Monday 28 November 2016, 14:04

Del Bosque: Simeone is The Best

“I didn’t think I’d have to vote this season, but it looks like I’m going to have to start giving it some thought,” said Vicente del Bosque with a wry smile, reflecting on a task he is more than familiar with. During his time as Spain coach, in which he steered La Roja to glory at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ and UEFA EURO 2012, Del Bosque cast his vote for the FIFA Awards on many occasions and was even named FIFA World Coach of the Year for Men’s Football in 2012.

Having this year passed on the Roja baton to Julen Lopetegui and announced his retirement from coaching, Del Bosque had not been planning to offer his views for The Best FIFA Football Awards™. Even so, he did not hesitate to answer’s call to speak about his favourites for the awards, his relationship with some of the nominees and the growth in popularity of the women’s game, which is very much to the fore in this year’s awards. What things have you looked at when voting over these last few years? What criteria have you followed in making your choices? Vicente del Bosque: Usually, irrespective of the form and quality of the various players, and what they’ve achieved, the one you’ve liked most is obvious and so it’s easy for you to say ‘he’s the best’.

Was there a year when you found it especially hard to make up your mind? I’ve never fretted too much about it. I just did what I felt was right. When it was tight, I always picked whoever I thought was the best and that was that. It was maybe a bit tougher in those years when Spain triumphed in the EURO and the World Cup, when they won three tournaments back-to-back. We did feel then that a Spanish player might be named the best.

They were all unlucky, or lucky depending on how you see it, to be around at the same time as the players who have deservedly scooped all the best player awards. That said, it is true that they would have been fitting winners, not least as standard-bearers for a generation and, above all, because of the collective success they embodied, since football is a collective sport.

There are two Spanish players among this year’s 23 nominees for The Best FIFA Men’s Player: Andres Iniesta and Sergio Ramos. Do you think there should have been more? Perhaps. I think a couple more could have made the list. Sergio Busquets, for example, or Gerard Pique… They are players who have also left their mark on a great period for Spanish football.

Who do you think is the favourite to win the award this year? Messi and Ronaldo have dominated it in recent times and I imagine that people will decide between the two based on allegiances to the shirts they wear. In my book, they’ve been the best.

And who’s your favourite for the Best FIFA Men’s Coach award? I’d love for one of the Spanish nominees to win it, truly, but I’d lean towards Simeone. I think that, beyond just this year, his track record over the last few years has been really impressive. He’s given the team an identity, making it his team, and they’ve competed really well. I don’t think I’d look further than him, though that’s no slight on the rest of the nominees – I’d like to place on record that I hold them all in high regard.

Luis Enrique and Zinedine Zidane are up for this year’s Men’s Coach award. You were in charge of both of them at Real Madrid. Did they strike you at the time as the type of players who would end up in coaching? It’s not what I envisaged happening, but it turns out that they’re both proving to be great coaches. One thing that sticks out when I think about Luis Enrique is one of the times when I took charge as a caretaker and I played him at left-back. This is something that he really wasn’t fond of and we all agreed that it wasn’t his ideal position, but he put in a really good shift and helped us out in a game in Bilbao; we won 5-0 there and he was one of the top performers – at left-back!

But he was so strong and talented, and so eager to be involved, particularly in attack, that he found the full-back role unfulfilling. Still, I’m sure that it was a good experience for him – he must have seen what it’s like when the shoe is on the other foot now when he’s fielded midfielders at right-back, for example, when they’d prefer to play somewhere else. As for Zidane, it’s true that he didn’t seem to me to be overly keen on becoming a coach, but his results demonstrate that he’s an excellent one.

What were their virtues as players and what do you think they have to offer as coaches now? They were both extremely good players. They were fantastic in every respect, from their physical attributes to their ability and enthusiasm for the game. They had a strong competitive streak, as well as boasting vast natural talent.

I can’t judge them as coaches because I don’t know what they’re like. You’ve got to experience it for yourself, be face-to-face with them and see how they operate in the dressing room. Until you’ve seen that, you can’t venture an opinion, I’d be seriously mistaken if I did so. What I can say is that they have different demeanours when you see them on TV, but they’re both doing a great job.

One of the features of these awards is that they give equal recognition to men’s and women’s football. What’s your take on the development of the women’s game in the last few years? I think there have been big strides made everywhere. Where development and training are concerned, the coaches who work in women’s football are just as qualified as their counterparts in men’s football. I think some fantastic progress has been made and we should all be thrilled with that. And it hasn’t happened overnight: a great deal of work has gone into it from a lot of people who have been driving forces.

To find out what else Del Bosque had to say about his favourites for The Best Awards, watch the video above.