Toni Grande at Marca
Toni Grande says in this interview that it is probably the first personal interview he’s ever done. And this is a man who has won the World Cup, the Spanish Liga and the Champions League as an assistant coach! This once again shows how low-key the cast of characters that make up La Roja is, and if you read the interview, the humility is also once again reinforced.
I also like how the introduction went, so here it is, translated as well: you can ask him where there is a good restaurant in any corner of Spain. He knows where. He almost memorized the Guía Campsa during the years when he worked for the company. In that time, he held more than one job, because he was also the coach of the youth teams of Real Madrid, for which he earned 7,000 pesetas. You can also ask him about any player that La Roja might face, and he’ll give you all the details. Toni Grande is Vicente del Bosque’s shadow, his loyal right hand man, his friend. In reality, he’s much more than the person that sits next to Del Bosque on the bench.
Q: Why do you always sit on Vicente del Bosque’s right?
A: We have this mania. Normally, it’s the coach that sits in the first seat, but in our case it’s me. I wouldn’t call it superstition, but we’re not going to change it.
Q: In what ways are you not his “segundo?”
A: I’m older than him, I have a bit more hair and in the area of gastronomy. Vicente eats more than me, but I have more curiosity. From the time that we won the World Cup, I’ve added two kilos to my paunch. All those celebratory meals have caught up to me. The World Cup brought me a lot of joy, but I’ve had to pay for it.
Q: Have you received the bonus yet?
A: No, not yet, but this isn’t going to be a problem.
Q: You’ve always remained discretely in the background. Are you now recognized on the street?
A: This summer, I went with my wife to the beach. I had sunglasses on and was reading newspapers in my beach chair. Two people who were jogging along the beach ran past me, and as they did, they shouted, “congratulations champion!” I would never have thought that possible. It’s true that I’ve always tried to stay in my place. In fact, this is probably the first personal interview that I’ve done, so I’m like a kid with new shoes.
Q: And what is your place?
A: That of an assistant. And that means helping out, not complicating things or upsetting anyone.
Q: What is your method, your responsibilities?
A: Vicente and I follow the players. We have a list of almost 60 names. We also have two people who collaborate with us, Paco and Antonio. I’m in charge of telling them what games they should watch and which players. I’m also responsible for the schedules. On the field, I take care of the strategies when the ball is not in play and during the games I take notes for the halftime talk. I pay attention to a lot of details, and the substitutions.
Q: You’ve known Del Bosque for 40 years and worked with him for 12. What did you say to each other when you hugged after Spain won the World Cup?
A: Nothing, we didn’t need to say anything. We know each other very well and we know what the other is thinking. It was a short and intense hug. That was enough for us. We’re both very introverted. I don’t know if you noticed, but during the national anthem, everyone has their arms around each other’s shoulders, except Vicente and me. I assure you that we feel it as much as anyone else, but there are certain gestures that we’re not comfortable with. The same thing happens to me on a familial level. My wife gets upset with me because I’m incapable of saying “thank you” or “I love you.” I tell her that that’s the way I am and that everyone knows that.
Q: On the bench, you and Del Bosque are like soul mates.
A: In some ways, no. I’m more excitable. Vicente will tell me, “listen, they’re going to kick us out, shut your mouth” (smiles). Sometimes we have to talk like ventriloquists. Outside of football, Vicente is much more of a homebody than I am. He enjoys being with his Alvarito and his things. He spends 90% of the time at home. I’m always involved in other things. In addition, Vicente loves listening to the radio, and is always listening. I only listen when I’m in the car. We’ve been together for 12 years and for that I always say that I know what he’s doing.
Q: And what is he doing right now?
A: He’s meeting with Javier Miñano and a computer expert. Javi, who is much younger, believes in data and in statistics. Vicente also uses a computer frequently. I don’t even own one. I only used one when we were with Beşiktaş to read Spanish newspapers. I’m not a big believer in statistics. What’s important for me is what stays in my head after I see it. If I’m told that a player has run 11 kilometers and 300 meters, I think, “I don’t know how much he’s run, but I know that he’s getting tired from doing it.” Although I’m getting older, I don’t consider myself old and my head is functioning very well. I do watch a lot of videos, however.
Q: And of everything you’ve seen, what will you never forget?
A: Traveling on a bus. It was July 12. I remember it with more intensity than the day we won the World Cup. The celebration in Madrid was the moment of my life that I’ve enjoyed the most.
Q: Why did you never attempt to become a head coach?
A: Because I don’t have the ability to be a leader. I played five seasons with Madrid and I always adapted to everyone else. They told me, “don’t do anything on your own, pass to Amancio or whoever asks for the ball.” I think I have the requisites to be a good coach, but I’m missing something.
Q: Who did have this leadership ability was Fabio Capello, whom you worked with on two different occasions.
A: I completely agree. He was a person that caught my eye when he was with Milan. The first time I worked with him, I saw his ability to command.
Q: And what have you observed about VDB?
A: He sees things that others don’t see and this may confuse people. I remember the day that we spoke to Anelka. He told us that he didn’t want to train anymore. He reproached us for not celebrating his goals. I think he said that because of me. Vicente stood in front of him and told him, “later on we’ll talk about whatever you want, but first I want to say two things to you. First, you’re going to train right now. And second, we don’t celebrate anyone’s goals, not even those of Raúl or Morientes.” There have been many players with a lot of character, but he’s always managed to tame them with reasoning.
Q: How is your relationship off the field?
A: We both have a beach house in the same place. When our wives go out, we sit down together on the terrace or in front of the TV. We talk about what we’ve gone through together, including the difficult moments, such as when we left Madrid. That was the hardest moment for the way in which they did it. But I’ve never seen him cry, and I usually don’t cry either.
Q: Do you follow Real Madrid?
A: (Thinks). No. And I don’t say this with bitterness. Right now, I’m a madridista, but of the club, the entity.
Q: Is the team we have right now the one that will play in the Eurocopa?
A: Yes, it’s 95% of the team if there aren’t any injuries. I’d like to add that I would give the Golden Ball to Xavi. I don’t want what happened to Raúl, who deserved the award but never received it, to happen to him. Other such as Iniesta are younger, but Xavi’s years are numbered.
Q: What will the team be like without Xavi?
A: That’s the problem. There is a player that can take over: Cesc.
Q: Is that the main concern?
A: It’s not the only one. We always say the same thing, which is that we hope Busquets doesn’t get injured. He gives us a lot of security. Another player that would be difficult to replace is Puyol, who is all heart and generosity. The truth is that we have a marvelous group. I’ve never seen anything like it.
Q: Is there anything missing?
A: Sometimes, I joke with the players from Barcelona, “can you imagine the national team with Messi?” And they say, “jodeeer.”
Q: On Friday, Lithuania.
A: It sounds more like basketball than football, but this team managed to tie 0-0 with Scotland and beat the Czech Republic 0-1. It’ll be a difficult game.