Dafter excelling in Unionists and at a time when few expected it, Hernn Prez was contacted by Real Madrid to take the reins of Juvenil A. The challenge, as exciting as it is complex, did not scare him. A course later, the technician chooses MARCA to explain in detail his goodbye to Valdebebas and review a vertiginous adventure that he speaks of with affection.
Ask. Going to the beginning of everything, how did you find out about the interest of Real Madrid, a year ago?
Response. It was a very pleasant surprise. I was in Extremadura, watching the playoff for promotion to Segunda, and they contacted me. I was with my brother [el exfutbolista Michu] and I told him that the call from this club was not in my plans because of the market that I had. Let a whole Real Madrid call you… The surprise was huge and, from the first moment, I was delighted to be the chosen one. So far it has been the best of my career.
P. After receiving praise in Unionistas, did you think a lot about going back to directing the quarry?
R. I don’t have any doubts. I want to explain it well: the club calls you, not the team, regardless of whether it is a Juvenile and that I have been working with seniors. Then it was also a matter of selfishness: this club, Real Madrid, injects you with a DNA, a competitive gene, that the rest cannot and I thought and still think it was the best thing for my career. You have to have a lot of preparation, training, keep evolving continuously. From the first moment there was no doubt.
P. Did you know the generation that came to you or did you have a summer of a lot of study?
R. It was very hard, very hard. He had been in Second B for six or seven years, with professional people. From the first day there was interest, I covered practically all the matches of Juvenil B, which was going to become A. It is true that today you have access to many.
P. Already in Valdebebas, what objectives did you set?
R. The objective in this club is to win absolutely everything. There are no friendlies. And besides, I had to train the boys because they had also marked it as a priority for us. I have some experience for it. I am happy because being in this club forces you to win and we have won.
“Ral left us players when he needed them; I see him ready for the first team”
Q. So what grade do you get?
R. The assessment is very positive, but I don’t give myself a grade because people from outside have to do it. We were very clear about winning the Cup, which was very special this year because it was played in the middle of the season, not at the end. We had a great competition, with a very, very high level, using a lot of players. Since we returned from Christmas the players had it clear, they gave their best version, we scored many goals, we conceded very few… In the semis, against Betis, surely the best team in Spain in the category and in an imposing setting like the Anxo Carro, winning 5-0 gave us a lot of security. We are clear that we can be champions.
P. It was the culminating moment, but there were several very low ones. How do you manage it in the locker room and with the sports management?
R. When there is a result that is not what you expect, you have to maintain firmness, integrity and even a smile. We are training very young players and they cannot see a sign of weakness in you because it affects them. Sometimes it’s hard. The night of the Youth League, the staff met in the locker room with the Director of Methodology, with Abin [Perdomo]: We analyzed everything, we gave it a lot of thought and that was a turning point to focus on the next competition. My relationship with Manu [Fernndez] He’s great, I’ve always had a great relationship with him. I know it’s true that it wasn’t the same as with Abin, with whom he was more on a day-to-day basis, but Manu has been there in good times and bad, always sticking up for me. I am very grateful for this opportunity because being in this team at this club is not easy at all.
Q. There were important discrepancies. Did you feel supported?
R. Always always. Super backed. Not only for Manu and Abin, but for more people in the club. It is one of the things that has surprised me for the better and I want to explain it: it is difficult for there to be so many good people in such a big club, with such good professionals of different kinds. In difficult times I have always had a call, a visit, a coffee… I have always had people close by. Even from the staff, who I take with me with very good memories because I was the new one, they had been together for four or five years, and they welcomed me wonderfully.
Q. And how about Ral?
R. fantastic. We have a direct relationship, office to office. He is a club legend, he has the same demands as when he played, and that is something very important. He has also supported me in bad times, sometimes giving up having a player and leaving him to us, like in the Copa del Rey, when we went to Lugo and if everything went well we had to stay a week. We could take 22 footballers with us and he left us four or five that he surely would have needed. I am very grateful because from the first day he welcomed me with open arms: in a conversation he told me that we were partners and that he had him for whatever he needed, and that has been the case throughout the year.
