The talent of Spanish coaches is known to everyone. There are many clubs that base their projects on national technicians in search of success. It is enough to put the names of Guardiola, Arteta or Emery on the table to see that this equation usually turns out to be positive. But beyond the spotlights of the major European competitions, there is a large middle class that does not stop making people talk in foreign lands. The boom of a large batch of these Spanish technicians has reached China.
Camacho was one of those in charge of paving the way by accepting the task of leading the Chinese team. Coaches of the stature of Quique Sánchez Flores, Rafa Benítez and Gregorio Manzano also tried their luck in the Asian giant. hIt has been this season, now far from the great spotlights that the Chinese Super League experienced a little less than five years ago, when a colony of Spanish coaches have left their mark. So much so that up to six coaches have led a Chinese bench this season, where three have stood out above the majority. The first of them has been Javier Pereira, former coach of Levante, among others, who with Shanghai Port has been proclaimed champion of the Chinese Super League. For his part, Jordi Vinyals, in charge of Zhejiang, has achieved a more than creditable third place. The other name to highlight is that of Antonio Gómez-Carreño, architect of the salvation of Qingdao Hainiu.
The coach born in the Toledo town of Madridejos, perhaps unknown to the general public, took charge of the Chinese team at the beginning of the season, exceeding with flying colors the objectives set at the beginning of the season. “I signed with the objective of trying to achieve permanence and we achieved it with three games left, which is already a success in itself with a second round of the mid-table with very good results and against big teams. We were the second lowest budget in the Super League. And then, we reached the semifinals in the Cup, where we lost by the minimum against one of China’s historic teams such as Shanghai Shenhua and where we could dream of reaching the final,” declares Antonio Gómez-Carreño in an interview with AS.
Now the coach is on the first line of the technical ladder, but until we got there, a lifetime linked to the world of football. “I trained in the lower categories of Atlético in 2004 and Toledo in 2011. From 2007 to 2011 I was a physical trainer in Ceuta. Then Rayo called me to be part of Sandoval’s coaching staff as a scouting analyst for the first team in the 2011/12 season. I was also at Sporting as technical secretary and head of scouting and, later, at Albacete“, recalls Gómez-Carreño, whose career supports him and gives him a very valuable versatility in these times. It was during that stage at Rayo Vallecano where the La Mancha coach began to stand out in tactical analysis. “There I started to do a new job, I was a pioneer in Spain where I combined technology with match analysis. I specialized in the analysis part because people wanted a coach who had the vision and could use the technology. I brought together the technological and analysis part with my vision of football“argues a technician who He has worked with several of the most emblematic names on the football planet such as Camacho and Rijkaard. “He did the analyzes remotely when Camacho was the China coach and when Rijkaard was in Saudi Arabia“, Explain.
But if there is one name that has marked the path of Gómez-Carreño in his career, it is that of Uli Stielike. “He is a football legend. Working with him was lucky. We are friends and we still see each other regularly. Working with a figure with such a competitive mentality and seeing how he handled pressure allowed me to see the importance of winning.. The mentality that you have to win at all costs. In the process of winning there must be professionalism, a method and seriousness. It was in Qatar where I met him, I went from working with Sporting to working for the Qatari league and for Al Arabi, the club where I met him for the first time. Stielike integrated me into his coaching staff and from then on the professional and personal relationship was very good. When he went to South Korea (he coached the Korean national team from 2014 to 2017), I stayed in Qatar. But when he went to China, he called me to go with him to the Tianjin TEDA staff. He wanted me both as a physical trainer and as an assistant. That stage lasted 3 seasons and enriched me a lot.”, The coach praises the legend of Real Madrid and Germany.
