When I got the go-ahead to send a few questions to Laureano Ruiz, it’s fair to say I was just a little bit excited. After all here is the man that brought the footballing philosophy to Barca that we see today.
Before Guardiola, before Cruyff, came Ruiz. Visionary describes him perfectly. More than 26,000 players have been directed by Ruiz through his extraordinarily high level of instruction.
Players such as Cruyff, Neeskens, Rexach, Marcial, Miguelito, Asensi, Sotil, Sadurní, Costas, De la Cruz, Miera, Zaballa, Juan Carlos Aguilar, Lopez, Fortes, Sanchez, Carrasco, Red, Calderé, Ferrer, Munitis, Helguera, De la Peña …the list is endless.
Despite now being 75 years of age, Laureano shows no signs of slowing down. His book ‘The True Method of Barca’ and a collection of training videos: http://www.elmetodolaureanoruiz.com/es/index compliment the work he is still doing. He is running Masters training sessions throughout 2013/14, details of which can be found here: http://www.elmetodolaureanoruiz.com/es/list/category/masters
I feel truly blessed and honoured that he took the time to answer my questions. Here’s what he had to say:
JP: Who was/is your biggest influence either personally or professionally and why?
LR: As a player, Alsúa was a football genius. In order to understand his sheer quality and personality, it’s enough to say that in 1950 Benito Diaz – an extraordinary coach – came to Santander to convince him to travel to Brazil and play the World Cup with Spain. He flatly refused, not wanting to fly.
As a coach, I am a true self-taught. I’ve been learning every single day.
JP: Tell me some more about your time at Racing Santander and Gimnastica de Torrelavega as a player. What did you learn during this time that you took with you into management at the relatively early age of 28?
LR: I started coaching when I was 15. At just 16 years old I played and coached the youth at Racing Santander. At 18 I went on to play in the Racing first team but I kept coaching the juveniles.
A few years later I went to Gimnastica as a player, but kept training the juveniles Racinguistas (by now I had coached 3 teams).
I think that today it would be a unique case in the world: both professional teams were in the Second Division and played one versus the other one.
JP: You were working at Racing Santander as coach when FC Barcelona contacted you. What skill sets and attributes did you possess at the time that convinced FCB that you were the right man to take over the youth set up there? What went through your mind when considering the job and how did you know it would be the right career move for you?
LR: I had already spent several years training professionals and had offers to lead First Division teams when I went to Barcelona.
Therefore, my friends told me if the job sent me crazy, I could leave to return to youth coaching…
JP: How hard was it for you to impose your philosophy on a club that had a sign on the wall which read “turn around if you are here to offer a Juvenil player that is shorter than 1.80m”? What did you have to do to convince the club to accept your way of working and what were your impressions of the FCB training methods that you encountered when you first arrived at the club?
LR: At Barça I realised that there was no method at all (as it was in all the clubs-the same thing happens today in almost every club in the world, in any category).
They were looking for big, powerful fighters and saying: “you have to die on the field”, “all behind and God before”, “I do not suggest to kick (here intended to be “violent” on the field), but those who are not gonna kick are not gonna play”
There was no order or organization, I never saw a “real” football philosophy.
But other technicians, upon seeing my “method” soon followed my line, which today remains an evergreen.
However, talking about the first team, they never accepted short-players. It was Cruyff, when he arrived as a coach, who passed Guardiola, Sergi, Milla, Ivan de la Pena … based on talent and not the physical attributes.
JP: You famously brought ‘el Rondo’ to the club. It is an exercise that we see FCB players take very seriously, yet in England for instance it’s nothing more than a bit of fun. Explain to me the importance of this exercise in particular.
LR: The true “rondo” is one using the whole team. Those that are 12 against 1 are totally useless.
I made my Rondos with professional players – some of Barca and Madrid. The latter have told me, “Your Rondo is stressful, they have nothing to do with what we do in our club, which seem like an easy ride”.
I recommend that you read my latest book, or watch my next video, where the Rondos are explained sufficiently.
JP: You are credited as being the man who brought the present day playing style to FCB upon your arrival at the club in the 1970’s, a style which was developed by Cruyff and latterly Guardiola. However, at the end of your brief spell as manager of the FCB first team, you were succeeded by Rinus Michels, an exponent of ‘Total Football’. From a tactical point of view, how did Michels’ football vision differ from your own? Would you have liked to have been given more time as the FCB number 1 or were you happiest in and around the youth set up?
LR: The Netherlands and Ajax did not practice “futbol-futbol” (real football) but a true fighting game, even if very orderly.
For that reason Michels wanted players that could fight and fight, while I appreciate the talent and quality.
As for what I wanted, I did not go in the first team – they [Barca] proposed it to me. Things went very well, but I declined long term, preferring to return to the futbol-Base.
JP: I understand that of all the footballers that you have seen, or coached, that you place Johan Cruyff as the best player ever. What is your opinion therefore on Barca’s Lionel Messi?
LR: Comparing great players from different eras is very difficult and complicated. Before, the top players always received terrible kicks and injuries (there was no TV). Today there are no individual markings, because there are two or three other players that protect the player with the ball.
Besides the quality we have to think about the time and the persistence passed at the top. When he was 15 Pele was playing for Santos, when 16 was playing with the Seleçao, when 17 he was World Champion and when 33 he refused to play with the WorldCup-’74 selection. Like in the fairy tales.
Puskas came to prominence when he was 16 and stayed at the top until he was 40. And something similar happened with Di Stefano, Didi, Gento, Cruyff and Maradona.
However, Kubala, Kopa and Ronaldinho, who did reach the top, for various reasons didn’t stay there for a long time. So for me they can’t be mixed with the all-time best players.
Cruyff is the best player I’ve ever coached and arguably the best player in-game, all-time, but in the history of football Pele, Di Stefano and Puskas are over him.
Following the above, it is clear that since Messi is only 25 years old, we have to wait. Although he already is on the road for being the best.
JP: How do you explain the global success of the football model that you introduced?
LR: Because the great ignorance that exists in football is declining. Anyway it is far from what I intend: you have to master the passing game (pitching, volleys, “Chilean” …), shots on goal (today they are a “parody”) and the attack system (no team in the world-except mine-has organised the attacks)
JP: You are quoted as saying ‘Mourinho is a disaster’. Please explain your reasons for this statement.
LR: If I said that Mourinho is a disaster, I exaggerated…..but I think he’s not a very good coach.
Why? When I see a team that plays, I immediately know the level of their coach. Mou’s work on his teams is poor.
Sure it’s logical, since he has never played football, but this is a big hindrance in his knowledge of the game.
JP: At 75 years of age, you are showing no signs of slowing down. What legacy will you leave to the world of football? How would Laureano Ruiz like to be remembered by his contemporaries?
LR: One thing is the chronological age and the biological one is another.
I keep practicing football and my friends, ex-players of my age, “retired” years ago, exhausted with injury or illness.
In short, I keep playing and training and, for now, I do not think about any kind of heirlooms.