fernando santos - october  2014


(This interview with Fernando Santos was made by the journalists José Manuel Delgado, Rogério Azevedo and José Manuel Freitas for A BOLA TV and appeared in abridged form in the sports daily A Bola (04/10/14). On any copyright issues, please contact footballportugal.)


- A Bola: As you set about designing a new team for the Seleção, how are you going to resolve the shortage of alternatives for the no. 9 position?

- Fernando Santos: That question isn’t just today’s. It’s true that there are positions for which there are more people: wingers, midfielders … Now, for example, I’ve called up six midfielders, but actually I could have called up 12, no sweat … but there are other positions with more problems, yes, centre-forward, right back. This is because to play for the Seleção, you need a mixture of quality and experience. If you’re in a team that’s winning, there are some things that are easier. But in our case it’s not like that because we lost the first game [0-1 at home to Albania], and we have to get to the European championship. And we will get there.

- How do you intend to resolve the no. 9 question, in concrete terms?

- I’ve looked for solutions, I’ve seen a lot of videos. We have 2, 3, 4 centre-forwards, with all due respect to others. I’ve asked myself if I can resolve the problem and the answer that I gave myself was yes, I can. I can even resolve it in another way.

- How?

- Exploiting the characteristics of the players we have.

- Have you seen Ronaldo occupying more central zones for Real Madrid?

- He’s not a centre-forward, but he’s less a winger and more a forward, yes. But he doesn’t play in the no. 9 position, he doesn’t play with his back to goal.

- Do you think it’s possible to have the Seleção playing without a no. 9?

- Yes, it’s possible, with 3 mobile players up front, who can alternate and occupy the central zone temporarily, on a rotational basis. It’s a tactical arrangement you can make. I’ve had teams of mine who played like that. And you can also play with two forwards and, in that case, with a different composition in midfield. There are no problems or misgivings as to the future: there’s already a new generation of players appearing in the other age groups. We need to continue to develop Portuguese players, of course, encouraging clubs and improving competitive spaces, which has been achieved to a great extent with the re-appearance of ‘B’ teams.

- If he were perfectly fit, could Hélder Postiga be called up now?

- Possibly, yes. He has different characteristics from others, he’s someone who can play with his back to goal, setting others up more than scoring himself – like Nuno Gomes in his time.

- Do you feel that there’s a dependence on Ronaldo?

- When there’s a genius, the orchestra follows him.

- And what role can [Zenit’s] Danny have in the growth of these new ideas for the Seleção?

- He’s a roaming player who can be the extra man in a given situation.

- But when you say “three mobile forwards”, does that mean that the Seleção is going to play 4-3-3?

- I don’t know. I can’t say.

- You’re kind of the father of 4-4-2, with the midfield lozenge …

- You’ll see in the game against France. It will serve that purpose, to test out my ideas. My choice of formation will be slightly different from Paulo Bento’s, but more than 4-3-3 or 4-4-2, sometimes it’s a question of dynamic. I’ll also have to figure out, depending on what happens against France, if the players feel comfortable with what we want to do, if they’re in their comfort zone. And afterwards, then we’ll draw conclusions for the real game, against Denmark. Everyone has different ideas about any team. Once, when I was at Estrela da Amadora [1994-98] and we were in a spot, I handed out bits of paper to the players and asked them to make up the team. There were 26 or 27 of them and in the end there were 23 different teams … Afterwards I told them: “That’s why there’s a coach and I’m the one who picks the team.”

- And in midfield, although you say you could have called up many more, it seems there’s only one that’s a real defensive midfielder, a no. 6 – William Carvalho. Do you agree?

- No. João Moutinho has played in that position. André Gomes too. Tiago often plays there. On top of that, we could play with two or just one. Today there are players that are a no. 6 and 8, and others that are an 8 and 10. Not the classic 10, but another type of 10.

- Does the situation facing the Seleção scare you? Have you made calculations and thought that after the Denmark game, you could have no points at all?

- I’ve made the calculations and after the Denmark game I’m going to have three points.

- Was Eliseu [Benfica left-back] called up to be a defender or a midfielder?

- There’ll be a general game plan. At this moment we don’t have guarantees that we can use Fábio Coentrão [subsequently withdrawn through injury] and luckily we have players, Eliseu and Antunes [Málaga], who can fit into that game plan. If we think of an architecture for the team, we have to look for players that can correspond to that idea.

