate the coaching part to the staff.
Coaching is in his soul, you know?