In the second part of our exclusive interview, Víctor Sánchez del Amo explains his managerial career so far, and what it was like to work with some of the talented stars that he has coached.
After assistant stints at Sevilla, Getafe and at Olympiakos in Greece, his first position as head coach was at his old club Deportivo La Coruña, where he was focused on “recovering the confidence of the players” towards the end of the 2015-16 season, and as he says, that was about them “feeling safe in the game”, by giving them a tactical plan to stick to, tailored to their game and their role in fulfilling the team’s gameplan.
Víctor managed to keep Deportivo up in those last eight matches in truly dramatic fashion – coming back from 0-2 down to draw 2-2 in the final game at the Camp Nou, meaning they survived on superior head-to-head points compared to Granada and Eibar. During the following campaign, La Liga named him one of the five protagonists of the first half of the season, as they were just three points off the European places.
The second half featured only two wins, but that downturn is something that Sánchez del Amo attributes to the lack of unity between board and sporting director. “When there is no institutional stability, it always affects the sporting areas. The perfect ambience is where everybody is going in the same direction,” he says. He concedes that was difficult to achieve at El Riazor, and ultimately he departed at the end of the season, having kept up a club with the second-lowest salary budget in Spain’s top division.
With Real Betis, in November 2016, Víctor took over from former Brighton and Sunderland boss Gus Poyet (who never truly settled at the Estadio Benito Villamarín having been appointed that previous summer) and immediately went unbeaten in their next eight home games in league and cup. Crucial away victories followed at Málaga and then at Celta Vigo, a result which ultimately kept Betis up with five games to spare.
But again, politics got in the way, as reaching his goal early meant that there was time for a leadership challenge to the presidency that same season, and Víctor and his staff were the victims on this occasion. “We were in the middle of this and it was a pity for us, because we were working on the planning for the following season,” he says. Still, the 41-year-old has fond memories of his spells at both Depor and Betis.
Over that time, he coached some special players, including then-soon-to-be-Arsenal frontman Lucas Pérez who Víctor reckons could represent his country in future: “I hope he can become one of the important players for the national team, because as a forward he has the skills that match with the style of play of Spain.” After all, he helped raise the value of the player from 1.5 million Euros to almost 10 times that when he signed for the Gunners, which Víctor regards as a significant metric to judge a manager’s work.
The same could be said for Dani Ceballos at Betis – a player slightly lost under Poyet but who rediscovered his form when working under Sánchez del Amo in the middle of the season. From a midfielder whose form was erratic, Víctor helped Ceballos showcase his talents over his time in Seville, and he stays in close contact with the man who Betis sold to Real Madrid for around 17 million Euros this summer. “It doesn’t mean that the coach is a magician, it’s a matter of psychology, it’s a matter of relationship,” he asserts.
So could Ceballos be the next Luka Modric? Maybe one day. “Real Madrid has the best midfield I think in football history. It’s very high competition but for Dani, it’s very good, this experience – to train day by day with these high-level players,” says Víctor. And Zinedine Zidane’s squad rotation policy may help Ceballos get game time, a crucial part of the learning process for a player who is still only 21 years of age.
Should both players prosper for club or country or both, Víctor can certainly claim at least some credit.