What were your holidays like?
Short, but fine. I had 15 relaxing and happy days.
You left for a holiday late, but you look satisfied with the period you stayed in Madrid working.
I enjoyed it because it went by very quickly and I didn’t have a crazy desire for the holidays to finally arrive. It was a great experience to work personally with the President and with Jose Angel Sanchez. I liked the President’s vision for the club and its future. I think the way he thinks about the evolution of his Real Madrid is phenomenal. Jose Angel is a little like me: we work during the day and end up texting each other or writing e-mails till 10 or 11 at night. He never side-tracks from his family life, but he’s thinking about work 24 hours a day. I liked him very much.
This season is important because it comes with the birth of a new structure at Real Madrid.
Every season is important in its own way. This structure is here to help the team, not to complicate things. We have to instill life and dynamism into this structure. We have to give people who are responsible of many departments time to create a functional empathy and a new working method. I’m very glad to see there is great empathy between the people at the club and that they share a common goal to serve the first team and the players, who are the most important thing at the club. This cooperation is the essence of our work.
Zinedine Zidane seems to be much more relevant in this new structure.
I like that he’s working with us and that he personally decided to change his life and be part of this project. He believes in this and thinks he can help. He has a lot to offer, but he has also much to learn. It is one thing to be the best player in the world for many years and another to be Football Director of the First Team at a club as important as Real Madrid. His intelligence, calm nature and the fact that he is completely open to communicate make him a welcome addition to this group, in which everyone is excited to work together.
Are you satisfied with this season’s signings?
It isn’t easy to sign for Real Madrid because we have a very good squad and we earned important results last season. We won a title and nothing else because we didn’t win any more. We decided to improve on, and to balance out, the squad without losing track of having to come up with a team for the future. Coentrao is 23 years old, one year younger than Callejon. Sahin is even younger and Varane is an 18 year old kid. We never want to side-track from building a team for years to come that has large room for improvement and progress. We signed men we thought were important to improve on a squad that was already very good.
Is it the squad you had in mind?
I’m happy with the squad, especially when you think we’re still missing Higuain and Di Maria, who are very important to us. I, like everyone else, believe we need another striker. It’s fantastic to have more than 90% of the team you want by mid-July because it allows you to work in a different manner. Higuain and Di Maria already know the team and won’t need three or four months to adapt. We’re happy because we’re building something to last for a long time. This squad has ten years ahead of it.
It’s important to mention how the squad has increased its value since the start of last season thanks to the performances of men like Ozil, Di Maria and Khedira.
People may talk about the amount of money spent by Real Madrid in this new era of Florentino Perez, but if they compare the investment made with the value of the squad in the market they will realize it’s been fantastic. How much are Di Maria and Ozil worth today? They didn’t even know what great pressure in football was when they arrived. Think of Cristiano also. If Real Madrid wanted to sell him tomorrow (which I obviously wouldn’t want) they would make a profit. This squad has fantastic global market value and I am very satisfied with it.
How will the work be this preseason?
We’re here to work, improve and face other teams. I don’t want to win a preseason match 15-0. I want them all to be difficult. Los Angeles Galaxy are a complicated opponent because they’ve already played 14 or 16 league games this season. The same goes for Chivas Guadalajara and Philadelphia Union. The English, German and Chinese football cultures are different and will also be difficult, but we intend to do our best against our opponents. We did a good job last season, so we won’t start from scratch. We’ve assimilated some aspects of our game perfectly already and we can have a completely different start to last season’s. We want to be stronger by the time we play our first league match this year. We must start the season the way we ended the last, by playing attractive and offensive football.
It is the first time since 1985 that the squad has three goalkeepers from the academy.
There are four right now, which is unique to football. I can’t see any other side having three or four goalkeepers from its academy. They also represent three different generations of players. One of them is the best in the world. Another has been promoted from third keeper to second. Our two youngest goalies train with us now and we will decide which will be our third and which will play for Castilla every week. They can play for our second side while training with the first team. I believe this team’s goal may be kept by academy goalies for years to come.
This is also an important season for Castilla. You proved to count on them last season and you’ve proved it again this preseason.
It isn’t easy because we’ve got two objectives right now. One is the evolution of the players and the other is to get Castilla promoted to the Second Division so that we can organise the team differently. That’s why we still give some players the chance to play in the First Division, such as Juan Carlos, Mateos, Juanfran, Sarabia… They are good enough to play in a better league and playing in the Second Division B wasn’t good for them. People are wrong to think we let these players get away from us. When Real Madrid loans out or sells these players with an option to repurchase them they remain Real Madrid footballers. We can get them back whenever we want. We want them to experience a different championship. On the other hand, we also think Castilla can get promoted and that’s why we’ve kept players of a superior level, like Casado, Joselu, Nacho, Alex, Morata and Carvajal. They will be the core of the team next year and we want to find two or three players who can help coach Toril come up with a Second Division team.
This squad is impressive; it is 24.8 years old on average.
They make us feel younger. We have to adapt to their level. This is good for all of us. It’s positive for all. We have a team that must grow and may at times feel emotional weaknesses due to lack of experience. We have a squad that is potentially very good. I am delighted to work with them because they are motivated, they want to learn and they want to win. The coaching staff is delighted.
Why haven’t you given an interview in such a long time?
It isn’t necessary. So many people talk about me, feature me in their front pages, accuse me of saying things… I don’t need to talk. They do it for me.
Are you already thinking about the Spanish Super Cup?
No. The preseason isn’t there to prepare for the Spanish Super Cup. We will play the championship in the second week of August and that’s when we’ll think about it, despite the fact we’ll have many men with their national teams by then. During these first four or five weeks of training we won’t think of opponents or small competitions. We’ll just focus on preparing our players and coming up with the best team possible.
Isn’t it strange for you to play a match at 11:00 pm?
It will be my first time, but it won’t matter as long as the match is exciting.
One of the main goals this season is to win the Champions League. You will not be able to sit on the bench in the first few games. You’ll have to go to Nyon on the 28th. Have you already prepared your defence?
No, I haven’t. You don’t need to prepare anything when you’re saying the truth. It’s absolutely natural. I must have the right to think justice will be made and that I will be able to sit on the bench. If not, my coaching staff will be there. Real Madrid will be top seeded, something they weren’t in previous years, thanks to the great run we had in the Champions League last season. It allowed us to recover that status.
Who have you missed during the holidays?
I missed Manolin [an equipment manager]. Just looking at him makes me laugh.
You may have also missed your captain, Iker Casillas.
I haven’t had time because I’ve seen him travelling and enjoying his holidays so often. That story about me or Real Madrid wanting someone else to be the captain was very stupid. I understand papers have to sell copies and that they need to lie and lie when there is no football going on, but that sort of lie can be very damaging. He will always be a captain when he starts a game.
Did you speak to someone from the club on a daily basis during the holidays?
I spoke with Jose Angel Sanchez more than once a day.
It’s curious to see how excited you are with the new kits.
I like the gold names and numbers very much. I think our Champions League shirt will be rather new compared to those of previous years. I think this shirt will be very successful.
We’re in Beverly Hills, home to the stars. Which superstar would you like to see on the street?
I’d like to see Al Pacino.
Would you swap your life with that of a movie star’s?
Not even for one day.
Finally, what’s your objective for next season?
I want fans to feel proud of their team. I have a feeling we achieved that last season and I believe we can reach a new level of empathy in the positive relationship that exists between the team and the fans this year.