Fernando Hierro at Marca
I loved this interview with Fernando Hierro, because you can see from his words how solid the base that the Spanish national team is built on, from the youngest categories to the senior team. Thanks to Fernando, the foundation for many more years of success has been laid, and we should all be grateful to him for everything he’s done, and for bringing us so much joy in his four years at the RFEF. Muchas gracias.
Tomorrow is Fernando Hierro’s last day of work as sporting director of the Federation. He leaves after four years in which Spanish football has shed all its fears and insecurities to become a reference in the world.
What are you going to do on the day after tomorrow, July 1?
Think the same as I did on June 30. I’m sure that I will very much miss a work that developed over four years in a fantastic atmosphere. We’ve all gone in the same direction, we’ve shared everything, everyone has contributed and no one has imposed anything, ever. I’ve really enjoyed being the sporting director.
Then why are you leaving?
There’s no one reason. There were many things that made me think, and when I put them on a balance, those that asked me where I wanted to go in the future won out. I leave with the satisfaction of a job well done, and with a better relationship with the Federation than when I came. It’s been a very intense four years. I know that people have speculated that a confrontation led me to leave, but there’s nothing to that.
Can the existing structure function without Hierro on the team?
I’m sure it can. When I look back at the day I came, I remember that many people were asking why another position in the Federation was needed. The first one was me. They thought it was only going to create problems with the coaches, that no one would know who was in charge or making decisions. With time, you could see that everything has been normal. We’ve been very lucky, especially in the last three years, to have a senior team coach who always looks at those teams below him.
What words do you have for the coaches?
Only good ones. They committed themselves to developing players so that they could get to the senior level, and they’ve worked with a sporting director that loved what they were doing. Our hope was to help develop players from the time they arrive at the age of 15 until they reach the senior team.
Was it complicated working with Luis Aragonés?
When I arrived in September 2007, I had only met him two or three times before. I didn’t know anyone on his staff. With Del Bosque and his people, we’ve been in tune with each other since many years ago. He was my coach in Madrid, his assistant coach was my assistant coach, the same with the fitness coach. It was impossible for the harmony to be the same.
What’s left of your relationship with Aragonés?
A very strong base of respect. I never got involved in his work, and he never did in mine. He thought my role was more focused on the lower categories. Eighty percent of my work has not been with the senior team. There was respect, but the identity I had with Del Bosque and his team would have been impossible with any other coach. With Vicente, it’s like we’re brothers.
There are some in the Federation that think that Hierro is more of a player than a director.
The players tell me I’m too much on the other side! My work is very solitary. You’re not a player, not a manager, not a coach, not a sponsor, nor are you the one responsible for negotiating the bonuses, but I had to do all that work. I would arrive from speaking with the captains and be told that I always think like the players and that I was always on their side. I would go talk to the players and they would tell me that I was quickly becoming a manager.
You arrived with the label of madridista and you leave with Barcelona’s players saying wonderful things about you.
I’m not going to hide what my heart feels. I’m not going to forget, nor do I want to forget, how proud I am of having played for Madrid for so long. But when you begin working in the Federation, you represent Spanish football. I believe I have treated all the teams the same, from the most humble one to Madrid or Barça. That’s what it means to put on the red shirt, which belongs to all the teams in this country. It doesn’t bother me to be labeled as a madridista, but my relationship with Barcelona has always been fantastic and the behavior of Barça with the Federation has always been excellent.
What is the philosophy with the youth players?
We’ve really stressed the human touch. It’s easy to be there for them when everything is going well, when they score a lot or win titles. We want to be there for them when there are problems, injuries, complicated situations… no matter what category they’re in, the important thing is the footballer, the person. You win them over much more when you visit or call during a bad moment than during a concentración. We’ve worked very hard on this aspect.
Has all the work you’ve done been threatened by what happened between Madrid and Barcelona’s players?
No. Time goes by and wounds heal. We have to stop and understand that we have the dream that everyone wants in our hands. We have to make an effort to overcome these things. In my time, the same thing would have happened if Madrid and Barça played four times in a month for three titles. There are many interests at stake.
You really don’t think relations will be affected?
Yes. The players are mature and Vicente knows how to handle this situation. He has a lot of psychological experience to do it. What we have to do is strengthen and not injure. The players don’t deserve to have others doubt them. They’ve been an example of values, co-existence. This group deserves to have everyone fighting for them.
What changed on July 11, 2010?
For me, the real change in Spanish football took place against Italy in the 2008 Eurocopa. On that day, the fear disappeared. I was in the palco and I thought, “Madre mía, 0-0, it’s the same history in the quarterfinals and against Italy.” Many negative memories came to mind, all of them bad. When Iker stopped the penalties and Cesc scored his, we vanquished our ghosts. The barrier fell down thanks to an exceptional generation with a fantastic commitment.
The World Cup campaign is now a model for others.
It’s not anything new. That work started a long time ago with people like Iñaki Sáez, Juan Santisteban… one day I told Ginés Meléndez that it wasn’t the lower categories that had to look up to the senior team, but the opposite. If the younger ones were the ones who were winning, then the senior team is the one that has to emulate them. The Eurocopa and the World Cup have reinforced a style that all of Spanish football is comfortable with.
Is Iniesta the face of this model?
There’s no need to explain what Andrés means to our football, but it’s not just Iniesta. There’s Xavi, there’s Casillas… the gesture of Iniesta with Jarque is an exemplary message, just like Mata, Javi Martínez or Busquets wanting to play with the U-21 team. These are things that are representative of Spanish football in this moment. They are examples of commitment.
Does it make you angry when people doubt Xavi, Piqué or Puyol and speak of politics?
Very much so. I don’t understand it. You think, what’s going on here? A guy like Xavi, who’s played more than 100 games with the team, Puyol, who plays with his heart and soul, or Piqué, who’s been here since he was 16.
Will we see you as a coach?
It’s one of the things I’m considering. The field is calling me after four years in an office. I’ve overseen some training sessions of the U-16 team and I had a great time.
To end, give us an original definition of Del Bosque.
It’s difficult to find anything new to say about the señor marqués. Un tío cojonudo, cojonudo de verdad.