Pronounce ‘First Division’ up to eight times in the 18-minute interview. It is the challenge that Manu Morlanes has (1999, Zaragoza) between eyebrows. The midfielder is the organizer who has been searching for the Almeria and that now he is giving away exhibitions in the medulla with his partner Samu Costa week after week, forming that ‘duo of sagging stockings’. Before getting down to business with his Economics studies (he has already completed half of the degree), he chatted with AS to review the trajectory of his team, which this weekend begins the second round. “Studies never hurt,” says the hand, who wants to record his history in gold letters in the book of the history of football in Almeria.
– Is it being the best season of your career?
I don’t know if it’s the best, but it’s one of the ones I’m enjoying the most. I came here to grow as a player and to be able to help Almería. Everything is going quite well, the team is in good dynamics and there is a good group. Personally, I’m very happy because I came to play and everything is going the way I wanted.
– Why did you choose Almería?
Because of the project there was, a project with a lot of ambition, young people and a way of playing that suited me a lot. I had several options, but I wanted to come here because of the offers I had, it was the one that best suited what I was looking for.
– The style of José Gomes suits his football like a glove. Did you have references to him?
Yes. Both my agent and my family I told them that the way of playing both the coach and the club had to be the right one for me. The other options didn’t suit me as much. We have made a style and a showy way of playing and that is giving us results. The coach is knowing how to lead the group, having everyone involved. In a competition like this that is very important.
– How is Gomes in short distances?
Pretty close. You can tell that he has been training for many years. What I value most about him is that his pulse doesn’t tremble at all. The decisions he has made have been quite risky many times changing to the full eleven and the less common players have responded. He is earning everyone’s credit and the group respects his decisions because he does so looking out for the good of the team.
– Have you seen any policy of such extreme rotations in senior?
No. They are decisions that if they go wrong, they will be criticized by many people. But in a squad as long as ours it is essential that we all feel important. There are always more people who do not play than do, they can only eleven and almost twenty are left out. Having those people plugged in and happy is very important, in any game they can have their chance and be key.
– Against Alavés, Morlanes was seen at its best, playing one touch or more, short or with changes of orientation, being vertical or horizontal. But what was not expected in his profile is that defensive waste.
To be able to compete in a professional team and especially in one that wants to be promoted to the First Division, you have to be a complete player in all facets. It is true that it is something in which I have to improve. Little by little I am taking on that defensive role, partly thanks in this case with the one I’m playing the most with, Samu. He is a colleague who helps me a lot in that aspect. Regarding the Alavés game, it was a great display for everyone. The result proves it. We are getting used to winning and that says a lot about the team. We have been doing things very well and we want the good dynamics to continue.
– He hasn’t been playing with Samu for four months and it seems like it’s a lifetime.
He is a footballer whose way of playing we complement each other very well. He perhaps has a more defensive character and I more offensive. That’s why the two of us, knowing in what we are strong and in what a little weaker one and the other, we understand each other very well.
– Balliu said after beating Alavés that this Almería would be in the upper half of the table in the First Division. Do you think so?
It is not known, if this football has something is mathematics and does not understand logic. You just have to see the result of Alcoyano against Madrid. In the end, in football, you have to go day by day and step by step. I do not like to talk about where we would be, but I do think that in football it is difficult to bet on young people and that is why what all the technical direction and the coach has done has a lot of merit: bring together a young group and make them play like what we are doing. We are footballers, why couldn’t we have a place in some First Division squads.
– It is not usual for such a young team to triumph in the Second Division, especially with that style of play.
Yes, it is usually atypical for Second Division teams to propose a game as associative as ours and to see such a young squad. That is why I say that it has a lot of merit. The easy thing is always to bet on people with more experience, but in Spain there are great quarries with players of great talent. You see footballers in the First Division that if given the opportunity, in the end they are worth it and have a lot of future.
– Is the euphoria in Almería good, especially after the defeat of Alavés?
The euphoria is from the outside. Inside the dressing room we know that we have not achieved anything yet. It is still a round of the Copa del Rey. We have to go day by day, although it is true that I always think that things have to be enjoyed because then bad times will always come and that’s when you suffer. The victory of Alavés is past and it has to help us to reinforce what we did well for Sunday’s game, to show it again against Sabadell.
– What can improve both the team and Morlanes?