The coach, who has this extensive experience both in Spain, China and Qatar, is a more than authorized voice to make a comparison between football in different countries. “The difference between Qatar and China is very big. Qatar is a very special place. There is not a lot of population, but they have a lot of passion. Qatar would be like a province of Toledo at a football level, but through investment and work, with the little they had, they managed to make the most of what they had and organized a great World Cup. However, China is different, it is a continent and that harms them. They need to improve the structure of the competitions. There are very few clubs for the country that it is. There needs to be a greater number of clubs. Not only must they improve in the training part and create training structures and centers, but they also have to create competitions. It is totally different from Qatar. China could have potential, but due to its idiosyncrasy as a country it is difficult. They must begin, at the city and province level, to create ‘micro-competitions’ and, from there, have a solid structure of competitions that can make them improve.”, explains in this conversation with AS. For Antonio Gómez-Carreño, Saudi Arabia “It is more similar to Spain. They have a passion for football. Each country has its own idiosyncrasy and is very different. That is why you have to adapt to the contexts. Each context is different at a cultural level and at a logistical and club level. You also have to take into account the limitations that each culture gives you. The good thing is that now football has evolved and everyone is very competitive. It is very difficult to get results anywhere for this reason.”
Saudi Arabia is one of the most followed football markets in recent times due to the transfer of players from Europe. It happened before in China, where the signings of players like Óscar, Hulk, Carrasco and Paulinho caused the world to look at the Asian giant, until in 2019 the door was closed to big signings. Taking advantage of the knowledge of the Asian continent by the La Mancha coach, we analyze this situation that has disturbed: “What happened there was the following: There was a large investment because China’s intention was to try to organize a World Cup and progress in football. The Chinese government really likes football. They invested a lot of money both in the first division and in sports schools so that football would grow. The problem is that they invested everything too quickly, without creating solid structural foundations. Plus the pandemic came, which caught me there. That caused the country to close and Football suddenly declined because it took a backseat. Now they have to reinvent themselves again with much less investment and it will cost them more. They didn’t have a solid foundation and it’s going to cost them more than they expected. But now they have hit rock bottom and have to grow again,” argues.
It has been in China, as we have been developing throughout the report, where Antonio Gómez-Carreño has managed to make both a qualitative and quantitative leap in his role as head coach. The Toledo native also has a countryman on his technical staff. This is Roberto Tendero Villamayor who acts as physical trainer. During this stage (and the previous ones as Stielike’s assistant), he has been able to verify some serious deficiencies in the football culture in China already mentioned by Camacho when he was Chinese coach. “In Chinese football there is a cultural thing, they greatly respect hierarchies and roles. They need to be more creative in their decision making. In football, as in all team sports, you have to continually make decisions and not everything can be taught in training. You, as a coach, have to encourage it, but the players decide it on the field. So it is true that they lack that creativity or freedom to be able to get much more,” the man from La Mancha declares to AS.
The great performance with Qingdao Hainiu opens many doors for Antonio Gómez-Carreño for the future. “We are open to work anywhere. Now I have finished my contract in China, the club intends to renew me because we have had very good results. Also, the good results have caused people to see it and there may be options to go to other projects. We just finished and we haven’t had time to get situated. In professional football you never know where you are going to be tomorrow and you have to be open to any circumstance.”. Regarding a possible opportunity on the bench in Spain, the man from La Mancha does not close any doors. “It’s not discarded. But the markets are different. In Spain I don’t have as much experience as a head coach, although I do have experience at a professional level. Is more difficult. Just as it is difficult for someone in Spain who is in First or Second to enter another market, it happens the other way around. One place is not better than another, it depends on many circumstances. And the fact of not having been a professional footballer also influences me. It costs even more. We want to continue and even more so after getting to where I have arrived being from Madridejos, which is not easy. It has taken a lot for things to go well, I have been working for many years and now things are going well. We will see how the future goes. At the family level, this work is complicated. You can’t take your family everywhere, especially when the children are of an age, due to school issues, no matter how good the conditions they offer you on a sporting and economic level. We coaches are from one place to another in a more solitary way. You have to put all that on a balance too. “It’s not simple,” concludes the Toledo technician. Without a doubt, the case of Antonio Gómez-Carreño is paradigmatic in the world of football. One more example of that wonderful middle class that makes up the Spanish football fabric, which does not understand borders.
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