Josep Gombau hasn’t taken long to settle in the A-League. In his debut season with Adelaide he had the Reds playing the best football in the division, and the former Barcelona youth team coach was rewarded with the A-League All Stars coaching gig. Having recently spent some time in his native Spain before the All Stars training camp, The Blog FC’s friends at Inside Spanish Football sat down with the A-League’s favourite manager to talk his move to Australia, the All Stars concept and the Socceroos.
Josep, thanks for joining us at Inside Spanish Football. Firstly, tell us a little bit about yourself and your background in the world of football.
I’m the coach at Adelaide United [in Australia’s A-League]. I’m a Spanish coach and I started my career in my village Amposta and after I worked for seven seasons with FC Barcelona, the first three seasons coaching the kids in the academy and after I was the football director of the FCB Escola. After that I moved to Hong Kong to begin working with a professional squad. Last season I began managing Adelaide United in Australia.
After some success in Hong Kong, what made you choose Australia? Did you have any other offers?
I had a few different options, more in Asia than in Europe. I liked the A-League, I was following the league because it is one of the strongest leagues in Asia. Also the country, Australia is very nice, and so I moved to Adelaide.
What have been your first impressions of the A-League?
Very nice. I think it is a great competition, its very professional. There are a lot of things I like. I like the players, the way that they work. Australian players are athletes and professionals. I like the media too and the people following the league. I think it is a league improving year by year, and I like this a lot because I want to be in a place where I can grow in time and in this league I think I can grow as a coach.
What have you found different about football in Australia?
There are a lot of things. The culture in every country is different and you can see that in the sports. In Australia, people in sport are very honest. The fair play is something that I like a lot. In Europe, for example, the players try to trouble the referee, but in Australia they are more honest.
And the style of play there compared to Spanish football?
It is very physical. In Australia they follow the English Premier League a lot. The style is more direct, with long balls, second balls, crossing and heading. What I am trying to do with Adelaide is trying to have a more Spanish style, a Barça style. We are trying to keep possession of the ball and be the owner of the game, with a lot of passing and trying to play beautiful football that the fans enjoy.
How difficult is it to bring a completely new style to a different culture?
It is not easy. It needs time. In Adelaide the club is giving me this time. In our first games we played well but didn’t get the results because we made some mistakes and the opposition punished us, but the people in Adelaide and in the club were patient. You need time, even in this second season, but I hope the people will see a better Adelaide United.
After a tough start your performances got better and better and you finished in sixth place. How do you judge your first season?
I am satisfied, because to arrive in a place that you don’t know, implement a new style and to make the players believe in what you want to do is not easy. So after the first season I am very happy. If you ask me if we were successful, we only made the top six and just made the playoffs. But I am happy, and this is the first step and we have a basis for next season.
What are the goals for next season?
The goals sometimes don’t just depend on you, because year by year the A-League is growing and the other clubs are signing good players and everybody is doing a good job. For me, at Adelaide, we ant to improve on what we did in my first season.
I have three objectives which I want to implement. The first one is to try to play this style of football so when you see Adelaide playing you know the style. The second is to try to work with the youth teams, to create these players for our team, so that in the future you don’t have to buy because you create them. The third is that the Adelaide fans enjoy it when they come to the stadium so that when the game finishes they want to come back.
You have worked a lot in youth football. It’s clearly an important part of the game for you.
Yes and I think in Australia they need to invest more in the kids. The kids don’t play enough football to be a professional player. The culture in Australia is that the kids play different sports, but if you want to be successful in football, you need to concentrate on football. You need to invest a lot of hours working on it. Kids are playing football six months and then another sport. If you want to be a professional player you need to play 11 or 11 and a half months. Also the kids are just training twice a week, but you need to train, depending on the age, four or five times a week as well as the game.
La Masia is probably the best youth system in the world. What is the secret there?
I think the secret is investing a lot of hours with the kids. Of course we select the best kids in Catalonia, then in Spain, then in Europe or even around the world, like Messi from Argentina. But in the end, Barcelona invest a lot of hours with the kids, training four or five times a week, one hour and a half, plus the game. It adds up and in the end you can play better. Its not a secret, its just about investing hours and hours. That’s what we need to do in Australia.