Speaking of the team, we still have a lot of room for improvement. Until we get promoted there will always be something to improve. And when we move up next year, even more. Within football it is impossible not to have anything to improve. Regarding me, I still have facets to improve, like the passing game. Defensively I still have to be stronger. Day by day I try to learn from what the coach and my teammates teach me, to be a little better player every day.
– In the first season with Turki, Almería did not drop from fourth place in the entire league. Would not promoting this season be a stick?
Yes, the truth is that seeing how the team is doing, recovering from the bad start and competing face-to-face with opponents who are much more accomplished than us in terms of age and players, the objective is clear. We all know that what we do in every training and match is to move up. I do think that not moving up would be a stick because both the club and Turki are made to have a place in the First Division. The city, due to the situation we are experiencing and that it cannot be in the countryside, also deserves it.
– It is his first year and he has not yet been able to play a match against his new fans. Do you feel it?
With this of social networks you feel the warmth of the people. Many times I think that in a year when things are going quite well, it is a shame not to be able to enjoy the people and see the full stadium. Sure as we go every weekend many people would come to see us. Hopefully where they can see us is next year in the First Division. If we have to sacrifice that this year for promotion and next year enjoy all of the First Division, so be it.
– They had a bad streak, with four points out of 15 and three losses in a row. Do you expect another downturn in this long league?
You have to always be prepared for that. Trying that that does not happen, but knowing that each game is very, very complicated and more in this category in which each team can beat anyone. We try to be prepared to be very strong physically and psychologically when a defeat comes, which will surely come but hopefully not, turn the situation around. Knowing how to recover from the situation as the team did at the beginning of the season speaks very well of the group, of the union that there is and especially of character; Despite being a young team, we have a lot of ambition and a lot of character on the pitch.
– On Sunday they host Sabadell and during the week they will play the Copa. They are 180 minutes away from getting into a Cup semi-final, something the club has only achieved once.
180? Sure, two games. Seen like this, yes. Watching the Madrid match, that in a match anything can happen … It is the beauty of this Cup format. We know that the main objective is in the league, but why not dream to go as far as possible, doing something beautiful also in the Cup.
– Is the purchase ‘option’ that Almería has for you mandatory?
Yes, in case of promotion. Then there is a buyback option by Villarreal, but those are things that are not within my reach right now, so I do not think about it, but about getting promotion with Almería. This way I would return to the club its bet on me. From there, it will be seen. Here I am very happy and very comfortable and may it continue to be so.
– I suppose if I go up, I would like to continue.
Yes. In the end, you never know in football what options can be considered. Here I am super, super, happy and grateful to all the people because since I arrived (I did it injured) they have always shown a pretty great confidence in me. In case of going up it would already be seen. Right now I want to move up and why not be in the First Division with Almería, which is what I’m working for.
– He turned 22 last week, but the under-21 can still call him. Is it another of your goals?
Those are awards that come from the work that one does with his club and I am focused on the team and on achieving victory week after week. It will come if it has to come; if not, I am focused here on my club.
– Imagine that Morlanes buys a club. Who would he sign from his now companions?
If I could and had enough money … [risas].
– You can only choose one.
Perhaps because of the way I see the game and because of what it has cost, which I think he deserves, to Umar Sadiq. At the beginning of the season a large outlay was made for him, things did not work out and he has shown a great personality, a great knowing how to be and after all he has worked for, he deserves what he is now. Things weren’t working out, but he kept trying. Every time he shoots is a goal.
– Who is surprising you in the training sessions of those who have less minutes?
There is a lot of quality. That is why when the coach has rotated to eleven the team has been able to achieve a victory. It is worthy of praise for the people who are without competing. They go to a game and perform the same or better than the people who have been doing it. I can’t keep one because it would be unfair. It is worth noting that both the Cup matches and those that have rotated in the league against Sabadell, Tenerife or Zaragoza, the team has been able to respond. Without those games, we would not be where we are.
– There is more than a week left until the winter market expires, which weighed down a year ago. Is it so important to know how to move well?
It is important. It is a fairly sensitive market, in which all that needs to be done has to be to improve. In the second part of the season we risk everything and a bad decision can hurt the group. We will receive with open arms and whoever stays will have to continue the same. The team is doing well, we don’t have to be thinking about incorporations, and if it comes, welcome.