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Míchel, in his office at the athletics stadium, during the interview with SUR.
Míchel, in his office at the athletics stadium, during the interview with SUR. / Salvador Salas

"We are very tolerant of mistakes, but not bad attitude"

  • Míchel, Head coach of Málaga CF

With the club just six points above the relegation zone and an unenviable fixture list with the likes of Atlético, Sevilla, Barcelona and Real Madrid still to come to La Rosaleda, new coach Míchel is hoping to bring calm to a squad he believes in underachieving.

The former Real Madrid midfielder, 54, has been in this situation before, steering Getafe clear of relegation two years in a row and he believes he has what it takes to see off the threat of relegation and start looking towards a stable and prosperous future.

From his office at the city's athletics stadium, he spoke at length to Diario SUR about his ambitions for the club.

-After two weeks in charge and two games played, what's your diagnosis?

-I think we all agree that we have a good squad but the objectives set at the start of the season were a bit absurd. Having analysed how we're training and how we're playing, it's clear that there is an element of stress. We're working hard, as is necessary in this situation, but the problem lies in transferring all that good work onto the pitch. They're already worrying about results but we're working so they can express themselves without this burden.

You said recently that the team's objectives were ridiculous and now you say they are absurd. What should a team who finished eighth and with a budget of 70 million euros reasonably expect?

The idea is to look upwards from eighth or ninth, of course. But little by little. You might finish eighth or ninth one year, but circumstances can change very quickly. And let's not forget that there could be just five points between eighth and sixteenth. We all start with zero points so it's logical to take it day by day.

The squad has a lot of experienced players in it who shouldn't be feeling such pressure. What's happening with them?

This can happen to players at any time, anywhere. Some players feel at ease wherever they go while others, who come from smaller teams than Malaga, may find it difficult to adjust to the expectations, the level of support, the city. And no matter how good they are, if they can't adjust, they can't perform.

When I was at Getafe we made it to the UEFA Cup (Europa League), but that was during a season when our sights were set a lot lower. You have to be realistic. The weight of expectation can be too much.

At the start of the season, the squad was lacking a centre forward. Do you think this is still a priority?

From what I can see, I don't think the biggest gap in the squad is up front. The squad, for me, is good. There are few teams in the league with better forwards than us. Nonetheless it's inevitable that some players won't be here next year so we will have to see what finances will allow us to do. I like to build and look forward to working with the sporting team to put together next season's squad.

-You've always said that you were a coach that adapted to what you had.

-Yes. That way, nothing surprises you. When I was at Olympiakos we lost three or four players every year; at Getafe we sold 30 million euros of talent every summer.

Given the current situation, what work needs to be done before the end of the season?

If I could give my players one of my qualities, it would be my calmness. With that comes confidence and security. I'm convinced that the whole dynamic will change once we win a game. We're in a very stressful situation but we have to look on the bright side: we've only taken one point from six yet we're no worse off. When I took over at Getafe, we were just one point off the drop zone. What my experience taught me is that you have to be calm; you cannot develop anything any other way. The players suffer otherwise.

Since you've come in you've made changes such as dropping Demichelis. Will there be more?

There will be changes every week. Not only must we get out of this situation, I have to look to the future. I will be here next year, and I need to be able to form an opinion about the players so we can build. Some players with contracts past the summer know than they have to wake up in the next two-and-a-half months. No one can afford to be comfortable. I will keep making changes until we find a settled formula we can trust in.

-Do the players respect you more because of your illustrious playing career?

That lasts two minutes. I speak to them the same way as I would my children, my friends. They know that I'm here because I want to be here; that I love the stress and the anxiety. I think it helps that I was a footballer too; I'm asking them the same as was asked of me: train hard and live a disciplined life. We are very tolerant of mistakes, but not bad attitude.

You know the sheikh and almost everyone at the club by now. What's your opinion of the set-up?

It seems that the club has a good structure and high-level infrastructure. The academy is in good shape and the arrival of Casanova and Arnau has ensured good foundations are in place.

-Did you know much about the city before?

-Of course! The week before I signed for Malaga I had offers from other clubs but this was the one I was waiting for. When I knew Javi Gracia was leaving, my main objective became this job. But then Juande Ramos took over and I had to wait.

What did you think of the fans during the Alavés game?

It was something I was expecting. On the street, no one was saying "we're going to go down". Everyone was behind the team and they will be behind us again when we take on Atlético.

Style

-We know that you like to play attractive football, putting you more in the school of Guardiola than Mourinho. What will we see from Malaga?

A combination of Guardiola and Mourinho! Of course I like to play attractive football but we have to compete. In Malaga they don't know any other way. They have a way of playing here and I believe it's compatible with my philosophy.

Which of your coaches influenced you most when you were a player?

Many, but for different reasons. I had many good coaches, such as Amancio Amaro who believed in me and brought me into the first team. Then there was Leo Beenhakker who was an innovator, bringing great tactical knowledge and advances to the Spanish game. Luis Molowny was a great man manager... I learned a lot from all of them, even the negative things.

-At which clubs were you most comfortable as a coach?

-At those where I was able to build. That was the case with Getafe and Olympiakos. At the rest, there were complex circumstances: at Sevilla, the whole club was unstable. The less said about Marseille the better... The people were great but the president was on another planet. I like places where we can build a project. Losing players isn't such a big deal for me when I know there will be replacements.

I know you like to talk more about football than footballers, but do you see a bit of yourself in Ontiveros?

No, Ontiveros is a raw talent. A force of nature. I had to adapt a lot because I was a centre midfielder, a Busquets, and found myself on the wing because there was too much talent in the middle. But Ontiveros is blessed with pace, trickery and can do the unexpected. He just needs to learn to produce at the right moment.

I was more of a Pablo Fornals, a utility man. I said to myself: "Either you knuckle down and adapt or you're not getting in this team!"

You're at Malaga now, but do you hope to one day manage Real Madrid?

No. We'll see, but I've not even thought about it. People who know me know that I'm telling the truth. I want to be here a long time, a very long time. Doing that will mean we've done a good job and that we've continued growing as a club and built strong foundations. Just look at Villarreal. Why can't we aspire to the stability they have?