In the 21st century, Spain has touched the sky as a football world leader with a showy style of play that has quickly become almost a synonym for the Spanish national team or some La Liga clubs, above all, FC Barcelona. A short passing game, positional play, pressure upon loss of possession, `tiki taka’… have been connected concepts since then with a style of performing on the pitch, and just as importantly, successful results.
If, as an explanation for that wonderful performance, the whole of Spain had been previously playing that kind of football for many years, our success would maybe have been much humbler. However, the Spanish triumphs owe plenty to the great diversity of this heterogeneous footballing country. And this not only refers to the different ways of approaching the game (and have a lot of those), but also to the many different ingredients that have contributed, so far, to putting the Spanish national teams and clubs in touch with success. Among them: creative and possibly ill-disciplined brains, able to find a solution that makes the difference; stubborn pawns on the pitch, who keep the seams of the team stuck together; courageous attitudes, taking the lead in tough situations; deliberately forging competitive personalities, becoming stronger as the situation becomes more important and with an ability to make proper decisions under stress; and, above all, winning mentalities, which get used to playing to win from childhood.
A team that faces a situation as an underdog, that can win a lot and lose just a little, is stronger. That role provides those players with wings to perform above their capacity. On the contrary, dealing with the premise of being the favourite, carrying the responsibility of compulsory success can break the psychological stamina of even the best footballers. And this is something that the players of the Spanish teams, from the lowest ages of the Academy to the first-team squad, get used to living with. When they reach professional football, they are not only able to withstand that heavy weight, but they feel truly comfortable within that atmosphere of perpetual responsibility.
Detecting, developing and promoting youth talents is a process that requires methodology, as well as experience and deep expertise of the learning needs that players have in every step of their career development. Spanish football academies have shown great ability in the last two items, while for the first one, methodology, we have much room for improvement. The balance, however, is pretty close to excellence, with dozens of home-grown Spanish players joining the professional ranks every season, reaching the top positions of the most promising international young footballers.
This book proposes travelling through the Spanish approach to football from a more technical point of view, pausing at several areas, such as the different styles of play that we can find in the country, our main strengths and weaknesses, the deeper analysis of one among a plethora of ways of understanding the game and the summary resulting from gathering the best ideas and practices of the top Spanish football academies.
Let’s start the journey!
Editorial: WANCEULEN FÚTBOL FORMATIVO