Asier Garitano, the man behind Leganés’ incredible progress

Last week Leganés knocked out Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey and progressed to tonight’s semifinals for the first time in their history. Four years ago, they were playing in the third tier of Spanish football; last season, they made their debut in the First Division and managed to avoid relegation. All this progress has come under the management of Asier Garitano (Bergara, Spain 1969). Revista Panenka interviewed him for the #66 edition of their magazine. This is an extract of their conversation:

-What is more special, to dream of staying in Primera or to actually achieve it?

Our dream is an old dream. It is nothing new: we at Leganés first dreamt with getting promoted from Segunda B (third tier of Spanish football) to Segunda A (second tier); later we were brave enough to dream to become a First Division side, and once we arrived here, we discovered that it was possible to stay up. I don't know what else we can achieve. I don't know what we can ask.

-But a manager always asks for more...

No. A manager is always overthinking, but you have to adapt to the things you has: the people, the means or the city were you live, because that is also part of your job. It is not only about job. Not only about the players.

-So it is not all about winning or losing...

No, of course that it isn’t, but one thing is linked to the other. I am happy at a place where I feel that people can feel identified with me. But it is not something you can just say, it is also about knowing the price of the tickets, about going to the stadium to buy a season ticket for my wife and another one for my 10-year-old kid, or about opening our trainings to viewers, like those retired people that come to watch us every single day, even in the coldest days of winter.

-Nowadays most of the teams train behind closed doors...

I may have also done it at some specific point or at some stage of training because I saw people filming us. But it is not usual here in Leganés.

-If you managed Manchester City, would you be any different?

I imagine so. I would have to adapt to a different place that has nothing to do with Leganés, I would have to know about the city and even about the people. One of the things that I chose in Leganés was living in the center of the city and I do not regret it because that has helped me to know the place better.

-And don't you feel the pressure of the people?

Not at all. Here people are really respectful and I can go to have breakfast to a café or go to have a beer without any problem .

-What is the manager’s vanity?

I do not know how to face that question because I do not believe in vanity. One totally relies on the players. Their performance is what is going to make me a better or worse manager. I can get angry with them but in these few years that I have been coaching I have discovered that my anger usually last a short period of time: in football, anger does not win you games.

-Do you need more means?

I don’t know. But each one has what it has. I can talk about what I have here at Leganés and not about what I would have if I managed City, Betis or Eibar. Maybe elsewhere there would be more means, but I would not have the calm that we have here, this silence, this freedom of not feeling that your behavior at trainings is being watched closely… That lets you do say somethings that, maybe, you wouldn’t.

-Are challenges addictive?

Challenges are really cool, but they are complicated, yeah.

-Is Leganés working class people in the First Division?

No, not at all, here we are much more money. In comparison with the rest? In that sense the difference can be huge. But we have to think only about ourselves. One year ago we had a 1 million (Euros) budget in Segunda B; then they were 4.5 millions in Segunda and now we have over 30. Wouldn't it be great to keep growing the way we are progressing? Isn't this what everyone aspires and aren't we achieving it?

-Last season for you it was like a first love in the First Division. Do you think that it will be the same tis season?

It will be different, but our objective is the same, to keep proving that we can be amongst the best and that we don't want to leave. When I started to coach, I would always say ‘Someday I want to reach the First Division’. Therefore, now that I am here, I cannot get tired of being in the First Division, I cannot even think that this is going to become repetitive. It’s the other way. We need to show again that we can be here with our means, with what've got. We cannot think about the things that we do not have.

-The manager of Leganés never wears a jacket and a tie at games. Does it have to be this way?

For me, yes. I don't think that I have to do it . I belong to a working class city in the south of Madrid, with loads of factories and industrial areas, and myself, as a manager, I pretend be the living image of what I see on these streets, I do not want to be something else.

-Who buys your clothes?

My wife helps me, especially when it comes to the colors and telling me what suits me better. But generally it is me who buys the clothes. I cannot stand anything different in that sense because I do not consider myself as someone special.

-There are managers that publicly admit that they have a lot of spare time.

I also get told that. But it is not my case. Maybe because I do not have the aptitudes of those managers. But once we start, I no longer have spare team. I spend the afternoons preparing the trainings, watching videos, and I do not have time to do more things. But that is the way it is. I have learnt to live this way, to accept myself the way I am.

-So if I invited you to go to the cinema tomorrow?

It would be complicated.

-Does it make you a better coach to spend that much time working on football?

I don’t know, but I like it. I try to enjoy what I do because it is the life I have chosen. I always wanted to be a manager and a good manager tries to do things differently. But before trying you need time. You have to see them, plan them, think if they are actually possible… If tomorrow I tried to put a center back as a right back, I should have talked to him about it in advance and I checked if it was possible. Before doing something, you have to prove it. You don't have to take risks if there is no reason to do so.