Eusebio Sacristán tanca la seva primera temporada/ FOTO: Arxiu FCB

Before sitting on the Miniestadi bench, Eusebio Sacristán was at Celta Vigo in 2009-2010, and was one of Frank Rijkaard’s assistants while the Dutchman was in charge at the Camp Nou from 2003 to 2008. Last summer he took over at the helm of FC Barcelona B as a replacement for Luis Enrique. The team finished eighth in the second division with 59 points.

How was your first year as manager of Barça B after working as the assistant manager of the first team under Rijkaard?

“It has been a very exciting experience. It was a huge motivation to coach this team. When I stopped working for Frank [Rijkaard], I decided I wanted to be a head coach. From my first position in Vigo, I learned what a passionate job it is, and found that as head coach I could put into practice the things that motivated me, which are thinking about football every day and also working with people and groups and helping them get the best out of themselves, on an individual and group level. I was thrilled to be able to do that at Barça, which I understand to be the perfect place, where I can work as I like, at a club with a clear philosophy. And it helps that all the teams follow the same methodology, and one I already knew. It was very easy for me to adapt, it was like a homecoming”.

Was it a problem to follow on from a manager who had been here for three years and had won one promotion and finished third?

“No, it was a challenge. I had to show that I have clear ideas, knowledge and motivations, and that gave me a lot of confidence. The same confidence that Barça reinforced. I know that my knowledge can be applied to any club, but I am also convinced that it is here that I can make the best advantage of them. All the concepts we learned from Cruyff and everything that we developed under Frank are here. I was convinced that this is a place where I can perform at my highest level, and I also had the challenge of following on from what Luis Enrique had achieved in his time here in terms of results and performances. It was time for me to do my little bit. I was sure that this was the place and that this was a team where I’d fit perfectly.”

What is a reserve squad like? Is it what you expected, or have you come across differences?

“Yes, a reserve team involves lots of young players, which is positive in many ways, such as the motivation, ambition and energy they have, but on the other hand they still have to discover what it is like to compete professionally at this level and they have to adapt to that.”

That they shouldn’t think about their dreams of first team football, but that they should think about the team, and that makes it harder …

“Quite. A team that is so young has such big hopes, and in many cases they are personal objectives. If these are put ahead of the group, its strength is weakened and there isn’t the right energy for the team to perform as well as it can.”

These players are used to winning everything, but when they come to Barça B they start losing matches. How far is that a good thing?

“It’s very good. We all like to win, but you also have to learn to cope with defeats. This category is very good for assessing these lads’ qualities, because there’s competitiveness and it’s a good way of making them grow as players and learn to get through difficult moments.”

You seem to have played better against the stronger teams in the division than the ones lower down the table. Are these the kind of players that might perform better against First Division teams than they might against less stylish teams?

“There’s a bit of everything. I think we’re ready to compete against top quality teams but also against less stylish and more defensive teams. There’s a bit of everything, but it depends more on us than on our opponents. When the team has been at its most competitive, they have got good results in a very evenly matched division, in which every team makes very good use of the resources it has.”

There have good and bad streaks. How do you explain that?

“These depend on morale, which is quite common in this division. Being consistent means always having high morale and we have conditioning factors: players that play for the first team, the national team … We have to work to make sure that the positive streaks are as long and consistent as possible.”

Do you feel that the fans share the Club’s philosophy? The Miniestadi can be a bit empty.

“I think they understand it, and the people are delighted to see Cuenca or Tello or Thiago there. But logically, when summer comes around, they want to see new faces, because the Club knows that the team needs to be complemented with certain players, and not just from the youth teams, that’s the way we work and everybody understands that. The Miniestadi is quite empty, so we have to work to make our games more attractive and get more people to come.”

Are the players you sign picked to complement the team or are they picked because of future promise?

“We need to create a balanced side in every respect and that’s what we try to do. We’d like to have a young, promising and top quality team, but you can’t be sure how they’ll respond to difficult situations. Cases like Armando have done us a lot of good, he’s been through difficult situations and he’s helped us. I believe that to be the Club’s philosophy and it’s a good one.”

How much time have you had to analyse the youth players and to what extent can you intervene? Or is that more of a matter for the Club?

“When you really see how good these players are is when they compete in our division. They have quality and ability, but they need some time to adapt to football at this level. Some only need a month, others might need six.”

How necessary do you think it is to have a C team, which the Club folded some years ago?

“It was folded at the time, and I think there are other methods, such as loaning players out. We have the case of Isaac Cuenca, who was ready to compete once he’d returned and his progress opened the doors for him into the first team. In the reserves he might have taken longer. This has shown us that there are other ways and we have to be attentive and evaluate these things.”

Relationship with first team

How does the team respond when a player goes up to the first team?

“It affects everybody’s mood. Those that go up are excited; those that come down are disappointed. Players left behind get disillusioned. You have to keep an eye on all of them and try to understand them as well as you can. You have to make sure that the effect of these situations is as positive as possible.”

You played with Josep Guardiola in the first team. How is your relationship with him, in terms of players moving up and down?

“On a day to day basis, the direct communication is mainly between Tito Vilanova and Joan Barberà, who organise training sessions, call-ups … But when there are international breaks, we train together and these are a great chance to chat about different players in the team and to get his views, and for me to check things with him and for him to guide me with certain issues. We know each other and we have a lot of faith in each other. Communication has been very easy.”

Tito taking his place means nothing should change, which must be good for the players.

“It gives them a lot of peace of mind to know that there’s going to be continuity and they’re happy with the decision. It’s made people much calmer.”

In the first team next season there will be five or six players that have played under you. How satisfying is that?

“It’s very satisfying. My work will mainly be judged on that. This season there have been several promotions and it looks like there will be more next season. I know that they are top quality players and I’m pleased to have done my bit to make them better players.”

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