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24.12.2008 10:51

Txiki: “This is the Barça we expected to see”

Berta Brau

Txiki Begiristain says that Barça needs to keep its collective feet on the ground even though things are looking pretty good at the moment. He is full of praise for the work Guardiola is doing and says that “this is the Barça we expected to see”.

At the end of 2008 and with 2009 about to begin, Txiki Begiristain has given an exclusive interview to Barça TV and www.fcbarcelona.cat to review how Barça’s first team is going, Pep Guardiola’s role and the work he’s doing, the players, the academy and many other current issues at the club.

The interview with Txiki Begiristain is to be broadcast this Wednesday at 2 pm in the ‘Barça Noticies’ programme on Barça TV, on 25 December at 9.30 pm and on 26 December at 10.30 pm.

What’s worse for the team: excessive praise or excessive Christmas eating?

“There’s nothing wrong with a bit of self-indulgence at Christmas. But too much praise can be dangerous, unless you keep your feet on the ground and remember what’s happened here over the past 5 ½ years.”

23-12-08_BEGIRISTAIN_TV_07.jpgA year ago people were laying into the team…

“And two years ago as well, but three years ago it was great. That’s what happens and we’ve had to get used to it. We learn from the criticism and use the praise to take a cool-headed look at the situation when things are going well and when things are going badly.”

From your point of view as technical secretary, where is Barça at the moment?

“We’re in a great position right now because Christmas is coming which gives us a chance to think about things. That’ll show us that after the disappointment of last season we’ve been able to bounce back. We’ve reacted and taken decisions, some of which were really big ones that affected some of the greatest players in the club’s history and also managers who’d won titles for the club, in order to start something new and which so far is going extremely well.”

Is Barça in December 2008 the Barça that the coaching staff and you had expected to get by this stage of the season?

“This is the Barça we expected to see. Obviously we’ve all been surprised by the results even though they were always a possibility. The main change has been in the coaching staff headed by Guardiola. Seeing how they were doing things and how they were working, they just had to get it across to the players. The level is different, but knowing that we’ve always had a competitive squad, a squad that had the chance and the ambition to win everything, we knew it might happen. To be honest, things happening so quickly and with such a lead at the top has surprised us, but we did expect something along these lines. It was our dream and for the moment it’s coming true.”

Let’s look now at the manager. When you played in the same team as Pep Guardiola, did you see him as a future coach?

071108_entrenament_x4x.jpg“I’d say that people are partly right when they say that Pep started to become a coach out on the park, as he drove the team, saw where the gaps were and how we could exploit them. The thing is that there was this passion, a desire to talk much more specifically about football, and that’s where you see the manager, where you see the guy could become a coach, because he notices the little things. The thing is that when he started the coaching course and did the practical stuff at Barça’s sports complex he showed he had the desire and the passion to be a coach.”

Why do you think things are going so well for Pep Guardiola: because he works hard during the week, because he’s a football addict, because he knows the club or because Txiki Begiristain has given him a winning squad?

“Txiki’s got him a winning squad but it was started with Frank Rijkaard and fine-tuned with Pep. From that point on it’s been successful because Pep is a great analyst, because he’s an addict but a smart addict, one who has his head screwed on and doesn’t take risks. The outcome is the result of the work put in, his analysis and maintaining standards and consistency in the dressing room. To a great extent it’s also because he’s got his people with him, people who helped him win the Third Division and may help him win the First. Pep attached as much importance to the quality of the squad as to the quality of his coaching staff, and here I’m talking about not only technical skill but also being good people.”

Can you tell us what signing well and signing badly means for you?

23-12-08_BEGIRISTAIN_TV_04.jpg“Signing badly means having to go back and sign someone else for the same position. Signing well means that a squad doesn’t need additions from the start to the end of the season and achieves its goal of winning at least one title.”

A quick question: is Messi the best player in the world?

“Yes, he’s the best there is.”

Before I was saying that the home-grown players were the ones who got most criticism; that’s an old theory which undoubtedly now isn’t entirely true, but it had been for decades. I think that the player who’s got most stick from the fans is Valdés. Have you ever had any doubts about him?

QM3D4615.jpg“Never. We have a fantastic goalkeeper, and there’s one thing we should never forget and that’s the final in Paris. Maybe I shouldn’t say this but I reckon that 40 or 50 percent of that final was Víctor. He is a fantastic goalkeeper who has saved lots of games for us in a team which is difficult for goalkeepers and likes to play up the field. Valdés has some practically unique virtues, such as making lots of saves but also playing around the edge of the box. He was crucial in the game against Madrid, because when you play a side that hangs back and tries to hit you on the break Víctor is there to stop them.”

What’s your view of Henry?

“Rather than looking at how he’s adapted, we should look at what was going on when he arrived. Henry came here last year at a difficult time for the club when there was a lack of leadership in the dressing room. In all likelihood he never thought he’d find that. Plus he came with pelvic and back problems which made things even tougher for him. Now, with a new atmosphere at the club and in the dressing room, a new work ethic he was already used to and a manager who respects him, Henry is the guy with the amazing numbers.”

Is Soria now an example of how not to lose your head at the first sign of trouble?

23-12-08_BEGIRISTAIN_TV_08.jpg“Over the last 5 ½ years we’ve been humble when we’ve won titles, and we’ve won some really important ones. We’ve never lost that humility and we’ve kept it during the hard times and we need to hold onto it while still keeping in touch with reality. It’s now December, there are still lots of games to go, lots of competitions, we still haven’t started the last 16 in the Champions League or in the Cup and we have a big gap in the League. Being the so-called ‘winter champions’ isn’t good enough for me.”

A new year wish?

“Due to the circumstances I’ve recently gone through I would only ask for good health for everyone, as if we’re healthy we can enjoy a great Barça, including the players, coaches and the doctors, because that’s the way to end the year on a high note.”

Txiki: “This is the Barça we expected to see”

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Great academy
Home-grown players and the top stars: is that the recipe for success?

“Home-grown players are important, not only in terms of identity but also because as players they don’t have a hard time at Camp Nou. There are players who come in from outside who find it much tougher than academy players, however young and unknown these may be. The reason is that in the academy players learn quality, about holding onto the ball, respect for organisation and style of play, and that makes it easier for them when they move up to the first team. So the academy is working and producing talent, but obviously if we want to be champions we need to have the world’s best players.”

Is the academy an added responsibility for a technical secretary?

“It’s a great responsibility but historically Barça has worked well here. Plus now in addition to producing great goalkeepers, great defenders and great midfielders we’re also producing great strikers. We’ve produced Messi, Giovanni before who’s now in England, Bojan and Pedro. We’re starting to have an even more all-round academy and produce a type of player who can be decisive.”

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