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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Michel conquers Guardiola

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Michel, Girona coach.LALIGA (European Press)

“In the disagree (through December in Catalan, December in Spanish)”, Míchel began. But he paused and looked at Girona’s press secretary, David Torras. “No?” he asked for her approval. And continued: “Tenim melts Baixes (we have many victims)”. The 46-year-old coach from Madrid signed for Team Atlético in July. A few months later, in October, he began taking questions in Catalan at his press conferences. And when he didn’t understand, he had no problem acknowledging his difficulties: “Can you repeat it for me,” “How do you pronounce it?”.

He was released at the end of 2021. “I’ve already dropped a few things,” said the coach proudly; “I see it as necessary and it’s part of my training. That’s what my parents taught me in Vallecas, a neighborhood that attracts a lot of professionals who feel at home from the first moment. I know that the best way to integrate is to understand and speak Catalan. Whoever wants to understand it well and who doesn’t… seems short-sighted to me,” Míchel concluded.

He didn’t need to say more. In Girona, of course, the attitude of the coach was celebrated. “It was clear to me from the start that I wanted to get to know the culture of the city and the club. And it happened quite naturally, it wasn’t forced at all. And today his way of acting is a flag,” emphasizes Quique Cárcel, sporting director of the red-white team. Míchel did not ask for a Catalan teacher. Instead, he settled in the city center and tried to create a Girona environment where he could eat out, walk and play paddle tennis. He asked to recommend novels and speak to him in Catalan. And until Google Phrases that can be sent to club employees via WhatsApp. All the messages he receives from Torras, for example, whether audio or text, are in Catalan.

“He’s a very natural person, very humble and very close,” adds Cárcel; “You just have to see what he does every Friday.” Away from his family – his children play in Real Madrid’s youth academy and he hopes his wife will move to Catalonia next season – Míchel has found refuge with his neighbours: every Friday he meets them for dinner with potatoes and ham. The Girona coach is responsible for the desserts.

As if in his daily life he were emulating John F. Kennedy’s mythical saying: “Don’t think what your country can do for you. Think about what you can do for your country”, Míchel looked at Girona instead of being admired by the city. But the Madrid coach’s connection isn’t just one of culture and the capital city of Girona; it is essentially with the Rojiblanco Club. “I feel very identified with Míchel’s way of being and thinking. I have great respect for his ideas,” remarks Cárcel. In fact, the connection was instantaneous. A few months after he took charge of the first team and Girona was in the relegation zone, the sporting director offered him to renew his contract: the contract he had ran for a year and would be renewed automatically if the team entered the first division rise.

But Quique Cárcel believed the Míchel project went beyond a return to the elite of Spanish football or not. “I liked what I saw. The team was happy, they played good football and the players became more and more convinced of the idea every day. He dominates this style and dominates the category,” emphasizes the sporting director. In fact, Míchel was promoted to the First Division for the seventh time on Sunday. He had previously won two as a coach (in the 2017-2018 season with Rayo and 2019-2020 with Huesca) and four more as a player, all with the Vallecas team (1995, 1999, 2008 and 2011).

In any case, no manager had the approval of ownership (of the City Group, owners of Manchester City) like Míchel. “He understands what this project requires,” says Quique Cárcel. Last year, during one of Pep Guardiola’s trips to Barcelona, ​​the Madrid man asked to meet the Santpedor coach. The conversation started out fluent and friendly and ended with Guardiola opening his computer and explaining the details of a City-Everton clash in the Premier. “In that moment we were all lost. It was impossible to follow their conversation,” says one of those present at the meeting at the home of the English champions’ coach in Barcelona. They met again in Manchester and now nobody is surprised that they exchange messages. “The talks between Pep and Míchel?” says Cárcel; “funny and very passionate”.

If Machín has given Girona a footballing identity, Míchel has finally managed to get the team, the city and the site to move in the same harmony that technicians like Eusebio, Unzué or Francisco were stubborn for.

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Source elpais.com

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