Manel Estiarte: “Moving to Sant Joan Despí was the best decision”

Manel Estiarte: “Moving to Sant Joan Despí was the best decision”

You remember the great interview that El Periodico published on Manel Estiarte? Well, one of Pep’s closest friends and collaborators is also leaving Barça. He held an important position, being a sort of connection between the dressing room and the coaching staff, becoming one of the team there. Here is the second part of this interview, while the original can be found here.

The first part of the interview can be read here.

Guardiola said you helped him a lot in understanding Messi.

Pep was worried when he took charge of Barça. He wanted to win Messi over, since he had the feeling that this 21 year old kid was a diamond of a player. He predicted Barça would depend on what Messi could do, so he was afraid to lose him. It was understandable. Pep grew up thinking football from a collective perspective, not only from his position on the field (as a midfielder). But me, instead, I was like Leo: always going forward, all the balls to me. Which led Pep to think Leo was a bit selfish, when he was just ambitious. I wanted Pep to understand that Messi was so incredibly self demanding that he transmits part of that to the others, like a tsunami. That ambition is like a demon inside of you, that you can’t control. That’s what has allowed Messi to be the best player in football’s history.

And then he is still exposed to some critique.

We have in Leo someone unique, someone we have to enjoy, to protect, to share. Keita defined it one day that Messi seemed a bit off: “There is nothing wrong with him, he is just the best player in the world, living his life”. And that is true. We all want Leo to be the way we wanted him to be, according to our standards: more open, more demonstrative, that he speaks 60 languages, to be 10cm taller, etc.

Alves said once that if Pep told them to jump out of a window, they would do so…

I have been in all kinds of groups of sportsmen. If someone asks me about how many difficult days I have had at this one, I’d say ten. Five that I can remember now. Really really hard days, one or two. That is something remarkable, when the normal thing after fours years would be to remember that fight, or that argument…

Mascherano mentioned that Pep had answers for everything.

I have heard more than one player saying “he has nailed it again!’. Like, in Wembley, in one of his most impressive talks before a game. While talking, he was like playing the game for real, like if there was Rooney as his opponent! He was moving from one side to another, doing gestures… if you closed your eyes and heard him, you could see he was already in the game. It happened, every single thing he said would. During the match, I was thinking… I have seen this before, Pep said this would happen…

He won the team over with those things…

Players appreciate someone giving them answers. The same with the idea of not doing any long concentration [where the team stays together for a period of time]. Pep didn’t use them anymore because he wanted to give his players a gift, but for the boredom. But he told them: “I ask you that when we are training, we do it with the highest intensity, if it’s 40 minutes, 50, or 1 hour”. Players have always responded to him. It is difficult to find, to have in your team, people with such a talent and such a sacrifice.

That helped to overcome rough moments…

I have seen Pep cry twice, once of happiness and once of sadness. The first one was in Abu Dhabi, everyone saw him. I noted he wasn’t able to contain himself, so I stepped away so he could feel better after a good cry. And the other was when he called me to tell me about Abidal’s disease. He wouldn’t stop crying, he couldn’t speak…

You have enjoyed Sant Joan Despí, its privacy and intimacy…

One of his best decisions was to go to Sant Joan Despí, just after three months following his arrival. He asked me, “tell the president we need to move now, if we stay here we’ll suffer”. I didn’t even know where that was. It was hard for the players at the beginning, but Pep was right. And it wasn’t because it isolated us from the real world, or we ran away from it as some people say. We were more protected there, the team has been able to work with much more quiet…

Will you leave for New York with Pep?

No, I’ll stay in Barcelona.

Image: fcbarcelona.es