Regtagui: “Why doesn’t Mbappé play for Cameroon or Algeria?”
Morocco coach Walid Regragui discussed why certain players choose to play for other nations. He hopes that Brahim Díaz can be naturalized to play for the Atlas Lions.
In an interview with El País, Morocco coach Walid Regragui spoke about why some players opt for nationalization - including a number of Moroccan players. Regragui hopes that Brahim Díaz, who has duel nationality (born in Spain to a Moroccan father and Spanish mother), will opt for the Atlas Lions.
“Being naturalized does not imply a social failure, but only the expression of a feeling,” the Morocco coach explained. “That [Aymeric] Laporte has decided to play with Spain is not a failure on France’s part; and I think that Laporte has the category and quality to play in a World Cup final. Perhaps he felt more Spanish when he was developing his professional career in Spain. Why did Mbappé, having been able to, not play for Cameroon or Algeria, and instead chose France? The normal thing is that the children choose the country where they grow up. This is the case of Brahim Díaz. He is 23 years old and he has to decide which country he wants to represent”.
Morocco, semi-finalists at the Qatar World Cup
Regragui, one of the revelation coaches at the recent World Cup, also spoke about what Morocco’s great success in Qatar meant: “The fact that it was organized by an Arab country made us feel at home. That communion was much easier to render. The players understood that they had to be together. That there is no place for individualism. We have always had good players. In 2018, we had Belhanda, Boussoufa, Ahmadi, Dirar, Ziyech, Hakimi… but we lacked belief”.
He also spoke in depth about the style of football he prefers his team to play: “I have been coaching for ten years. I started in 2012. I was in charge of the FUS in Rabat for five years - a humble club with values, one that had never won the league and which started a new project after being relegated to the second tier. They brought in highly intellectual people who wanted to change the mentality of football in Morocco. The CEO gave me full confidence and told me, ‘Walid, this is your laboratory!’ I played 3-5-2, 4-3-3, 4-4-2… One day it was Guardiola’s style of football, the next, it was Simeone. I spent four years without hardly seeing my family. I was always out looking for players and doing experiments night and day. But our basic plan was to establish a model similar to that of Barcelona or Ajax, based on Cruyff’s ideas and the legacy that Guardiola developed - turning Barça into the best team in history. We ended up winning the championship,” he said.
Adapting as the game changes
However, Regragui also recognizes that a team cannot always play the same way - it has to evolve. “When I lost my best players, who had been sold to clubs in Europe, experience showed me that the model I wanted to impose was impractical. If you don’t have talented players and you don’t adapt, and you keep asking them to come out with the ball and dominate games without having the money to buy talented players… If you risk and lose and nothing happens, fine, but in Morocco you lose three games and nobody remembers if you played well or badly. I learned from my mistakes. So, I changed - I took a leaf out of El Cholo’s book now and again. I considered adopting aspects of his game. Do I want my team to play like Guardiola’s? Yes, of course, if I have the players who are capable of taking risks early in the game. Being a good coach is knowing what you have in the locker room and adapting to provide a good model. The football of the future will be the football of adaptation”.
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