Panaji, November 10 (IANS): FC Goa chief coach Sergio Lobera has a huge task at hand as he prepares his team for the fourth edition of the Indian Super League (ISL).
The Spaniard replaces Brazil legend Zico, counted among the greatest footballers ever, and must inspire a team that had an awful time last season, finishing last with just four wins from 14 outings.
At 40, Sergio is also the youngest coach in the ISL which one would think, makes his job even tougher.
The Spaniard seems unfazed, though. In fact, he oozes confidence, and is convinced he can help his side script a new chapter following Zico’s three-year reign.
“For me it is a pleasure to be able to substitute Zico. It’s not pressure of any kind. Instead, it’s great motivation. Zico has been a great footballer and, in my eyes, he is a great coach too,” the FC Goa coach said on Friday.
“He (Zico) is also one of the big names in the football world. But, in my opinion, what’s most important is the club. Coaches change, but what’s left are the clubs, the fans and the people linked to the sport,” Lobera added.
FC Goa, under coach Lobera, travelled to Spain for pre-season training and won three of their five friendlies, two of them very convincingly.
FC Goa are one of two franchises who did not retain their foreign players.
Last year, Zico opted for players from Brazil. And now, Lobera appears to have done the same by picking Spaniards.
For Lobera and FC Goa, it’s quality that matters and not the player’s nationality.
“We did a lot of research and had plenty of discussions before zeroing in on the names. There is a particular style of football that I want to play and we chose players based on that philosophy and ideals in conjunction with the image that the club wanted to project this year,” the 40-year-old said.
“We chose to get some players who are familiar with the system and we also got some players who we feel have great potential to excel in this system,” Lobera, who was among the coaching staff of the senior Barcelona team added.
The FC Goa squad includes Manuel Lanzarote, formerly with Barcelona reserves, Moroccan international midfielder Ahmed Jahouh, Copa Del Rey winner Ferran Corominas and fan favourite Bruno Pinheiro, who returns to the team after an impressive spell during the first edition in 2014 when the club lost in the semi-finals against eventual champions ATK.
Zico took the team to the final in 2015 before last season’s disaster, and while Lobera provides no assurances, this team has much more than just promise.
If at all there is a cause for worry, it’s in the goalkeeping department where the club chose not to sign a foreign goalkeeper.
With Laxmikant Kattimani, among the Indian players the club retained, expected to be number one, there will be considerable pressure. But for a team that has so much talent elsewhere, such minor concerns can hopefully be overcome.