Who was the best player I managed?

Whenever the Uruguayan radio station Sport 890 calls me and I have a gap in my diary, it’s always a pleasure to chat to them about football. On previous occasions we have discussed the current world of football and they have made a fun quiz for me. 

This time, we remember moments from the 1995 Copa America, which Uruguay won, we speak about Uruguayan footballers and much more. Below, I leave you with a summary of the highlights, but you can listen to the whole interview here.

How would you prepare yourself to manage the national team in the post-Tabárez era?

By managing in the best leagues in the world and by managing players with the biggest egos. I think for the national team, it is very important to be able to manage egos and to get to know each player’s personality, especially when there are so many good players with so many egos like in Uruguay. 

I don’t agree with the phrase “this manager is good because he treats everyone equally”. You obviously respect and talk to everybody equally, but anyone who has managed will know that if you have a player like Messi, you’re not going to treat them the same as everyone else.

Tell us about that last penalty in the 1995 Copa America

When Álvaro Gutiérrez went to take the penalty, he knew where he was going to place it. Luckily, Taffarel didn’t. Gutiérrez wanted to take it no matter what, he was the most confident and always hit them hard. I thanked him a lot, as I was the sixth penalty taker and I was the most nervous at that point. 

It’s amazing how you forget the hard times when you are celebrating. Nothing compares to winning something with your country.

Where would you rank Carlos Tevez amongst the players you managed?

He’s right up there, although he didn’t really perform for me due to various factors such as the situation at the club. 

When I was assistant at Tottenham, I managed Luka Modric, and I just can’t tell you how good he is: his balance when he runs with the ball, when he stops it and when he changes from one side to the other. Even if he gets a bad pass, he controls it with the outside of the foot as if it were with the inside. What’s more, he’s a true gentleman. I met him about 8 years later at a La Liga event when I was managing Real Betis, and he gave me a hug like we hadn’t seen each other for 30 years. I went to watch a Madrid training session and I was talking to him for about half an hour after he had finished.

I also had Gareth Bale, but he didn’t want to play in the midfield, he wanted to play on the left back because he said he needed the space to run. Two years later he began to play further forward, he had a great season and Real Madrid bought him. 

Which attributes would you like to have had from the following footballers?

Enzo Francescoli – Leadership

Luis Suárez – His ability to get himself out of any situation

Chino Recoba – His left foot 

Paolo Montero – His determination to be himself

Fede Valverde – His future

Where do you think Cavani should play?

From a purely footballing perspective, I would without doubt play him in the number 9 role. I wouldn’t ask him to share that role with anyone else. He always makes the play for others, whether it’s for Suárez and Forlán with the national team, or for Ibrahimovic with PSG… he deserves to be the one who leads the attack, the one in the limelight.

At Atletico Madrid they have Morata and Diego Costa. I’m not saying they can’t alternate between the starting team, as with so many games this is a given. But if there was a final for example, Uruguay’s number 9 would have to be Cavani.

At his age, he may be influenced by family life too, so let’s get the most out of him whilst we can.