Tell us a bit about the players you worked with at Barcelona.
They are young, but some of them are now starting to be professionals, some in Barça B. Marc Muniesa at Stoke City, Ignasi Miguel at Arsenal, Sergi Samper in Barça B who is a very skilful midfielder. There are a lot… Jon Toral and Hector Bellerin, who are at Arsenal now, Josimar Quintero at Chelsea. One player that maybe I coached more seasons and is now at a good level is Oriol Romeu, he left and went to Chelsea and now is playing in Valencia.
How do you reach that level?
When you are in Barcelona, all the players that you have are very good for their age. But after that whether they become a professional player depends on small details, like whether the team at the right moment needs someone in the position that you are.
David Villa will join Melbourne City on loan later this year. What sort of an impact do you think he will have in Australia?
A lot of impact. It is great news that a player like David Villa is coming to Australia. He is a winner. He won in Barcelona, in Atletico Madrid this season and is the top scorer for the Spanish national team. It is a pleasure that a player like this will play in our league and I think he can bring a lot of people to the stadium to see games and this is an important thing to improve the level of the A-League and to make the people love football in Australia.
You’ve been chosen as the manager of the A-League All Stars. What does that mean for you?
Last season I arrived and I saw the game on TV with Manchester United, and I thought ‘Wow, this is amazing’ and now one season later they chose me to be the coach and I am so happy for this. I need to say thanks to all the people that supported me. In the end I hope we can do a good job and play a good game against Juventus. I think the team we have will be competitive.
How do you approach these kinds of games?
I think these kinds of games can help to get people to follow football. We need to know that football is not the first sport in Australia and these games make people come to the stadium and come to see a European team. People can appreciate that Australian football is also good. I think it is important to play this all-star game every season because it makes people closer to the game.
It has been a tough season for Barça. As a coach how do you see their problems and how do they go about fixing them?
I think that when you win everything like Barcelona or Spain, after this, sometimes you need to make changes. The players want to play well but the team is getting old. In football, there is no memory. Every day is an exam, every day you need to be the best you can, every day you need one hundred per cent, and if one day you don’t give one hundred per cent, you can lose. In Barcelona, in this moment they need to change a lot of players. These players brought everything and they need to say thanks to them, but they are getting old and now is a new time for a new player. This maybe needs time to make a new team like this. But this is happening all the time, in Barcelona and in Madrid. Sometimes [Real] Madrid has a big team and win the league and then two years later Barcelona is the story of Spain. They just need to work hard to build a new team in as short a time as possible.
Is it also a case of other teams adapting to their style? Do the need to change a little bit?
In everything in life you need to adapt. Of course when Barcelona started to play this style nobody knew it and it was new. Now the other clubs know all the movements and you need to try something different. But in the end every team is competitive and you need to give one hundred per cent. For me its fifty per cent the players, they need to make a new step, you need to change, but then it is also the style, the other teams know it very well and they play to stop this football. You need to be smart and to try to do something different.
You have been away from home for a while. What do you most miss about Spain and living in your village Amposta?
A lot of things. The first one is the family, my parents, my grandma and my friends. When you go and live so far away from your country you miss these things. But in Adelaide I am so happy and people are so friendly. My family, my wife, my daughter, we are all happy to be there because the treatment we receive from the people in the club is amazing and also from the fans and the people on the street is very good.
What do you like about living in Adelaide?
Adelaide is a nice city. It is a quiet city and coming from a small village, when I am there I am comfortable. If you want to go to the beach, you have the beach, then there are the mountains, the wineries and the people. What I like most is the people, they are so friendly.
Do you think one day Australia will be able to go further in the World Cup?
I think yes. The Socceroos are working on a long-term project. They have a new coach, Ange [Postecoglou] and they are choosing a lot of young players, thinking about the next World Cup and also about the Asian Cup next January which will be in Australia. This is important. I think that in a few years they will get to the last sixteen and this is the target they are working for.
Our thanks to Josep Gombau and Adelaide United, for their help and participation.
This article was originally published on Inside Spanish Football, the number one Spanish-based English language website for news and views on La Liga, the Segunda Division and La Furia Roja.
Interview by Kieran Sobels – Follow @palabrasBarca
Video & Editing by Xavi Riera – Follow @xaviriera