Real Madrid’s Juvenil A, managed by Guti, won the final of the Copa del Rey on Sunday with a victory over Atlético. The scoreline was 4-1 after extra time, a curious throwback to the 2014 Champions League final in Lisbon. The victory adds to Guti’s reputation as a bright, if unexpected, managerial talent. The result on Sunday secured a double, with the team already having won the Champions Cup. Guti’s team were the favourites going in to the UEFA Youth League, but fell at the semi-final stage to Benfica. A disastrous start saw them trailing 3-0 after 18 minutes. Madrid rallied, but could not complete a comeback. Tears were shed when the final whistle blew.
Guti an unexpected emergent coach
Guti’s persona as a player did not suggest that he would emerge as a coach. He was intuitive and brilliant, but not easy to discipline, as much off the pitch as on it. Who can forget that quip: “If I don’t go out clubbing now, when will I? When I’m 60?” Guti was given a position at Madrid after his retirement. But when Victor Fernández arrived at the club in 2015 as the coordinator of the youth set-up, he found him as an assistant in the Cadet age-group, despondent. They spoke. Fernández saw that Guti wanted to become a coach, and he believed in him. When Zidane took up the reins of the first team, it provoked a chain-reaction of promotions: Ramos from Juvenil A to Castilla, Solari from Juvenil B to A. Guti slipped in as the manager of Juvenil B, and found himself in charge of a good, technical team.
Madrid's Juvenil A have blossomed
He flourished. They won all of their matches. As he was a novice, Guti’s assistants helped him to create a training programme. Yet Guti instilled the intuition, the interaction, the courage. His team press high up the pitch and play with an emphasis on possession. They are bold and audacious. The 40 year old has displayed excellent man management, including with the talented rogues, whom he understands for obvious reasons. When moving up to Juvenil A, Guti had the conviction to promote three players straight from Juvenil C, causing them to jump up a year. They have fitted in well. Alongside them, three external signings (from Córdoba, Rayo, and Málaga) have converted his Juvenil B side in to a team capable of winning the double. Guti hasn’t missed a training session. He has changed his way of life.