“To succeed in football you have to have talent and a thousand other details” | Talent on board


Luis de la Fuente

Football coach

A calm man, through thick and thin. This is how Luis de la Fuente (62 years old, Haro, La Rioja), former soccer player, national coach and firm believer in serenity, defines himself, the support he uses to feel that he has mastered a project of such magnitude and prevent its edges—the pressure , expectations, results—dominate him. It is a calm similar to the one he displays during the recording of the video that opens this article, in which he appears relaxed and comfortable talking beyond football. “I try to live up to the great demands of this position, but I try not to let it condition my life, which has always been very normal. And I brag about it because I like to live calmly, without fanfare and enjoying every moment,” he states in the interview.

In December 2022, De la Fuente took over from Luis Enrique in charge of the senior team. The last step after 11 years at the head of the national team’s youth teams, with which he won two European Championships and an Olympic silver. Half a year later, in June 2023, he lifted the UEFA Nations League trophy in Germany. “Yes, I think about it and of course I am still surprised. When they told me that he was going to be the coach, I felt an emotion that surpassed everything one can think,” he says.

The son of a sailor, the man from Rioja got hooked on soccer by kicking the ball in the era of his town, Haro, like so many other children who developed their skills in this way and ended up becoming professionals. His career took off at Athletic Bilbao, the club in which he would never stop playing and where he was considered one of the first modern full-backs. Not in vain was he already distinguished by his mustache in mostly hairless photos on the barge where the lions celebrate their titles: two Leagues, a Copa del Rey and a Spanish Super Cup won in the first half of the eighties. “We achieved glory as a club, but the most important thing that happened to me was meeting wonderful teammates,” he says.

Luis de la Fuente (top row, third from the right), 22 years old, in his time as a player for Athletic Bilbao, celebrating the achievement of the League and Copa del Rey titles of the 1983-84 season on the traditional barge .Photos: RFEF

Luis de la Fuente, already as coach of the youth categories of the Spanish soccer team, lifts the U-21 European Cup won in Italy in 2019.

Presentation of Luis de la Fuente in December 2022 as coach of the senior soccer team.

The Riojan coach during training in 2023 with the senior team at the RFEF facilities in Las Rozas (Madrid).

The coach poses with the 2023 UEFA Nations League trophy, the last title won by the Spanish team.

In this interview of Talent on board, Iberia’s project to talk about talent in Spanish, De la Fuente affirms that to succeed in football you have to play well, but a thousand more details are needed: “And what is truly important are those thousand more details. They have to do with values: effort, sacrifice, improvement, camaraderie. They are in sport and life,” he understands.

Asked about the talent one must have to be a coach, the coach talks about one obvious and another more mysterious: “To be a coach you have to select. Choosing players to form a team, the key word. And unite those virtues so that it works. We do it with objective data, of course, but there is also another, more subjective view. What I call sensations, which in my opinion are also decisive and are acquired with experience. Like a sixth sense.”

De la Fuente admits not sleeping much, but neither defeat nor victory are what keep him awake. He carries them with a certain stoicism. “Yes, it is important to know how to win. Knowing, furthermore, that in life, and even more so in sport, you lose much more than you win,” she reflects. The next Euro Cup, which will be held next June in Germany, will test his philosophy again.

Luis Maldonado

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