Real Madrid Boss Ancelotti Excels as “Professor and Psychologist,” Says Spanish Coach Vidal: Football

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At 73 years old, David Vidal may be retired from managing in professional football, but his passion for the game burns as brightly as ever. The former Spanish coach, who guided 15 different clubs over his career, recently sat down with a journalist to reflect on the modern game and share his seasoned insights.

Vidal resides in the coastal town of Chiclana in Cádiz, where he spends his days spearfishing and closely following the latest action on the pitch. Despite his tranquil retirement setting, the man once branded a “savior” by his players hasn’t lost his fiery competitive spirit.

“Don’t pull my tongue, I’m already retired and I don’t want any controversy,” Vidal playfully warned before diving into his candid opinions on the current state of football.

High Praise for Ancelotti the ‘Professor and Psychologist’

One of the figures who has clearly earned Vidal’s admiration is Carlo Ancelotti, manager of Real Madrid. Vidal was particularly impressed with how the Italian has handled the challenging task of keeping an entire squad of world-class players motivated, whether they are starters or reserves.

“I am fascinated by the way he talks about him with the players,” said Vidal. “He is a professor and a psychologist. In a squad of 25 players there are 11 who play and 14 who watch. Keeping those who don’t go out happy is essential and a very difficult task that the Italian masters.”

Vidal regards player management and psychology as crucial parts of a coach’s job in the modern game. He expressed admiration for how Ancelotti balances keeping his core lineup sharp while also making sure the reserves feel engaged.

“Acting as a psychologist is part of a coach’s job,” Vidal stated.

The Legendary ‘Mago’ González

During his prolific coaching career, Vidal had the opportunity to work closely with some of football’s all-time greats. He spent eight years managing the iconic Salvadoran attacking midfielder Jorge ‘Mago’ González at Cádiz in the 1980s and 90s.

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“The Mago was signed by Camilo Liz Salgado, a Galician who was technical secretary of Cádiz, after the 1982 World Cup in Spain,” Vidal recalled. “I was Serbian Milosevic’s second coach at that time, Camilo asked me for my opinion and I gave him the go-ahead right away. He was a phenomenon.”

Vidal admitted he was “captivated from the beginning” by González’s otherworldly skills and trademark mane of hair. Though the player’s lifestyle off the pitch could be unconventional, Vidal had only glowing reviews of González’s genius on the field.

“He was an exceptional player…He just drove the rivals crazy,” said Vidal. “When he controlled the ball it was almost impossible to take it away from him and he always offered to receive, he never hid.”

The legendary coach didn’t mince words when asked where González ranks among the all-time greats he’s witnessed.

“The best. Listen to me well. It’s the best I’ve ever seen,” Vidal stated emphatically. “And physically he was strong. His mother gave birth to him very well.”

The Mago’s sublime talent was so obvious, Vidal even urged Johan Cruyff, then manager of Barcelona, to sign the Salvadoran star.

“I really told him ‘Johan, take the Salvadoran, he is better than you were,'” Vidal recounted with a laugh.

Evolving Tactics and the Importance of Keepers

As someone who has seen the game evolve over decades, Vidal acknowledged football’s traditional strategies have modernized over time, though he believes the core essence remains intact.

“It has evolved, although the essence is the same,” he said. “There are coaches who, when talking about their team’s playing system, talk about 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 and I wonder why they play with ten. What about the goalkeeper? The correct thing is to say that he plays with a 1-4-4-2 or whatever.”

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Vidal went on to emphasize the critical importance of goalkeepers, a position he believes is still undervalued by some coaches.

“He is one of the most important players on the team,” stated the former manager, who was known for spending countless hours fiercely training his keepers during practice.

“I have an instep bone worn down two centimeters from shooting at goalkeepers for many years to train them.”

Vidal cited several top keepers who benefited from his tutelage, including Willy Caballero, Keylor Navas, Julen Lopetegui and Pedro Jaro among others.

The Value of Youth Development

Another key aspect of sustained success, from Vidal’s perspective, is a club’s ability to integrate talented homegrown youth players onto the first team. He reminisced about having 10 academy graduates playing for his Cádiz side at one point.

“You also have to take great care of the youth team and give opportunities to the kids like I did,” he urged. “I had ten homegrown players in the Cádiz first team. Now that doesn’t happen.”

Tactical Quibbles

Though he respects the evolution of modern tactical systems, Vidal took issue with certain trends he feels go against pragmatic defensive principles.

“There are things that I don’t understand, like the goalkeeper playing with the center back to get the ball from behind,” he said. “That must be done with the sides. The center back is there to stop the opponent’s forwards, not to start his team’s play.”

He explained, “If the center back loses the ball it is very possible that it will be a goal for the opponent, but if the winger loses it the center back is there to cover. It’s pure logic. I see that mistake in many games.”

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Candid on Xavi’s Rollercoaster at Barcelona

Never one to hold back his true thoughts, Vidal also weighed in on Xavi’s tenure so far as manager of Barcelona.

“He was a great player, but as a coach he had no experience,” Vidal stated bluntly. “He came from training in Qatar, which is not like doing it from Germany, Italy or England. Soccer there is third level.”

While giving Xavi some credit for an encouraging first season, Vidal expressed confusion over the manner in which Xavi briefly flirted with the idea of leaving the club last year.

“He did well the first season, but I didn’t understand his ‘I’m leaving and then I’m staying’ maneuvers,” the opinionated former coach said. “It’s not something normal.”

Hope for Cádiz to Avoid Relegation

Though his ties to Cádiz run deep, Vidal acknowledged the difficult challenge the club faces in trying to avoid relegation from La Liga this season.

“It’s not easy for them, but Cádiz is used to walking the wire,” he said, noting their history of narrow relegation escapes.

However, Vidal sees an upset victory over the recently-crowned league champions Real Madrid as a potential catalyst for a great escape.

“Beating Real Madrid would be a very important boost to achieve salvation. It wouldn’t be the first time he has done it and it could wet Madrid’s ears, which has already won the league and is focused on the Champions League.”

At 73 years young, David Vidal has indeed walked the tightrope many times before – both in his demanding career patrolling the technical area and in his daring hobbies like spearfishing. His lifetime of experience and unfiltered insights prove that while football’s tactics continually evolve, the physical and mental disciplines required to master the game remain timeless.



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Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a seasoned basketball journalist with a passion for the WNBA and NBA. His insightful writing combines commentary and stats, providing comprehensive coverage. Alee sheds light on the overlooked WNBA while championing its players. He also delivers in-depth NBA analysis, offering unique perspectives on trades, drafts, and league dynamics. With exclusive interviews and behind-the-scenes access, Alee gives readers an unparalleled look into the lives of basketball's biggest stars.

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