Two months later, what do you tell your friends about what you have found at Villarreal?
Villarreal as a team was something that I already knew, I have lived it since 2008, since it was Valencia’s competitor, and it was already a team that generated that feeling of being a project with the capacity to grow was very great. It was a stable and successful project, it was a place that aimed to do great things. Today it is still a great project, but already with a great story behind it, and some spectacular achievements. I was not surprised, since I knew what was there and what to expect.
A good club, but one that wants to make the leap. How do you rate that?
This is a club that has grown a lot, a team that has played in Europe and that has played in the semifinals of the biggest competitions. It is already a club that has done great things, and we know it. But the success is that this is a club that gives you what you need, that has facilities and everything you need at the highest level, something that makes the club grow every day. To this is added the quarry, there are very good quarries, but this is one of the four top European quarries, and that makes this a seductive club that you know is close to that success.
But can you take that step further?
We are talking about going one step further, something that other teams have done, which is desired here and which we dream of achieving. I think Villarreal must be recognized for what they have done so far, value that and not underestimate it. From there, the idea is to continue taking steps, is to continue with that club structure, and work to achieve that success.
He looks very involved and very happy.
I feel very identified with the idea and the culture of effort of this club. I like working in these facilities, I like working with the quarry and the philosophy of the club. And the challenge that I set myself is that the club wants to grow, but the basis is to maintain what has been achieved, to strengthen ourselves from that security and, that structure, with that everything will come. And yes, I am very happy to be here.
How does it take to leave the big lights and come to a club with a lower profile?
I have been in teams with a lot of influence in football and in the world, strong teams, that is something that motivates and demands of you. But now I’m in a club that allows me to enjoy what I like the most, since what I like the most is training and enjoying the team from day to day. I love to analyze the team, analyze the rivals, prepare the games and be with the players. I love seeing the team and the players improve, and Villarreal gives me all that. I was returning to Spain, they give me confidence, and being able to work and take on this challenge makes me happy.
But people believe that you can lead them to glory …
I am the first to demand the maximum of myself, I am the first to know what people ask of me, and what they expect of me. I like this challenge, it is not that it is a pressure, it is a motivation that makes me happy to face it. For me, Villarreal is a professional soccer center, a place where those who like soccer enjoy and are happy.
Is there the Emery method?
There is an Emery method, a regular methodology, we have that. But from there, it is true that I always like to look for improvements, I like to change things so that the team is better than the day before. Although the method is to work hard, always be aware of news and improvements that make you grow. But the real method is to work hard.
Does it suit the team or does the team suit you?
My first reading is to see what I have, see what they are like, and from there put together an idea. I cannot change what I have, I cannot come and make radical changes. The first thing is to get to know them and for them to know me, to get to know each other with the idea of improving each other. At first it is what I receive and what they offer me, the second thing is to look for what to change to enhance the good things of each one.
You talk about being competitive. How would you define it?
Being competitive is making the most of what you have and responding to the maximum in what the rival demands of you. For me the important thing is always to impose your strength, to be able to reach the limit of your potential, and to be able to show it on the field. I like to analyze the matches in 70% of our team, which is what we can do and what we can offer to control the match; and 30% is what the rival does, knowing that this must be respected and that it is there. In 90 minutes many things happen, there are moments in which you control, and others in which the rival drives and makes you suffer. And there are teams that have more control than you, as happens in Barcelona or Madrid, since they control more time and more per cent than you. Therefore, the key is to compete to the fullest when and to make the most of your moment.
And at what moment are they right now?
We have a path, we are going to make mistakes like Huesca and Barcelona were, but those mistakes make us grow. We are in the process of growing and improving, as I have said in the process of understanding and getting to know each other, for which we need time. But I think that we are growing well, and that we are highly responsive to immediate performance.
How do you make the player believe what you propose?
I like that the player enjoys the day to day, that the player has mental balance, that they feel comfortable and confident to face challenges with confidence. After things like Barcelona, I try to isolate the player, and to know that problems and difficulties are solved in the dressing room and with the group. That together we can solve all situations.
And always defend the footballer?
I don’t like the player being pointed out, I’m the one who chooses him, that’s why I never point out the player. I put it, so I am responsible. They fail and I must decide well, so that those who are better play.
And what did he do with Mario?
I told Mario that I wanted the Mario of the national team, a Mario that I think can return. But to achieve this, he could not deviate a millimeter, so if he did not see himself prepared, the best thing is for him to leave and not continue. I see him committed and involved.
This is Emery’s Villarreal for the good and the bad. How do you handle that?
I do not feel pressure that makes me respond negatively, it is a demand that I assume. I have a motto in all my teams, and that is that we will always go out with our heads high and with a lot of work. It may go well or badly, but what they cannot say that we are lazy, the first thing is the maximum demand. And I ask the players the same, we are ambitious, but to be able to be, we must work hard. To be good and be the best, you must work and give your all.
But is it possible to achieve maximum success in such a tough championship?
I never set limits, I never think that I can’t win or I can reach a goal. It is true that this is a complicated league, since with teams like Madrid and Barcelona, it is very difficult to achieve that goal. But it is true that sometimes there is a Leicester, so you always have to be prepared if it is your turn to be one. We also have the Cup and the European competition, in which we hope to be able to compete far and wide and have our options.
Does the Kubo theme tire you and those nerves that surround you?
Kubo is a great kid, he’s a boy who wants to grow up and who really wants to. He is aware that he has a challenge, that of being the first Japanese player to reach the highest level, and there are many people who want that to be so and who want to speed up the processes. But that acceleration is not good, it must adapt and it must grow to compete in all options and positions. He can play in three positions, in the position of seven is his best position, but there he has high competition. In the center it works to improve and on the left it must grow more, so we are in that process. I understand the media noise, he is a star off the field, but he must be inside. Our obligation is that you do it in the best possible way and take care of it so that it can achieve that goal. I have not told any player that he is guaranteed to play, nor that we will be Champions with him, it is something that he would not do. To achieve a goal is something for everyone, for the whole team, not for a single player no matter how good he is.
Compete or play well?
When we went up with Lorca we won the first game, but we lost the Cup and we were eliminated. I saw that we played well, but we were not able to compete. I called Aurelio Gay, who had experienced the same the previous season, he came up with Pontevedra and had played well in second place, but he dropped, and he told me they played well, but they should have competed more. It was clear to me that I didn’t want to be the same, I wanted to play well, but I wanted to be more competitive, and it’s something I’ve carried with me ever since.