It’s always a joy to go back to Villarreal. I spent five years at a great club and I had the chance of meeting great people behind the club such as the President or Jose Manuel Llaneza, as well as building a squad with many great players. Those were five extraordinary years, not only because we showcased good football but also because of the good results. I decided to leave because I had an important challenge in front of me. I had many offers to leave the club but I never listened to them. I accepted the challenge because it’s very demanding personally speaking.
The next away games are against Villarreal and Sevilla. Will it be a good chance of seeing the team’s true level of play?
At Real Madrid you are analysed each week and each person has its own point of view. Villarreal, Tenerife and Sevilla are complicated opponents because they want to play the games of their life against us. We shouldn’t decrease the collective or individual performances in any game. We’ll fight for the victory right from the kick-off against those three teams.
Has it come as a surprise the goal-scoring ability of the team? Do you think Real Madrid can reach Barcelona’s level of play?
It didn’t come as a surprise because we already proved our offensive power in friendly games. Some players show their characteristics in each training and running drills they do. We have to respect their style and make the best out of it. I don’t pretend them to play as Barcelona does because it’s a different audience and a different club. First we’re trying to win games and then we’ll showcase good football to make people leave our stadium happy. Each team has its virtues and we’re trying to do important.
How much time do you think you need for the team to be completed gelled?
It isn’t a matter of time. The preseason was the time we needed to design a competitive team for the league opener and a team capable of winning. This is what we have done in the first three or four matches. There may be criticism about the lack of scoring or playing well. From a coaching point of view, Casillas has made few saves. In terms of dominated play, we did just that against Deportivo and Espanyol and against Xerez we got out of a rut that might happen in any match. The team has shown that it can improve. I don’t think we played poorly against Xerez. Casillas didn’t have any trouble, but we lost possession of the ball. It was a balanced match with a lot of goals. We try to improve week after week, but I don’t think it is a matter of time.
You mention institutional differences between Barcelona and Real Madrid. Do you watch Barcelona matches?
I try to watch as many matches as I can to stay as informed as I can.
I count on 23 players for every match. I then have to choose 18 for the squad list, 11 for the pitch and seven for the bench. The team that will play against Villarreal was already determined before the Xerez match. It is a match we have been preparing for. We have a lot of matches scheduled in a two-month span so rotations are mandatory. We must put the best team on the pitch in every match, so it doesn’t matter if a particular city has been kind or not to a player.
Do you have a particular kind of midfielder in mind depending on whether you play at home or on away?
I don’t think so. It’s similar to what I was saying about the city. The stadium we play in has nothing to do with the players. They have the ability to play everywhere and in front of anyone. I respect anyone’s opinion regarding who should play with whom, but I take many more variables into account to build a team.
Are you responsible for the team being so strong from a physical standpoint?
It is a very important matter. The team is fresh and is very intense when playing. We planned the preseason so that every player got a similar amount of playing time, not to search for a certain starting eleven for the first match of the season. It is crucial to be physically prepared throughout the season to reach the end of the season in top form.
Is any part of you still left in Villarreal?
I try to watch them as much as possible to stay informed, just like I do will every opponent. We will try to play independent of the situation they are going through. The season just started, so if we want to well we cannot thing about such things.
What kind of reception do you expect from El Madrigal?
A good one I hope. I was always treated kindly in my five years there. I gave the team an identity that fans really liked and we were successful on a regular basis.
Isn’t it too early to rotate players being that they aren’t even tired yet?
Rotating isn’t due to fatigue. Players can play three matches per week, but the physical, technical and mental output wouldn’t be the same. The same eleven could play seven or eight straight matches, but then there would be injuries and an unmotivated squad. There are many variables to take into account for rotating. Performance increases when rotations are used. The team that played against Depor was similar to the one that played against Xerez. Fatigue is not a factor.