Bob Martínez: “In 2018 it was already seen that Hazard would go to Madrid”

Roberto Martínez (Balaguer, 1976) He is one of the best considered coaches in the world. Has Belgium at the top of the FIFA ranking since September 2018, having become the first team to get the ticket for the 2018 World Cup and Euro 2020. Of it and of proper names such as Hazard, Courtois, De Bruyne or Yannick Carrasco spoke for AS Futbolería (AS TV) from Wigan.

Belgium Shield / Flag

Now they would have to be in the middle of the European Championship. What is a coach waiting for?

It is difficult, it has been a very difficult situation for everyone, not only in football. At the human level, it has given us a lot of time to reflect and at the coach level, too: an opportunity to look back and plan a bit for the future. There will be a before and an after.

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It changes everything, including the list, to 2021. What planning are you doing?

Yes, the profile must be completely changed after two years of preparation. We were in a good physical and mental moment. After the World Cup in Russia we have improved, we have become mentally stronger. The change makes us forget about the preparation for the Euro Cup and focus on what was before, the League of Nations and the qualification for the 2022 World Cup. It will be a period of much international football. It is a great opportunity to play against Denmark, rival in the Euro Cup, outside and inside. We will focus a little on the new generations, you are going to open up a little to them, and on those two competitions, which are perfect for preparing ourselves.

“The group was very confident and excited for the Euro Cup”

Would they already be in eighths?

It is very difficult for me to plan or talk about this Eurocopa because it is very unusual, the first and only one that is organized in 12 venues. We, as seeded men, did not have headquarters due to the state of the Brussels stadium and we will play against Denmark and Russia as visitors, games very different from if they were on neutral ground. I know it sounds cliché, but it is reality, we are going to the unknown, it will be a Euro impossible to predict. Many teams are at a very similar level, in fact the first four of the World Cup in Russia were European, we must take into account Portugal, champion of the League of Nations, Germany and Spain will be, as always, among the favorites, and still they have the resurgence of Germany and Holland.

Did they feel among the three favorites?

It was the first time in history that Belgium had added all the points, 30, in the classification and the group was very confident and excited. In Belgium the team unites the nation and raises passions, it is a bit of a double-edged sword: sometimes it can be too much pressure for the team for what is expected. But in this situation we found that this expectation helped this group. We have very talented players, who represent generations and we have not seen before; The great work, which we always focus on, is how strong we can feel as a team from the inside to face difficulties, such as 0-2 down against Japan of the 2018 World Cup, in which we reacted as a team who has been working together for many months. Within Belgium there is great hope in this group of players.

What role does Hazard play in all that running?

Eden has shown all Madrid fans and all Madrid fans that he is a player who is ready to carry out any project. It is worth seeing the way in which he has adapted to football after the months of inactivity, it is within very few reach. He is at the best moment of his career, he has the necessary experience to be leading a project like Madrid's. After something so serious, being able to give this level on the lap shows the player that he is. And in Belgium it is exactly the same. He always gives a great naturalness to any situation, he leads by action, he lives from risky situations, one on one, that make the difference and, when you see a player who returns to the field of play and seems to have had no inactivity , you realize the great talent that goes around.

“Hazard is in the prime of his career, he's back fresh”

Have you spoken recently?

He is fine, very confident. I was very focused on being prepared. Against Eibar I saw him with great joy, he had a blow in the operated area and reacted calmly. A player of technical quality has to be 100% to be able to unbalance and he was seen in the first dribble that was very fresh. You have to look back: very good decisions were made, Madrid's medical services deserve great credit because what has been done since the injury has been very successful. Eden is happy, with great enthusiasm, and now we realize that this League will be competitive, it will go until the last moment.

One year has passed since his signing. How did you experience it?

The beauty of the signing of Eden for Madrid is that it was an example. Today the footballer has no patience, and not just the footballer, in the modern generation there is no patience to wait for what you really want. His relationship with Madrid was something that was going to bear certain fruit. The first time, I remember it very well, after Brazil's match in the World Cup in Russia, it was already seen that this transfer was going to take place, but it did not take place until 12 months later.

