Un minute of interview is enough to verify that Ramon Plans He is passionate about his work with extensive experience in elite football. The sports director of Ricardo Barkala’s candidacy attends MARCA to explain its work model. A structure based on the demand, the training and the courage to “push up” those players who are different from the rest. Something that he already put into practice with Gavi during his time at Barcelona, whom he made his debut in the subsidiary when he was still a cadet.
Ask. Do any of your previous experiences resemble what it would be like to work in a club like this?
Response. I have had experiences in clubs with a clear youth culture like Espanyol or Barça. Barça, although it is very big, has a philosophy of betting on people from the house. But of course, Athletic is unique. There are many clubs that are not linked to that culture, neither by the fan nor by the DNA. Espanyol and Barça yes, but Athletic is unique
P. When you refer to the signing of Pedri, you emphasize that the important thing is “to have people who give you advance information to get ahead of the rest.” How can these contacts help in the case of Athletic?
R. There are two basic words: selection and training. Everyone talks about “the miracle of Uruguay, a country that I know very well. Three million people and it continually qualifies for the World Cups. I think that the Basque Country is a field from which many players constantly come out and now there is more competition, but the different player cannot escape us. It is to apply the same to a specific territory and there try to be the best and the fastest capturing. We talk about Big Data and others, which is vital for many things, but sometimes everything comes down to a guy who tells you “come here, there’s a 13-year-old kid who’s spectacular” Those things work like that many times and for that you have to be there.
P. I understand that you give more weight to the human eye than to the data…
R. For me, data is very important because it gives you a lot of information, but what ultimately makes the difference is always the human eye. Sensitivity and knowing how to be on top of the player. In 22 years I have a lot of examples of players who “hey, I don’t see it” and I say “yes I see it”. Then some do not arrive and many others do and have been professionals. I attach great importance to that point of the human eye. Why? Because signing and betting on players is an art and a skill. I also believe a lot in technology, like in the Athletic Lab or the biomechanics center, but a part. There is another part in the final decision that is risking and betting on the kid. Sometimes you have to have that very important point of knowing how to transfer what the kid is today to what he is going to be.
P. The Sports Directors refer to “minimizing the risk to the maximum”. How can this be achieved at an early age (youngsters, infants…) when there is not so much information?
R. The most important thing when you think about players who can become professionals is not to evaluate the physical conditions. For me the most important thing is quality and intelligence when making decisions and starting from there to start building it. I tell you in these ages that you tell me. I believe a lot in training. The qualitative leap is in capturing well and in training. If you capture ready-made people, physical people who, at 12-13 years old, make you win championships… it’s a model, but I don’t believe in it. The difference at young ages is to look for tactical intelligence, which is something innate in the player and quality, and then work on everything. In fact, one of the fundamental objectives is to increase the number of hours of training and the quality of these.
Q. So the most important thing is training.
R. Both are linked. If you give a good coach a player who has a lot of potential, it’s going to be amazing. Both are very important. It is true that a very good trainer will make you a professional and a normal player good, but it is very important to bring good players. The formula we have to find is to give the best ingredients to our chefs. Now, the training is basic.
P. Regarding recruitment, how do you think the club should be structured in terms of the number of scouts by zone and category?
R. I think there have to be specialists by age, I believe in it a lot. You know this whole category very well, and more here in the Basque Country, and control who are the best. From there, I don’t believe in a very large group of people. Recruiters must work hard as a team and share information. Few and with a lot of dedication and knowledge. This isn’t going in and doing the reports, it’s 24/7. Departments must be efficient, not bureaucratic. I believe a lot in efficiency at work and that is given by a very specific hierarchy, with few people and specific responsibilities. practical structures.
P. I imagine you have heard that phrase “in Athletic there are no forwards. Is it possible to guide training or recruitment to get a greater number of players in specific positions?
R. Of course. Why does Barcelona take out so many quality pivots? Because its structure feeds it from below. You go looking at the teams and you see that in all of them there is a Busquets or a Guardiola, all these players. Or center backs that come out well with the ball or wingers… you have to give it a spin. Forwards, today, it is difficult to find in all of Europe, not only in Athletic. There is no reason why it costs more and more. Athletic is not exempt from this problem, but I do believe that mechanisms can be found so that within the formation and style it is favored that there are more forwards. Also in training.
Q. Is it important that all the teams in the structure play the same?
R. The footballer has to learn to think, to dominate different game situations. We are obsessed with systems and they are all versatile. I think we have to make the players learn to think tactically and that gives you the tactical richness. In Athletic there are a series of traits that are non-negotiable. Anyone has to see an active, aggressive, intense team, with a high rhythm, a lot of arrival in the area, forceful in defense… and from there work tactically to consolidate tactical bases.
P. To what contexts should they be exposed to train them in the best possible way?
R. There are different stages. In the ones below it is formation and formation and when they approach the level of the first team you have to compete. We must continue training, but training based on competition. This is achieved from the most demanding training to the situations in which you can see how the player behaves. That behavior gives you a lot of information about whether he is really ready to reach the first team. They have to be as prepared as possible. In second year youth, Basconia and Bilbao Athletic we already have to put the player in that exhibition.
Q. Athletic’s youth soccer teams are used to winning almost always. How do you prepare them for competition and defeat?
R. I am not one of those who think that everyone should play at their age. If they have a level that their categories are no longer demanding… The demand is what makes you improve in any aspect of your life, there is no more. You have to push up the players that you see that are different. That is the greatest requirement, the competition. Athletic will always win the majority of base matches, as happens to Barcelona or other teams. But when you see players who already play without much demand, you have to make them jump up. Regardless of age. I think that the player has to be continuously overcoming obstacles.
P. And for the pressure of being in Athletic and the failure?
R. The whole issue of emotional support, education and managing emotions is very important. Today we have to give it vital importance and I can assure you that we are going to invest a lot in educating players on an emotional level. It’s key.
Q. Going back to the data. Have you considered the possibility of defining an “Athletic player” based on data and capturing or training accordingly?
R. That is already done in football. When you go to look for some players, you mark some parameters that you need from your full-backs, midfielders, wingers… so it is true that you can look for players that are close to that ideal. I believe in it, but no two players are the same. You can never capture a player for that. He can be a guide, never something inflexible.
P. And do something similar to hire the coaches?
R. All this exists and the same thing that I have said for the teams, I apply it to the coaches. Those who train the Athletic teams must represent those values. You can’t bring in a defensive, conservative or very tactical and wearisome coach because he doesn’t go with the values that the fans want. Today everything is measured and you have many tools. It has happened to me that I have analyzed the trainer and I have contrasted if what my eye sees is the reality of the data. There are things that are given more or less importance depending on the club you are in.