- Against France and Denmark, there’ll be a new right back: Cédric [Sporting] or Ivo Pinto [Dynamo Zagreb]?

- Cédric has been good in the league, last season too, mainly in the second half. He’s a natural full-back, and that’s important. I want natural full-backs and not adapted ones. I’ve had good reports of Ivo … of Diogo Figueiras of Sevilla, too. Ivo has come through the youth levels of the national team. He’s a very interesting player, tall, capable.

- Was it through that logic that you chose to exclude André Almeida [Benfica], who went to the World Cup, as a possibility for right back?

- Yes. It’s not that I don’t believe in him for that position, but just that at this time he doesn’t have enough routine there. If he played at right back on a regular basis, he’d be a clear option for that position.

- And why was José Fonte called up?

- As with everyone, it’s for his quality and the fact that he’s playing. That criterion is for everyone. José Fonte has been at Southampton for five years and has great references. He’s team captain, he scores goals, he’s a first-teamer ...

- But the central defender will continue to be Bruno Alves [Zenit] and Pepe [Real Madrid]?

- Whoever gives me the most guarantees and is in the best form will play.

- As national team coach, would you say that you’re in your dream seat?

- It gives me great satisfaction. If it’s a dream come true or an objective achieved … maybe a dream, yes. When you decide to follow a coaching career – and I’d say that in my case it only happened definitively probably in my second year at Estrela da Amadora – it’s natural that you develop an ambition, a desire, to get to big clubs – and I have – and also, above that, to the Seleção. It’s different.

- Why is it different?

- Because besides being a difficult and stimulating professional challenge, there’s the pride of representing the country. It’s more than football, if we think about it. And you also feel that in the pressure that there is on players, that mental component that’s associated with it. For example, I have friends that don’t want to know about football, but when the Seleção play, they don’t just follow the games but discuss choices and analyse results. Everything’s bigger and more important in the Seleção.

- Are you in favour of naturalised players?

- No.

- Why not? For example, the day that Lima [Benfica striker, Brazilian] gets his passport, he’ll be as Portuguese as me. He can’t get called up?

- I can’t say that, and I never have. We should think about how they were naturalised, why they did it. If you’re talking about someone who doesn’t speak the language and who never will … I’ll answer in another way: I was going to call up Vieirinha [PAOK 2008-13, now at Wolfsburg and a Portuguese international] to the Greece team. He got married in Greece, he has a Greek son, he speaks Greek, he lives in Salonika, he’s more Greek at this moment than Portuguese. Deco, who arrives in the country where he was born for the World Cup and says that he wants Portugal to win …. he’s as Portuguese as me, or even more so.

- Those are the players we’re talking about …

- Those, yes, but what I’m saying is that I’m not, in principle, an apologist.

- But as they’re Portuguese, don’t they have the same rights and duties as the Portuguese?

- Completely. But I’m not saying that I don’t accept them, I’m saying that I’m not an apologist. Pepe is as Portuguese as I am, but a player that arrives in Portugal and after five years becomes naturalised just to play for the Seleção …?

- Bearing in mind the speed with which Paulo Bento left, while he was still national coach, were you contacted by the Federation?

- No.

- If you hadn’t been contacted, why did you refuse to appear on A BOLA TV? Wouldn’t it have been easier to have come?

- No. I knew that on that day it was a question you were going to ask. I’d already said that it was a subject I wasn’t interested in commenting on. But obviously, and confronted with the exit of Paulo Bento that afternoon, I knew that that question would be put to me on the programme and I didn’t want to get into that discussion, with respect to Paulo.

- Did you appreciate the messages you got from Paulo Bento?

- Very much so. I got two messages. One when I received the ban [eight games, following problems with a ref in the World Cup]. He told me: “Mister, I’ve just heard about your ban. Whatever you need from me, don’t hesitate to ask.” I got another when I was hired for the Seleção wishing me the best of luck, and I sent him one the day after he left.

- And the returns to the squad of Ricardo Carvalho, Danny and Tiago?

In the absence of any indication from the Federation of any impediment, there are no players that I can’t use. Ricardo Carvalho had a less than positive attitude and was suspended for a year. That’s over. Tiago has made himself available and I don’t see any problem with that. The situation of Danny, like Ricardo Carvalho, wasn’t with me. What I’m saying is not questioning the decisions of others who I respect a lot. But everyone has to make their own decisions and we have to respect them. We’re different people and now it’s with me. Just that.





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