“Courtois is at the height of Oblak and Ter Stegen, will mark an era in Madrid”

And at Chelsea he continued to stand out.

Eden focused on what his team was, he won the Europa League and that's how he leaves it, winning a great title. It is a great example of professionalism, understanding your role and being patient. The way he arrives at Madrid is very beautiful, leaving after eight years through the front door, which is something special and very difficult for a foreigner in a club like Chelsea. It is a relationship that will be very successful because it has been done in the right way and with measured patience. So it will succeed, even sooner than expected.

The one who is already doing it, despite the criticism from the start, is a goalkeeper like Courtois. Is it up to Ter Stegen and Oblak?

Yes. It has been decisive, I have seen all the games since the return and has given Madrid points, which is what we are used to in Belgium. It is a difficult period of arrival in Madrid, a dream for him. When the beginning is so difficult, you have to be very mentally prepared to be very self-critical and, from there, be able to be yourself. I was quite worried because I saw that the situation was not what he deserved, but he worked even harder, prepared himself thoroughly and I always saw that with Belgium he never lowered the level. That was a sign that he was adapting to what Madrid needed. Now, with Rodrigo's stop against Valencia and other decisive moments, I see that he is going to mark an era in Madrid because the process he has had has been like a litmus test and has passed in a spectacular way.

Another proper name, which is very popular is Kevin de Bruyne. Do you have something left to live up to Messi, Cristiano, Hazard, Neymar …?

It is already at that level. There is a bit of ignorance, maybe because he is not seen week after week. He is a very different player. I would say to any football fan who enjoys his essence, that of a player who has changed a lot. In modern football we always thought that the player who distributed and sought assistance had to have a slightly slower pace, but Kevin is totally different: he speeds up the game. He has a vision of the game and a technical execution that is, for me, the best in the world. He does not play in positions, but can adapt to the game: with Belgium he can play further back, from '10', on the wing … We saw him against Madrid, with false '9', interpreting the space, then creating the assist for the goal Victory. He is very, very complete and there is no such player in world football.

“De Bruyne has a vision and a technical execution that is, for me, the best in the world”

Not at that level, but Yannick Carrasco is also interesting. Is it important that you have returned from China?

No. As a coach, I would never look at the league, but at what the player needs. He needed to get out of the League, after all he had achieved with Atlético, to be able to mature and see things and football differently. The Atleti fan is going to see a player fully prepared to beat all the records he had. It is totally different now. If he could stay for a long period, we would see him grow to a level we have not seen before. In Belgium we make a difference. I would tell the Atlético fan to give him a lot of love because he is prepared to make a difference in these remaining games.

How did you experience your renewal process, until 2022?

It is curious because after seven seasons in the Premier, he did not expect to be four years as coach. The deadline was until Euro 2020. When it is postponed, there is a total change in the team structure and we had not finished preparing. The talks with the Federation were very good for the future of Belgium in general, seen first in the short term because this generation is called to do something very important, and then because it is our responsibility to prepare those who come below.

Hence I have several charges.

Yes. There are in teams where that may not work, but it suits us very well. There is a very ambitious project and it seemed normal to us to extend the contract. I am totally excited.

“I am sure that I will work in Spain someday”

Ten years ago Spain was on the way to winning the World Cup with tiki-taka, but now, and Belgium represents it, more things have to be mastered, transitions are in command…

Euro 2008 marks a change in Spanish football, there is no winning mindset until the tournament is won. Spanish football will always be a favorite for that past winner, the only team to link those three wins. It gives you responsibility and confidence, it is transmitted and it is seen very clearly from the outside. Much respect is always given to that style. In soccer everything is inventing, but the styles are changing, there are fashions. Now is the transition, the pressure, the cons … Style is not the key, but to be very good at that style. In Belgium we are a great combination of Flemish, Francophone, of player of African origin, and that gives us the opportunity to be quite strong in different aspects, in the positional game and in the transition. In Spain there is no debate, there is a very clear DNA and you have to be faithful.

When will we see him train in Spain?

I don't like to talk about the future, I have to be very aware of what I have in my hands. It's been 25 years since we left Spain, with projects with time to create some memories that will last forever. But, of course, I am sure that I will work in Spain someday.