My first chance to work on the bench was with Real Madrid’s youth academy. I had the option of coaching Second Division, but I was conscious that I was not ready to start at that level.
I worked with Real Madrid’s División de Honor, the jewel in the academy’s crown. With good players, too: Borja Valero, Rubén de la Red, Kiko Casilla.
I began with two notebooks that my friend José Luis Oltra gave me. With those notebooks, I started a method. It was the beginning.
One summer I got a call from Getafe, a team that had gone up to the First Division for the first time. At Real Madrid, they saw it as a risky prospect. I also saw it like that.
When you start as a manager, you’re fearful of taking risks.
It’s like that partly due to the environment we operate in. Everything is so fast and pressured. In the end, you rely on results. Nothing else. That’s why you’re fearful.
But it’s important to believe in what you do. I wasn’t 100 per cent sure, but I knew it could work out well.
“Once we had beaten Liverpool in the semi finals, I knew we were going to win. We had done the hardest part”
Apart from that, I think I went to coach Getafe because nobody else wanted to. It was an unusual situation, where the manager who had taken them up, Josu Uribe, had already signed with a different team.
All of a sudden, Getafe was in the First Division, but without a manager. They went on discarding names until they got down to the last brave one who wanted to face the challenge. In my case, I had a lot to gain and little to lose.
That was without a doubt one of the best years in my career.
Being at Valencia was different. It was a more difficult project, because the team had only one season before I arrived won the league with Rafa Benitez.
You can’t control people’s ambitions, of course, but what we did was highly valued. We were contracted to get the club into the Champions League, and we did that in consecutive seasons.