Manolo Marquez hails from the Spanish city of Barcelona, the home of the eponymous football club often regarded as the birthplace of ‘Tika Taka’ – a brand of football that focuses on being patient with the ball and using short and quick passes to build play.

Under Pep Guardiola, FC Barcelona dominated European club football playing an eye-catching style of football. At the club, winning is important, but what is essential is winning by playing beautiful football.

Marquez, on the other hand, has a rather pragmatic approach to the sport, wherein winning takes importance over the style of play you employ.

Which is why Marquez’s appointment as the coach of Indian Super League club FC Goa is an exciting and intriguing one. Goa have been one of the best clubs in Indian men’s football since the first Indian Super League season in 2014, especially because of their attacking and attractive style of play.

However, the club has not consistently tasted success like Mohun Bagan Super Giant, Bengaluru FC or, recently, Mumbai City FC. Marquez’s arrival from Hyderabad FC, where he spent three successful seasons which saw the club win the ISL Championship once and finish in the top two twice, has raised hopes among the FC Goa faithful.

In a conversation with Scroll, Marquez spoke about his decision to join FC Goa, his success with younger players and his expectations from the club.

Edited excerpts follow

You had three very good seasons with Hyderabad FC and many clubs were hoping to get you on board. What drew you to FC Goa after you decided to leave Hyderabad?

Well, I think it was easy to choose FC Goa because I am from a country where football is a religion. And then if you speak about football in India, there are some places like Kerala, Kolkata and the North East but I think that FC Goa is the most similar to Europe. Because the structure of the club is very similar to Europe and football is the No 1 sport in the state.

And of course, it is a big club with a good organization. A good place to live. It was an easy decision. The difficult decision was to leave Hyderabad. But with all the problems that they have in terms of financial issues, when I decided to leave Hyderabad, FC Goa was my first option.

What were the conversations you had with the FC Goa management in terms of expectations?

I know that the last two seasons the club didn’t qualify for the playoffs. I think last season was an accident because six teams could qualify and Goa were always in the top six during the competition. But the last three games, Goa lost and finally they were seventh.

Now the first goal is to try and qualify for the top six. If we can qualify for the top two, fantastic. But I think that you have to be realistic. I think that Mumbai and Mohun Bagan Super Giant, they play at another level but FC Goa can be next after these two teams. We can qualify and if one of these teams do not have a good season and we have, of course, then we can qualify for the top two. But if you ask me what is the target at this moment, the target is to arrive in the best conditions possible for the first game in the ISL.

What have your impressions been of playing against Goa in the past three seasons?

Last season I attended an event in Hyderabad with Bart Ogbeche and Akash Mishra where we were asked which was the most difficult team that we had played during these three seasons. Only Bart said Mumbai. But Akash and I said FC Goa.

I think that the style of FC Goa, when you are the opponent, is very uncomfortable. They take the ball, keep possession, keep the ball all the time and you have to be with a lot of [patience and discipline], waiting for your moment. The players are technically sound.

In every interview I used to say that in Goa, it is not only that you have to win, it is how you win. The style is very important. I am from Barcelona. It is a similar situation with Barca because people, when the team wins, they are not happy if they don’t play good football. It’s totally the opposite with Real Madrid. This is the reason that Real Madrid win everything.

Like you said, football is the No 1 sport in Goa. Do you feel there is pressure on you to hit the ground running and try to win the club’s first ISL title?

I like this one line, ‘These things [pressure] are in the salary of the coach.’ I think that you know that the pressure will be different in every club. I think that I am an experienced coach and I think that won’t affect me.

But it’s true that it’s important to win in the first games, even if you don’t play great football. Because it gives confidence to the players and then the team will play better. In the beginning, what is more important than the style is the score, because you are building something and then if you want the players to believe in this work. It’s important to get the good scores in the beginning and I am completely sure that the attitude of the players will be will be very good in this case.

At Hyderabad, you earned a reputation of developing Indian players. How do you go about developing young players? Also, Goa has one of the best academies in India and have some exciting young players. How excited are you to be working with them?

You know the first thing that I have to tell you is that I love to train young teams. In Spain, I was very lucky because I trained two very good B teams in Espanyol and Las Palmas and I love to train these kinds of teams.

In Hyderabad, practically most of the players were very, very young. Akash [Mishra], Ashish [Rai], Liston [Colaco], Hitesh [Sharma], Chinglensana [Singh], a lot of players were very young. Now if you see the Goa squad, they are with a lot of experienced players. There are very good young players who played well last season. I think that the most clear example is Ayush [Chhetri].

I like to train young players, but finally, the young players have to show that they can play and that they are better. For me, age is not important. The experience is very important. But finally if one young player is in a better moment than an experienced player, then the young player will play.

I’m not a magician. I think that the key is the attitude of the players. What happened in Hyderabad was that these young players had the chance very early to play because a lot of foreigners were injured in the first two games. We played with three foreigners practically for most of the season.

At that moment they showed the quality that I was looking for during the training sessions. There’s another sentence that I like to use: One normal player with confidence is better than one very good player without.

If you have this confidence and you have the quality then you can play at a good level. With the national team it is obvious, no? The Indian players are improving not only season by season but it’s now more week by week.

The process is the process. It’s not like I like young players so they will play. No, they have to show that they can play and they have to play better.

Goa has seen an overhaul in the off-season with many players including club legend Edu Bedia leaving. There are also many experienced Indian players like Sandesh Jhingan, Udanta Singh, Rowlin Borges coming in. Does it make it easier to take over a team in transition and implement your style of play?

That will depend on the players. They have to understand that they can learn when they are not only 18, 19, 20, but also when they are 27, 28 or 30 years old. You can learn at every moment in your life. Even I will learn from them.

If the attitude is very good, finally you need everyone to go in the same direction. If everyone goes in the same direction the season will be good. If not, there will be problems for sure. But this is [true for] every club in the world. I am very optimistic and confident that the season will be very good.

What is the style of play that fans can expect from you?

I am a coach who tries to adapt to the style of players. Yes, there are some things that are very important for me, being orderly, playing compact football with not too much space between the lines. But it depends on the qualities of your players. If you have a good player who can dribble, of course you have to take advantage of these qualities.

I think that in a style of play, every player has his role and he has to play these roles for the team. You cannot say you want to play like Barcelona or like a Guardiola team if you don’t have the players. If you want to build up from the back and you don’t have the correct players, then it is an unnecessary risk. I think that the most important thing is to win. With the players that we have we can play good football and it depends on the players more than the coach.