P. Without wanting to fire Ancelotti, who has left, do you see Ral ready for the first team?
R. As far as preparation and training, I have no doubts. He knows the club very well, he is a true legend, he continues to maintain and even increase that competitive gene, he knows how to transfer it to his players… I am convinced that sooner or later he will be coach of Real Madrid, knowing that Ancelotti, not only for this season but because of his career, hopefully he will continue for many years.
The elimination in the Youth League was a hard stick, but I always felt supported
Q. Another legend is Arbeloa, who at MARCA we have published to be his successor.
R. Has he ever come to train with us, he transmits a lot of closeness to the boys. I have a very good relationship with him, we talked a long time ago in an office. I wish you the best of luck, you are also super well prepared. He knows the club very well, he knows how to convey not only sports, but also, and it’s very important at Real Madrid, he knows how to handle the demands and the bad times.
P. Do you feel that your goodbye was decided after falling in the Youth League, with Atlético being much superior?
R. Really not. It was a tough game, we had high hopes for that competition and for Atleti to eliminate you is tough, but not at all. They gave us a lot of strength and confidence to continue.
Q. When do they tell you?
R. I don’t know the time, but I have a meeting with Manu Fernndez, Abin and Mori, and they tell me that they are happy personally and professionally, that it has been a very good season, that the objectives have been met, especially the improvement of players at an individual level, but that it is a demanding club and that, despite having won a title, they want to make a change, which seems perfectly reasonable to me. Being on a list of the last Youth A coaches along with Ramis, Solari, Guti or Ral without being a former player has a lot of merit.
I think that 60 or 70% of this generation will reach professional football
Q. Where do you see yourself now?
R. As the season has not finished in First RFEF and Second, everything is open. When you report the non-continuity [este mircoles] those interested will show more concretely what they want from me. What was clear to us was that, until Madrid commented on something, it was my first option and we would wait for them because we respect them, it’s nice to be in this club and nobody wants to leave. Now we trust that an interesting project can come out.
P. It has been a single season, but crazy. How many years on another team is that equivalent?
R. Minimum three. It’s one of the things I wasn’t used to. The other day I reviewed it and we have played more than 50 official matches, there are no clean weeks to be able to work. I would count a season in this team, in this club, in Real Madrid’s Juvenil A, like three in any other team.
P. What do you regret or what was wrong?
R. Sorry, you’re welcome. At every moment you make the decisions that you think are best to win. Experience gives you that, for example in the management of some individual situations with the players, which I had not worked with youths in the Division of Honor since Oviedo and the generations are changing, the distance with me is different. Now the boys have other concerns, many distractions… Now he will do things in different ways but without regretting it because then we understand that it was the best.
Q. Is a figure needed, not only at Real Madrid, for that?
R. Yes, of course. When we were younger, the break ended and people talked and played; now they are all with their little screen, doing their own thing. In Madrid there is that figure, a psychologist who works very well and is very aware of them. We coaches also have to adapt, not only know about football because we manage people. It is difficult because of the parents, the representatives, the media… They have many distractions and it has been a very important learning for me. A game ends and sometimes you get to the locker room and everyone is with the photos instead of celebrating that they have won a title or a round pass in the Youth League.
Q. Are you concerned that they are too exposed at those ages?
R. They have too many people who want to demand that they reach professional football and that is difficult. I have worked with children, because they are 16-17 year olds, and they need calm, to enjoy football, each one has their stage of maturity… You have to manage environments very well. You have to let them enjoy and even make mistakes. I have experienced situations that would have been more serious in senior football, but here we let him make mistakes so that he could learn, leaving him his space.
Q. Will you highlight any of the guys?
R. I don’t like to get wet because there are a lot of bad circumstances that I hope won’t happen, but I think 60-70% will make it to professional football.