Four European Cups with his two titles and four World Cups with the triumph of South Africa as the maximum exponent. Since his position as goalkeeping coach, José Manuel Ochotorena (Hernani, 61 years old) has experienced both sides of the national team from within. Times of drought and times of plenty. In total, 17 years as an international sharing task with his daily job at Valencia, including the trip to Liverpool with Rafa Benítez. Last February he reached an agreement with the Federation to leave the activity. His departure did not sound good at first. The interested party left in silence. With the discretion that has characterized him in these decades in which he lived day by day with seven different coaches. On the eve of the first major international competition to be lost, he agrees to break his silence.
Question. You will feel naked …
Answer. A little strange yes I feel. It has been 17 years without missing an appointment. I feel nostalgic, but since it has been a mature decision, which I saw coming, I was preparing and assuming it little by little. The day of the first match will be difficult, I suppose, but it is inevitable. I have enjoyed it a lot, I knew it was going to have an end and I saw that mine was approaching. Generations go by, selectors. I’m not a kid either. I did not want to be to be in a place. I am privileged for all the past time.
P. Does it come out by own decision? Do they open the door for you and invite you to step forward?
R. It is the feeling that younger generations arrive with different expectations. The issue of age has an influence. It was an agreement by both parties. In the conversations that we had, I let it fall that my idea of leaving him was closer and for their part they also understood that that option was closer. Once they tell me they want a different twist, I accept it, because we had already talked about it. The door was open. When they offered me the last renovation we already commented something. I said I would step aside if they had other ideas about my position. There was nothing I didn’t like. I may have had the illusion of reaching the Eurocup, but when they did get it to me, it didn’t make any sense.
P. And when you look back, what do you see?
R. A lot of work, dedication, pride, sacrifice, especially family, because the work of the club was combined with that of the national team and I didn’t even have a vacation. But it was something he wanted to do. No one made me do it. Living from within the most golden stage of Spanish football makes up for everything. There is no money to pay for all those experiences. Many would have paid to be there. There are four European Cups, four World Cups …
“A mix between Luis Aragonés and Del Bosque would be perfection”
P. Who signed you for the national team?
R. Julen was [Lopetegui] in that position. He was the first. He went to train at Rayo and left my name to Iñaki Sáez, who was then the coach. It can be said that he bet on me.
P. Seven selectors and one in two stages. The first, Sáez.
R. A lifelong soccer man. A man from the grassroots, from the schools.
P. Luis Aragones.
R. A teacher. Singular. Very different from everyone. You have to know it.
P. Vicente del Bosque.
R. With different forms, but as valid as the previous one. A mix of Luis and Del Bosque would be the summum, it would be perfection.
R. We have been united by a great friendship since the days of Castilla. That closeness makes our relationship different.
P. Fernando Hierro.
R. It was a very difficult time. He stepped forward and was brave. It could go well or badly and tails came out.
P. Luis Enrique.
R. He is more like Luis Aragonés. Passional. He has taken the selection as a personal challenge. It has all the seasonings to get results again. Regardless of the misfortune of his daughter’s passing, he remains the same. He is even more energetic, with more enthusiasm, more will. It is very winning. Very fighter.
P. Robert Moreno.
R. In that transition, he kept the line of Luis. He can be a great coach.
“Robert seems to me to be a very interesting goalkeeper because of his potential”
P. In the almost 20 years that he has been a specific coach, the goalkeeper’s evolution has been greater than any other position.
R. Even the goalkeeper profile that is sought has changed, the work systems are different, the coaches have different demands. A goalkeeper coach always has to adapt to the goalkeepers he has and in my case I also had to adapt to the methods they had in their clubs. You have to understand the goalkeeper. Know what your point of view is. I do not like the excess of information. You have to seek common sense. No matter how much data you have, you cannot tell a goalkeeper that such a striker is going to shoot a safe penalty on the right … You cannot take the leading role from him. He has to think, to decide. So much technology applied to football is positive, but it still has to win me over … I believe in progress, but you have to realize that all clubs have the same information. The goalkeeper must be a goalkeeper. There is the goalkeeper who stops and the goalkeeper who avoids.
P. The difference?
R. The one who avoids is the most tactical goalkeeper, the one who is more aware of the game, analyzes the different situations that arise and is able to give the exact guidelines so that chances are not generated. The one that stops is the one whose greatest quality is having a reaction to the last stimulus, shot or occasion that occurs. So that we understand each other, an Oblak and a Stegen. Two different styles. Oblak would enter the first group and Stegen in the second. He is more bound by the tactical conditions of his team.
P. How is the daily coexistence with three goalkeepers of which only one plays?
R. You have to use a certain psychology and know all three in depth. Both its positive points, as well as the negative ones. You have to constantly be in communication with them. Those who do not play have their lows and you have to try to help them. The work in the selection is different. Normally, you have three super starting goalkeepers on your teams.
P. The best coexistence between goalkeepers you have ever had?
R. Sometimes they put you in extreme situations because of their behaviors and their performances. The Iker-Víctor (Valdés) -Pepe (Reina) shortlist seemed complicated and it was not. There was much speculation about how they would get along with each other. It was a World Cup and a European Championship. And I have very good memories because we also had doubts about how they could adapt. They were three roosters together and the coexistence they had was perfect.
P. And the worst?
R. That of Cañizares, Hildebrand and Palop in Valencia was not easy.
P. Was the most delicate moment of all you have lived when De Gea took Iker’s place at Euro 2016?
R. Yes. For what Iker represented, that change for David was not easy for anyone. It was a difficult relationship. Iker’s relationship with Vicente was very tense since the concentration began. More than tense, of evident distancing. He talked to me more. We were trying to soften the relationship. Iker was burned, he would have his reasons, but the relationship with me until the end I think was good. He made me notice his discomfort. He did not share our decision. He was trying to explain to him that we continue to bet on him when he was not playing for Real Madrid and he told us that then we would have had reasons to have cleaned him up, as he said. So he didn’t come to tell us not to put him on because he wasn’t playing for his team. He fell silent and continued playing. I was trying to explain it to him in a good way. We were aware that it was Iker and he was convinced at that Euro Cup that he could play.
P. Did you refuse to play the third game?
R. He was very upset and didn’t take that step. Vicente would have put it if he had detected that he wanted to play it. He didn’t tell me as such that he didn’t want to play, but it showed.
P. Are you aware that historically the national team has always had a starting goalkeeper (Iribar, Arconada, Zubizarreta, Casillas …) and that now it doesn’t?
R. Possibly there is a change in concept. Casillas, Valdés and Reina marked an era. The generational change is coming now. The possibilities are more extensive. David had his moment. Then Unai came in and maybe he is not responding to that confidence and in the end Robert Sánchez can enter, a very interesting goalkeeper due to his potential… Performance marks continuity. From now on, the goalkeeper may be changed even in the same tournament. Now those considered substitutes play more. When there is a hegemony it is logical that there are no changes, but the culture of the goalkeeper and ten others is changing. There are already coaches who change goalkeepers depending on the rival or even their own way of playing. Over time I think that the goalkeeper position will be a rotation position as well and in the national teams more than in the clubs.
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