After five years of experience in China, Gregorio Manzano (Bailén, Jaén, 65 years old) awaits a new challenge that will excite him and return him to the bench. Meanwhile, he resides in Valladolid and savors the good time of Rayo and Mallorca. Two pieces of his life. Two teams that will face each other next Monday (Vallecas, 9:00 p.m.) and of which he collects fond memories. Today he dusts them off for AS.
—Two of the teams of his life face off on Monday.
“They are endearing to me.” I arrived at Rayito on 02-01. It was a difficult season at the beginning, but a beautiful one at the end. That led me to Mallorca and we won the Copa del Rey. He is the most modest champion in recent times and we eliminated Real Madrid and Deportivo, finalists from the previous edition. I compare that title with what I did a year before in Vallecas. It was not easy to take the team from below and score 33 points in the second round.
—When he was at Mallorca, he had Trejo in his ranks.
—We bet on him when he was a promising young man in Argentina. He has an innate talent and is technically very well endowed. Now he has gained physique and experience. He knows how to dose himself and has a good reading of the games. That makes his teammates learn a lot from him. He has grown up and is in full football maturity.
“He’s not the only Rayista captain he’s had under his command.” He has coincided with Mario Suárez on three teams.
“He’s one of my favorite players.” I have seen him grow up in Mallorca, Atlético and Guizhou. I had not taken any Spanish player to China, but with Mario I did not hesitate. I know what he can give me and he’s a good teammate in the locker room. We have always understood each other.
“What do you think of Mallorca?”
“Brilliant, in the sense that he has scored points so as not to be overwhelmed with qualifying.” He has a staff to maintain himself and an amazing regularity. He maintains his spine, has good strikers and a master of ceremonies like Salva Sevilla, in the middle, who gives the team the job. It is well built and balanced. When Kubo reappears, it will also bring quality. You have to take it into account.
– Did you ever coincide in the Chinese Super League with Luis García?
—He was in the Beijing Renhe and when he was promoted we agreed in First. We were changing shirts and talking about the experience. I was the first Spanish coach to go there. That extraordinary season with Beijing Guoan helped other teammates to land such as Rafa Benítez, Quique Sánchez Flores, Schuster, López Caro … I am proud to have been one of the first explorers (laughs)
“Tell me about that experience in Vallecas and how it channeled that tidal wave …”
“When I arrived, the Lightning had a point.” I signed on a Monday and on Wednesday we were playing against Osasuna. I didn’t even have time to get to the bench when we were losing. They scored us at eleven seconds. With a deeper analysis, reinforcements in the winter market and pitching in, we all made a great second round. We finished eleventh.
“Iraola is the revelation coach of LaLiga, with that idea and results”
“And how do you see this Ray?”
“Surprisingly very good.” Nobody expected that, on this day, he was fighting to consolidate himself in European positions. He’s getting more than enough credit to be the revelation team. And with a good game, the recognition of everyone and being strong at home, as we managed at the time. Whoever goes to Vallecas knows how difficult it is to score there. It is essential for permanence and hopefully, why not, for the European dream.
—Iraola has stamped the team …
—He has maintained that idea of game and set since Second. The results say it all. He is the technical revelation of LaLiga.
“You know your star.” He was Falcao’s first coach in Spain …
—I was glad of his return to Spain and even more that he went to Rayo. I have affection for him. I couldn’t enjoy him in the preseason because he reached the end due to bureaucratic issues with Porto. Even the first day could not be before Osasuna. Then he established himself as Atleti’s starting striker with great work and efficiency. He was endearing, close, respectful … At El Rayo he has won the affection of everyone. It is your flagship. Luis Fabiano (Sevilla) and he are the two best finishers, in the strict sense of the word, that I have had. Inside the area they finished off absolutely everything.
“What are you currently immersed in?” Are you tempted to go back to training?
-In this impasse I have had meetings with teams from Spain and abroad and offers, not only from Europe, but also from America. I have not taken that step, the pandemic has made me suspicious. I hope some attractive proposal.
—You combined a career in Psychology with soccer.
—Some of the things that I studied in the eighties were applied in the teams that I directed as a regional team. Later I ended up implanting it also in the First class. Already in the nineties, I combined the role of teacher with that of coach. Talavera signed me up giving Physical Education classes at an institute in Jaén and I had the idea of doing 760 kilometers every day to go to train. So, two seasons. When I signed for Toledo in Second I left teaching after 16 years practicing. Training has something didactic. You do not stop being the teacher and the rest, your students.
“Which technician do you like best?”
“You always look at the new ones.” Imanol (Real Sociedad) and Jagoba Arrasate (Osasuna). Both have great projection.