Gustavo Poyet, the manager of Shanghai Shenhua, spoke to Diario AS about his relationship with Dani Ceballos during his time at Real Betis, Barcelona’s interest in Paulinho, and whether Diego Costa could stop off in China on the way to Atleti.
Unhappy spell at Betis
It was my lowest point as a coach, pretty disappointing. I was basing myself on what the club was like when I played in Spain, but I found something totally different. It was a very frustrating experience, but I learnt a lot.
How decisive was the troubled situation at the club on an institutional level?
There was a bad atmosphere around the place, created by people who are interested in being there, […] who want to gain power.
Were the club wrong to sack you?
If after I left, the team had improved under a different coach, using different players, right now I would take responsibility. But I’m reassured by the fact that the team ended up in a worse position than where I left them. We were on the right tracks.
Dani Ceballos unfancied
On the topic of using other players, why didn’t Dani Ceballos convince you?
Dani has some great qualities. Our ups and downs led me to take decisions with him that, possibly, weren’t the right ones. I was convinced of those decisions, and I would take them again. I’m really pleased that he has joined Madrid, both for him and his family.
A lot of people point to the lack of opportunities you gave him...
To those who think that the team was worse because I didn’t pick him, they need to be told that with him playing, the team finished in a worse position. The problem wasn’t Dani, he could have played in a team with a certain style, but I didn’t know how to get the team playing like that.
You gave him 202 minutes in 11 matches, what did you think he was missing?
What the Spain Under 21s give him: a team that dominates, and that allows him to have the ball. It was a question of the system and style of play; I couldn’t find those, and Dani was the one who suffered.
How was his attitude?
He was very honest. He didn’t understand why he wasn’t playing, which is natural, and when I wanted to give him and explanation, he preferred that I didn’t.
Would you have advised him to go to Madrid or Barcelona?
I’m very respectful: that was something he had to decide along with his family and agent. I’m happy because I know how much he likes his football, and how much he has struggled in order to arrive at Madrid. I would tell him to keep improving, and to take advantage of the opportunity.
Will he be loaned to Betis, or another club?
I don’t know about other clubs, but not Betis. If he returned, he would once again be in a socially insecure situation.
Do you have any regrets with regards to Ceballos?
It’s very easy to talk about things that have already happened. Maybe those who criticise me are right, but I repeat to them that without him (possibly wrongly), we were 14th. With him playing for the rest of the year, they finished 15th.
'Chinese football is growing'
After Betis, the opportunity arose to go to China.
It’s going fantastically, it can’t be understood without living it yourself. I’m still adapting. The mentality here is totally different to in Europe and South America. I’m really content.
How far behind Europe is Chinese football?
I’m in no doubt that Chinese football is growing. There are some players who think that coming here would diminish their chances with their national team, but Paulinho provides a clear example that they are totally wrong.
That shows that the level [of Chinese football] is higher than people say. As there is money here, people are jealous, and try to insult Chinese football. It’s a shame, and it annoys me.
Is Paulinho ready for that step up?
It’s a topic for the coach [Ernesto Valverde]. It’s him that knows what he wants the player for. He’s a great player with frightening power, he puts on a great display in the centre of the park, and he arrives in the box with ease.
Diego Costa to China
Would China be a good temporary destination for Diego Costa before joining Atlético?
I respect the decision of the club and the coach, but as a Chelsea fan I want him to stay, because he’s spectacular. If he has to leave this summer and he wants to come, someone give him my phone number and we’ll create a space for him [smiles}.
What is your aim with Shanghai Shenhua?
We want to get in to the Asian Champions League.