In 2010 he opted to open his footballing horizons by moving to Holland where he was assistant-coach at Vitesse Arnhem. After spending four years there he joined Brøndby IF and then, after two years, moved to Israel where he is the assistant coach at Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Blueprint for Football: You've worked in Spain, Holland, Denmark and now Israel. How have these experiences helped you grow as a coach?
Albert Capellas: I originate from Spain and FC Barcelona which means that all my background is based from that footballing philosophy. But after moving to the Netherlands and working outside Spain with a different mentality, I had to leave my comfort zone, open my mind, expand my horizons and to adapt both my knowledge and experience to different football styles.
When working abroad, what you really learn is to listen and try understand the local football culture and try and adapt yourself and knowledge in order to grow and improve. For that, one has to first and foremost improve myself. Working in both the Netherlands and in Denmark helped me progress and improve my skills.
Now I am in Israel, working for Maccabi Tel Aviv FC where Jordi Cruyff is the Sports Director, Shota Arveladze is the head coach and at a club where Oscar Garcia and Peter Boss used to work – they were close to my way of thinking and the football philosophy I was raised on. This is one of the main reasons I accepted this offer.
BfF: Who has had the biggest impact on your career as a coach?
AC: Johan Cruyyf, Pep Guardiola, Arigo Sacchi, Juanma Lillo and Paco Seirullo had influenced me a lot and of course all the coaches I was privileged enough to work. I am a type of coach who likes to learn from everybody, coaches in particular but other professionals who specialize in their field like Simon Sinek or John Wooden.
BfF: What should clubs look for when they try to identify young talent?
AC: First one should look for players who are living close to the club – as they can stay with their families and parents which is important for their education. If they are successful, than they, on most occasions give you something extra as they are home grown players.
One must look for players with high technical ability, but also players with something exceptional which make them stick out from the rest. For example; a player who is very intelligent with a good understanding of the game, a great dribbler, a player with an eye for a goal or even someone who is very quick – one unique characteristic while the rest could even be average. Players with good coordination skills and are agile with an elegant move.
Finally, I never look for players who take advantage of their physical power at young ages. I tend to skip those players.
BfF: How important is physical strength in young players?
AC: As discussed it is not important at all until the ages of 15-16. Nature has to take its course.
BfF: Speed (of thought as well as pace) and intelligence are essential in the modern game: do you agree? Can these be coached or are players just born with those skills?
AC: Player who could think fast and take the right decisions is always something which was always important – not only in the modern game but also in the past.
For me, Gurdiola was a very slow player, but he was the fastest player on the field. He was always in the right position, always knew what to do, had the skills to perform at the highest level and every time when he received the ball the rhythm of the game changed immediately, for me, Guardiola was the fastest. This kind of players are found on the street.
The difficult task is to find them and the more difficult task is to protect them. Not to try make them better, and if we don’t make them any worse then we did our job well. When you watch Iniesta, Guardiola, Xavi, Messi… they were doing the same things on the field when they were young! You can’t teach them. All coaches want to improve players but I like to help the talented players to learn how to play simple and learn when, how, where they can use their special skills. This is what a fast player is.
BfF: How does a club ensure that young players can progress to the first team? What must be in place?
AC: Clubs must have a very clear vision, values and mission in their youth academy in the same methods of training and playing which means that all must pull in the same direction. You are not the coach of the U-15’s but a coach who is there to help the talents reach the first team. You don’t work as a coach for your team, but you work as a coach for your club. You must be sure that everyone at the club respects that. Recruiting the right coaches is even more difficult than scouting for talented players.
BfF: In the past you said that you like your teams to play offensive football and many will feel the same. However, how does a coach ensure that there is a balance in his team between defence and attack?
AC: We can’t split between attack and defense. They are both connected with each other. In attack, one has to think about defense (in the event that we lose the ball) and when we defend one must always think about attack (for the moment when we win the ball) and go on the attack.
But obviously for me, offensive football begins with being very good at winning the ball back and to do so, one must be very organized defensively. I like to have the ball and play positioning game, then, when we lose the ball, we want to win it back as soon as possible and not wait until the opponents lose the ball. I will attack the opponent. I will press high and aggressive, and force a mistake which will earn me the ball back.
BfF: Given that for the first part of your career you were a youth team coach, what is the most important skill of a coach who works with youths?
AC: The most important characteristic of a youth team coach is to teach the players to work as a team whilst respecting the football style. The strongest guideline is not to change in the event of a defeat but to remain strong in keeping your values and guidelines. Believe in what you are doing. The player, or any individual is never more important than the team.
Even if you have an exceptional talent amongst your team, help him learn how to work for the team and not the opposite.
BfF: When a coach does make the move from youths to first team, what is the biggest change they have to be ready for?
AC: The first thing should be ego – as young players are at the beginning of their careers and don’t think they are the finished article just yet. In first team football, as opposed to youth team football – results influence your day-to-day routine.
First team football is on most occasions under the spotlight of media, board members and other powers in the game. In youth football it is all about and around the game: learning improving etc’. In professional football, these are only 30%-40% as one should be prepared to be aware of the influence of everything else around the game.
BfF: What do you want to achieve in the coming years to consider yourself happy with your career?
AC: I came to Maccabi to win things, titles and this is where I look for the immediate future. In the long run, I would love to have the possibility to coach in the Premier League, Bundesliga and at the end of my career I would love to go back and coach young coaches to share my knowledge, experiences, thoughts and believes with them.
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